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New law grads getting more jobs, study says

Here’s a bit of sorely-needed good news for law students taking this month’s bar exam: the class of law school graduates from 2013 is finding more jobs and making more money than its recent predecessors, according to recently released statistics from the National Association for Law Placement.cutting jobs

“The total number of jobs obtained by this class was somewhat higher than the number of jobs obtained by the previous class, and the number of employment opportunities funded by law schools increased,” the NALP said in a press release.

Overall, the employment rate did fall for the sixth year in a row, albeit minimally, from 84.7 percent to 84.5 percent, but that’s due to a bigger graduating class, according to the report.

NALP Executive Director James Leipold said law school graduates have historically entered the workforce by accepting jobs that weren’t always law-related, and that has increased following the “dramatic downsizing” caused by the Great Recession.

“In general, the picture that emerges is one of slow growth, and growth that is a blend of continued shrinkage and downsizing in some areas offset by growth in other areas,” Leipold said. “In general, the legal sector is best described as mostly flat in the spring of 2014, with overall sector headcount still off by more than 40,000 jobs from its pre-recession high.”

Henry “Hank” Ralston serves as co-chairman of the recruiting committee and helps oversee the hiring process at Robinson Bradshaw in Charlotte. He agrees with Leipold’s assessment and added that in addition to the recession, technology and industry and structural changes have contributed to the current landscape.

“[Before the recession] there was a lot of demand for work and a lot of demand for lawyers and there was a kind of a boom,” Ralston said. “And you know what happens after boom times, just like what happened with housing prices and all kinds of things. This has been a slow, steady recovery and not any kind of a return to fast growth.”

Salaries rebound slightly

For the full-time jobs reported and considered, the national overall median salary rose by a little more than $1,000 from last year, to $62,467, although it still lags significantly behind the $72,000 median salary of 2009. The median law firm salary showed a 6 percent increase at $95,000. In 2009, it stood at $130,000.

According to the report, median salaries in other sectors have remained stagnant in recent years. These include government jobs ($52,000), public interest organizations—including legal services providers and public defenders—($45,000), and judicial clerkships ($53,000).

Most grads getting law jobs

For graduates whose employment status was known, 64.4 percent obtained a job that required bar passage, while another 13.8 percent obtained jobs in which a law degree is either required or preferred, but no bar passage is necessary, the report shows. Just less than 5 percent of 2013 graduates with law firm jobs set up their own solo practice, and 6.3 percent of graduates are employed in other capacities.

But for many graduates, the news is not nearly so good. Part-time jobs account for 8.4 percent of the study, and 3.6 percent of jobs are defined as both temporary and part time. The unemployment rate for the Class of 2013 is 12.9 percent, with just under 2 percent of graduates continuing to study full-time.

Halston offered one preemptive piece of advice for those considering law school: If you don’t have a plan of action, reconsider.

“A lot of people go to law school because they just don’t know what to do and say, ‘I’ll figure it out later,'” Halston said. “The problem is, there are people there who really do have a good idea of what they want to do and those people are going to win the jobs.”

The full text of the study can be found at More comprehensive findings from the NALP regarding the Class of 2013 are expected to be released in August.

Follow Heath Hamacher on Twitter @SCLWHamacher

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