Paul L. Caron

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bloomberg: Job Market Gets Even Worse for Law Grads

Following up on Thursday's post, NALP: Law School Class of 2011 Faced 'Brutal' Job Market:

Paul Campos (Colorado), Two Out of Three 2011 Law School Graduates Did Not Get Real Legal Jobs:

[O]nce we exclude jobs that don’t require law degrees, law school-funded jobs, other temporary jobs, and part time jobs, and then make a generous estimate of how many private practice positions with very small firms were real legal jobs, the numbers look like this:

  • 60% of all graduates whose employment status was known were in full-time jobs requiring a law degree.
  • Minus the 4% of all graduates in law school-funded temporary jobs.
  • Minus the approximately 15% of all graduates in temporary (less than one year) legal positions other than law school-funded jobs.
  • Minus an estimated 4.25% of all graduates in fictional “firm” jobs.
  • Minus the 3% of all graduates working as solo practitioners. 

This leaves us with 33.75% of all 2011 ABA law school graduates in real legal jobs nine months after graduation.

This is, in my view, a conservative estimate of the scope of the disaster that has overtaken America’s law school graduates.  It counts almost all positions with law firms and with government agencies as real legal jobs, even though we know some of these “jobs” are actually one-year unpaid internships.  (See for example these). Indeed it counts whole classes of time-limited jobs that are likely to leave graduates with no legal employment at their conclusion, such as most state judicial clerkships, as long-term rather than temporary employment.  Most of all, it makes what by now must be considered the questionable assumption that law schools are reporting these numbers accurately, rather than misreporting them to their advantage.

Yet even this generous estimate of how many 2011 graduates of ABA-accredited law schools managed to get real legal jobs leads to the conclusion that two-thirds did not.

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It's nice to see that in the legal profession there are numbers like these to consider. With respect to graduates of other post-baccalaureate programs, the picture is much murkier. Aside from a few blogs like "100 reasons NOT to go to grad school" ( and a few columns in the Chronicle of Higher Education (warnings that potential grad students are unlikely to see), there doesn't seem to be much data out there about what people are doing with graduate degrees.

Here is a recent Chronicle article about PhDs on welfare (apparently more than 30,000 people):

Posted by: GW | Jun 11, 2012 12:45:25 PM

"In Eastern Ohio and Western Pa. many young lawyers have been scooped up to do title work for the natural gas boom. While these jobs may be around for a while, they are ultimately dead ends with no development of marketable skills."

Only if they do not take the opportunity to 1. study up on oil and gas law, and 2. to make connections in their communities.

It is devilishly hard to find any oil ans gas lawyers in Ohio right now. The last boom was 40 years ago and the old oil and gas lawyers are dying or dead. This is an opportunity, but it is not for people who expect things to be prepackaged and handed to them on a platter.

Posted by: Walter Sobchak | Jun 11, 2012 8:05:50 AM

I have a niece and a nephew who are in law school. I tried to tell their parents that it is a terrible time to find a job as a lawyer with 4-5 years experience much less a new lawyer. They wouldn't listen. I really think they want to be able to tell their friends at the country club that junior is going to law school

Posted by: E | Jun 11, 2012 7:50:08 AM

An exaggeration from Campos. Are students who become lobbyists or work for Congress or public policy organizations or businesses where the JD wasn't "required" but was a but-for cause of getting the job not benefiting from law school? And why isn't self-employment a "real" legal job? Surely some students did this even when the market was good.

Posted by: Avi99 | Jun 11, 2012 7:01:51 AM

In Eastern Ohio and Western Pa. many young lawyers have been scooped up to do title work for the natural gas boom. While these jobs may be around for a while, they are ultimately dead ends with no development of marketable skills.

Posted by: E | Jun 11, 2012 6:56:57 AM

So if 33 per cent is a conservative estimate, then it probably means the real percentage of recent law school grads with jobs is about 20 per cent. The credulous kids who took the law school promises at face value--I know one--are in such a difficult situation. Deans should be prosecuted for their roles in these tragedies.

Posted by: Lowellguy | Jun 11, 2012 5:56:55 AM

Well Details,

Last year the NALP recorded 44,258 graduates when only 41,156 reported their employment status. That was about a 93% reporting ratio. Looked up 2001 to check a decade earlier, it was about 91%.

Maybe someone has the full report for this year with that stat?

More at

Posted by: nemo | Jun 10, 2012 12:36:18 AM

"60% of graduates whose employment status is known"

o.k. -- can someone please give what the #s look like when you add in those whose status is unknown and look at the total?

For example: assume there are 100 graduates whose status is known, 60 of whom have FT jobs requiring a law degree. THAT's 60%. But what if there are another 100 whose status isn't known? Suddenly the real number could be as low as 30%. (Call me crazy, but I'm going to guess that those who fared well are far more likely to let the alumni office know about this.)

Posted by: Details? | Jun 9, 2012 6:13:48 PM

I guess this is another sing that "the private sector is doing fine"

Posted by: Doug | Jun 9, 2012 1:51:24 PM

So apply now! Operators are standing by! No money? No problem, we can finance anyone! Buy low, while the gettings good!

Posted by: LoyolaGrad | Jun 9, 2012 1:05:50 PM