Paul L. Caron
Dean



Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Reflections On Class Of 2019 Employment Outcomes

With the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar's release of its spreadsheet of employment outcomes for the Class of 2019, I am writing to look at trends over the last several years for a couple of different categories of employment outcomes while also offering a brief thought on the possible irrelevance of these data in light of the economic disruption resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Total Number of Graduates in Full-time, Long-term Bar Passage Required or JD Advantage Positions Increased almost 4.5%

With respect to full-time, long-term, Bar Passage Required (BPR) and JD Advantage (JDA) positions, the Class of 2019 offers some good news, with an increase in the total number of these positions from 26,632 to 27,352 (an increase of more than 700 and slightly less than 3%).   This is the largest number of these positions since 2015 (28,078).

 

FTLTBPR

FTLTJDA

TOTAL

Graduates

% of Grads in FTLTBPR/JDA

2014

24978

4762

29740

43132

68.95%

2015

23738

4340

28078

39983

70.22%

2016

22851

4000

26851

36786

72.99%

2017

23117

3185

26302

34923

75.31%

2018

23424

3208

26632

34283

77.68%

2019

24472

2880

27352

33954

80.55%

This is the third-year in a row in which full-time, long-term BPR positions increased — from 23,424 for the Class of 2018 to 24,472 – an increase of 1,048.  This is the first time since the Class of 2014, with 24,978 graduates in full-time, long-term BPR positions, that this number has been above 24,000.   This year also saw a continuation of the decline in the number of full-time, long-term JDA jobs that had paused briefly with the Class of 2018.  Full-time, long-term JDA jobs dropped from 3,209 for the Class of 2018 to 2,880 for the Class of 2019.  This is down nearly 40% from the 4,762 full-time, long-term JDA positions for the Class of 2014.  Indeed, the percentage of graduates in full-time, long-term JDA positions has fallen from 11% for the Class of 2014 to 8.5% for the Class of 2019.

Because the number of graduates has fallen from 43,132 for the Class of 2014 to 33,954 for the Class of 2019 (down over 21%), the percentage of graduates in full-time, long-term BPR or JDA positions has climbed for the fifth consecutive year, reaching 80.55%, up from 77.68% for the Class of 2018 (and up from 68.95% for the Class of 2014).

FTLTBPR as a Percentage of July First-Time Bar Passers from ABA-Accredited Law Schools nears 100%

Interestingly, if one just looks separately at the percentage of graduates in full-time, long-term BPR positions as a percentage of July first-time bar passers from ABA-accredited law schools, the percentage has grown from 72.75% for the Class of 2014 to 97% for the Class of 2018 and the Class of 2019.  For the Class of 2014, more than 27% of those graduates from ABA-accredited law schools who passed the bar on the first try in July of 2014 did not end up with full-time, long-term BPR  positions, but for the Classes of 2018 and 2019, fewer than 3% of those graduates from ABA-accredited law schools who passed the bar on the first-time in July of 2018 and July of 2019 did not end up with full-time, long-term BPR positions.  With this number now so close to 100%, this might suggest that some full-time, long-term BPR positions have been going unfilled until some of the graduates who fail the July bar exam each year pass the February bar exam the following year.

 

FTLTBPR

July 1st Passers from ABA-Acc. Schools

% of July 1st Time Bar Passers from ABA Acc. Schools with FTLTBPR

2014

24978

34333

72.75%

2015

23738

29808

79.64%

2016

22851

26443

86.42%

2017

23117

25802

89.59%

2018

23424

24088

97.24%

2019

24472

25233

97%

Bad News Indicators Continue to Improve

Looking at “bad news” indicators, one sees positive trends as well.  Focusing just on the percentage of graduates whose employment status is “unemployed seeking,” the Class of 2018 showed a continued decline.  Between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2019, there has been a steady decline in the percentage of graduates who are unemployed seeking, from 9.81% for the Class of 2014 to 6.44% for the Class of 2019.  Similarly, the percentage of graduates whose employment status is “unknown,” although it bumped up a little for the Class of 2018, continued its decline with the Class of 2019, dropping to just 1.33%, down from 2.06% for the Class of 2014. Combined these numbers have fallen from nearly 12% Unemployed seeking or Unknown for the Class of 2014 to less than 8% for the Class of 2019.

