Nicholas Allard, dean of Brooklyn Law School
Several U.S. law school administrators are somewhat optimistic about the number of law school graduates obtaining jobs based on recent data.
Their comments come as the American Bar Association (ABA) reported that law schools are seeing a “slight rise” in the percentage of 2014 graduates obtaining entry-level jobs compared with the experience of 2013 grads.
The 204 ABA-approved law schools reported that about 10 months after graduation, 31,160 graduates of the class of 2014, or 71 percent, were employed in long-term, full-time positions where bar passage is required or a J.D. is preferred.
“The latest employment numbers are encouraging,” David Meyer, dean of Tulane Law School, said in a statement to InsideCounsel. “We’re seeing the beginning of a rebound in hiring and the positive impact of a market correction in law school enrollment nationally.”
He said placement for Tulane grads into “premium” legal jobs, which are long-term, full-time positions for which a J.D. is required or preferred, increased 11 percent last year, from 65 percent to 76 percent.
Still, the ABA also said nationally there is a “slight decline” in the total number of jobs, which may be impacted in part by the decreased number of law school graduates between 2013 and 2014.
“We have seen, as others have, that hiring has in fact picked up over recent years, and not just in the traditional areas,” Nicholas W. Allard, dean at Brooklyn Law School, told InsideCounsel in a statement. “Beyond large- and mid-size law firms, as well as the public sector legal jobs which we have always been strong in, there is increasing demand for new lawyers to do in-house work in burgeoning fields such as financial compliance, privacy, health, energy, tech sector and entrepreneurial start-ups....”
“At Brooklyn Law School … for the class of 2014, ten months out, 335 out of 382 graduates – 88 percent – are employed,” Allard added. Four of the 382 graduates are not seeking employment and another four started full-time employment in the days following the cutoff for data collection, which means that 90 percent of the class who are seeking jobs are employed, Allard said, explaining the criteria used to come up with the numbers follow ABA standards.
"I am cautiously optimistic about the state of the market,” Sari Zimmerman, an assistant dean in the Office of Career & Professional Development at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, said. “Our employment numbers improved, in particular our full-time, long term employed numbers. In addition, we may be seeing a new trend in that more [of] our grads this year went to in-house legal departments and other law-related positions in-house."
Most companies remain reluctant to hire recent grads for general counsel jobs, but corporate legal departments follow the placement of recent law school graduates.
“An increase in the percentage of recent law school graduates hired is not only a good sign that the economy is improving, but it also means that there is a strong pipeline of future in-house counsel,” James Merklinger, vice president and chief legal officer at the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), said. “Having more attorneys in law firms means more experienced candidates for corporate legal departments in the future.”
He confirmed that a “majority” of in-house counsel have many years of experience practicing law at a law firm before taking a job in a company’s legal department. In fact, corporate legal departments hiring graduates right out of law school is “very rare,” Merklinger said.
When companies hire grads directly out of law school they may provide them with training. One example is at HP where recent graduates are selected for careers in litigation, intellectual property, corporate and commercial law, and are given guidance from veteran attorneys in the legal department.
In addition, Allard points out that there has been a “pick-up of corporate hiring, and good jobs for new lawyers in-house.”
The jobs for recent Brooklyn grads are typically not in general counsel positions, but may be in areas like compliance, privacy or government affairs, Allard points out.
Also, Meyer said that Tulane Law School has started a corporate counsel externship program, which will let students get on-the-job training in in-house legal departments for academic credit. “We expect this will give students a chance to gain experience and show employers what they can deliver, and ultimately open up new pathways to jobs after graduation,” Meyer said.
The ABA said that nationally:
- Some 26,248 graduates of the class of 2014, or 59.9 percent, were employed in long-term, full-time positions that require bar passage.
- Some 4,912 graduates of the class of 2014, or 11.2 percent, were employed in long-term, full-time "J.D. advantage" positions where a law degree is preferred.
- Some 9.8 percent of the class of 2014 was unemployed and seeking employment.
In contrast, 26,653 graduates of the class of 2013, or 57 percent, were employed in long-term, full-time positions that require bar passage. Also, 4,715 graduates of the class of 2013, or 10.1 percent, were employed in long-term, full-time positions where a law degree is preferred.
The class of 2014 included 43,832 graduates, which is 6.5 percent lower than the class of 2013's 46,776 graduates.