October 25, 2019

What Does Employment Look Like for Class of 2018 Law Graduates? Trends from the Legal Education Data Deck

Research and Data

 

Using recently released reports from the National Association for Law Placement, AccessLex Institute has updated the Legal Education Data Deck to include the latest employment outcome figures, which describe job placement and salaries for the class of 2018 ten months after graduation.

As NALP shared in their selected findings summary, outcomes for the class of 2018 signal an improved job market for recent law school graduates. For instance, the overall employment rate for the class of 2018 went up for the third straight year to 89.4 percent, increasing to near pre-recession figures. Also, 73 percent of class of 2018 graduates were employed in a job where bar passage was required (Figure 1).

Recent J.D. Graduates by Employment Status, 2007-2018

Source: National Association for Law Placement (2007:2019). Data presentation, analysis and commentary by AccessLex Institute.
Note: These data are based on law school graduates who employment status was reported to NALP and may not be fully representative of the total law school graduating class indicated. In 2014, NALP changed the timing of the survey administration from 9 months post-graduation to 10 months post-graduation. Use caution when interpreting data and when comparing from year to year.
 

However, as NALP also notes, these outcomes are tempered somewhat by the shrinking pool of total graduates. As the demand for legal education has declined and enrollment has decreased, so too have law school graduates seeking employment. Likewise, the number of jobs found among recent graduates has fallen substantially. Compared to the class of 2013’s high of 37,730 jobs attained, only 29,959 jobs were found in 2018 (-21%). In fact, the number of jobs found has decreased in eight of the past ten years (Figure 2). And although the percentage of graduates obtaining bar passage-required jobs is rebounding to pre-recession levels, the number of graduates in these jobs has remained relatively flat for the last three years (Figure 1).

Total Number of Jobs Found Among Recent Law Graduates, 2007-2018

Source: National Association for Law Placement (2007:2019). Data presentation, analysis and commentary by AccessLex Institute.

The outlook on obtaining employment has improved as graduating classes have declined. However, salaries, when examined by job sector, have declined or stabilized over time (when accounting for inflation). For instance, consider recent salary trends in private practice, where a majority of graduates typically find jobs (55 percent of class of 2018 graduates did so). Although median salary figures for private practice jobs have increased in recent years, they remain below pre-recession levels (Figure 3). By comparison, salaries of recent graduates who obtain employment in other sectors have remained relatively flat over time.

Median Salary of Recent J.D. Graduates by Sector, 2007-2018

Source: National Association for Law Placement (2009:2019). Data presentation, analysis and commentary by AccessLex Institute. Note: These data are based on law school graduates who employment status was reported to NALP and may not be fully representative of the total law school graduating class indicated. In 2014, NALP changed the timing of the survey administration from 9 months post-graduation to 10 months post-graduation. Use caution when interpreting data and when comparing from year to year.

It is important to keep in mind that these salaries represent graduates’ first stop out of law school, and will likely increase as they gain experience, change jobs, and generally progress in their careers. Nonetheless, given the rising cost of law school overall, prospective students should be keenly aware of their income trajectory and whether they stand to make a sufficient salary to cover the costs of attending. Job placement and salary outcomes are critical in demonstrating the value of a legal education and go hand-in-hand with affordability discussions in law school and higher education writ large. AccessLex is dedicated to helping prospective and current students alike consider all aspects of financing their legal education, and advocates for policy positions that are favorable to graduate and professional students. For more information on these topics, please visit the links below.

AccessLex Financial Education Resources for Students

A Framework for Thinking About Law School Affordability

#MakeTheCase Advocacy Campaign

References: National Association for Law Placement. https://www.nalp.org/recentgraduates