 

Unemployed Seeking

Unknown

2014

9.81%

2.06%

2015

9.73%

1.87%

2016

8.59%

1.58%

2017

7.88%

1.38%

2018

7.28%

1.46%

2019

6.44%

1.33%

What Does this All Mean in Light of the Economic Disruption from Covid-19?

While these are very encouraging numbers, they may already be irrelevant. The reporting date for employment outcomes for the Class of 2019 was March 15, 2020, just before states began to impose stay-at-home orders in response to the novel Covid-19 virus and associated pandemic.  These data do not capture any of the widespread economic disruption associated with the response to Covid-19, which has resulted in belt-tightening, salary reductions and layoffs at law firms around the country.   Indeed, some of the graduates of the Class of 2019 who were reported as employed on March 15, 2020, may already have lost their jobs.  Thus, these results for the Class of 2019 may stand as the high-water mark for employment outcomes for law school graduates for at least a few years.  While the nature of the economic disruption from Covid-19 is very different from the nature of the economic disruption that triggered the Great Recession in 2008-2010, it would seem reasonable to assume that the drag on the legal services market that law school graduates witnessed in 2009 and 2010 may be replicated to some extent for the class that just graduated and for the class that will be graduating next year.  

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2020/06/reflections-on-class-of-2019-employment-outcomes-.html

Jerry Organ, Law School, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

Enrollments are down 20% over a 5 year period, yet jobs are only "up" if you only look at the past 3 years, not the past 5 years. I hate to think what the 2020 numbers will look like!

Posted by: Andy Patterson | Jun 2, 2020 5:22:19 AM

So... in 2019, the (purportedly) best economic year in some time, the number of law students who got full-time, long-term, license-required jobs ten (10) months after graduation was... only about 300 more people than the Class of 2011, peak Law School Crisis, managed to place within nine (9) months of graduation (24,149 such jobs). And the Class of 2012 26,066 people in such jobs - thousands more than at any point from 2014-2019 despite adding another month to the measuring period. In other words, we have evidence that the number of FT/LT/license-required jobs is in a nearly decade-long downward trend - and that's pre-COVID.

And before we start handing out cigars for the "mere" 7.77% unemployed or unknown (i.e. unemployed and so angry that the school better than to bother reaching out) rate, let's remember that the national U3 recently was about 3.5% for a cohort wherein not even 4 in 10 had any college degree.

And as always, "JD Advantage" is a useless category prone to all manner of gamesmanship and mis-labelling in the name of Campbell's and Goodhart's Laws. Working as a paralegal, at the same wage as a non-JD-holding paralegal, with JD-level student loans, is NOT an advantage.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jun 2, 2020 10:17:38 AM

Unemployed Troll:

Do you like talking to yourself? Because nobody else really cares about your gripes...

Posted by: MM | Jun 2, 2020 6:07:50 PM

Hi MM,

Actually, you're talking to me, as you do each time I post. Every accusation is a projection and all that. Still waiting on your contrary citations in that last thread, since you claimed, without substantiation, that my data was inaccurate. Go fetch.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jun 3, 2020 12:49:53 PM

Unemployed: "Every accusation is a projection and all that. Still waiting on your contrary citations in that last thread, since you claimed, without substantiation, that my data was inaccurate."

You equate simple questions with accusations. I asked you to cite the sources of your information, which you've demanded of others, but never, never actually provided youself to my knowledge.

I'm actually still waiting for YOU to respond to the data I cited in response to your request regarding the Harvard endowment. What are you afraid of, sir? Why disappear from the discussion after you're challenged with the facts?

At least admit you're a troll. Be a man about it. Look how you react to simple questions, you attack instead of just engaging in a disucssion by answering them.

Posted by: MM | Jun 3, 2020 6:19:16 PM