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Employment Rates Slightly Up: Sorta Good News for Law Grads

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 30, 2015 1:12 PM

The ABA has released employment data for the class of 2014 and things are looking ... well, slightly better! Compared to the class of 2013, new law grads saw a marginally higher rate of employment in both legal and non-legal positions. Many of those spots were good jobs -- about 60 percent of new grads were employed in full-time, long-term legal work within 10 months of graduating.

But, there's a catch.

Higher Employment, Less Jobs

While the overall percentage of working grads was inching up, legal hiring seems to have remained flat. The better numbers (i.e., 1.4 percent more of the class of 2014 was employed at the time of the survey, as compared to the class of 2013) can largely be explained by the smaller class size. The class of 2014 was six percent smaller than the graduating class before it. The total number of new hires, compared between the two years, was actually down by 2 percent.

All the newly employed lawyers don't have to worry about that, however. In addition to the 59.9 percent of grads working full-time in jobs requiring bar passage, an additional 11.2 percent had full-time employment in positions with a "JD advantage." That means over 70 percent of grads were making use of their degree, an increase of two percent from the year before.

Most of the movement between classes was slight. The percentage of graduates in law school funded positions, solo practitioners, public interest jobs, and clerkships and short-term, part-time work all changed less than one percent. Some barely moved at all. The amount of students who were totally down and out dropped, thankfully, by over 1,000 grads. Only 9.8 percent of the class of 2014 was fully unemployed.

Who Came Out on Top -- and Bottom

Of course, the survey provides a bird's eye view of the entire 42,000 plus graduates for which the ABA had data. Results from individual schools vary. A look at the complete data submitted from all schools shows that the University of Pennsylvania had the highest percentage of grads fully employed in legal jobs, followed by Cornell and Duke, according to the National Law Journal. Golden Gate University and the University of D.C. had the lowest full-time employment in jobs requiring bar passage, with just about one quarter of their 2014 grads working in those jobs.

Some are expecting the numbers to continue to get better over the next few years, as fewer students go to law school. Smaller graduating classes may ensure greater employment, even as the legal industry remains relatively flat.

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