2012 Employment Outcomes

April 2nd, 2013 / By

The ABA has posted employment data for the Class of 2012. The figures are grim by any measure. The downturn in entry-level employment, which schools dismissed as temporary in 2009 and 2010, has persisted for four years–with a fifth year about to graduate. Only 56.2% of 2012 graduates had found full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar admission by nine months after graduation. More than a tenth of the class–10.6%–was still unemployed and actively seeking work at the nine-month mark. Those are shocking numbers for graduates with a professional degree.

The national unemployment rate was just 7.7% in February; the rate for law graduates was almost 3 points higher. Law schools, moreover, reported that another 2.2% of their graduates were “unemployed but not seeking work,” while still another 2.6% had an employment status that could not be confirmed. The graduates in those categories may belong with the plain old “unemployed”; lower ranked law schools have a suspiciously high number of graduates who either are not seeking work or refuse to disclose their job status.

All told, therefore, the unemployment rate for graduates of ABA-accredited law schools could be as high as 15.4%–more than one in every seven graduates.

Nor does the bad news stop there. Only 56.2% of graduates found full-time, long-term work that required a bar license. Another 9.5% reported full-time, long-term work for which the JD was an “advantage.” That’s a loosely defined category that includes paralegals and other positions that do not need graduate training. But even if we generously count all of those jobs as worthwhile outcomes for law graduates, less than two-thirds of all graduates (65.7%) secured a full-time, long-term job using their degree. And that’s nine months after law school graduation; more than six months after taking the bar.

Will the class of 2013 fare better? That seems unlikely. The class is larger than the class of 2012; it’s the largest class ever to move through ABA-accredited schools. There has been no noticeable upsurge in hiring at private firms, and government budgets are tighter than ever. My admittedly anecdotal sense is that law schools called in all of their remaining favors for the class of 2012. Alumni have already stretched to hire one more graduate; schools are running through funds for short-term jobs. When the class of 2013 joins their still under-employed peers from the classes of 2009 through 2012, the results won’t be pretty.

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2012 Employment Data

March 15th, 2013 / By

Consumer advocates have criticized law schools, not only for posting misleading employment data, but for disclosing those figures too slowly. The ABA acted to remedy both of those problems. Its revised Standard 509 and accompanying worksheet require schools to publish specific employment outcomes “on the school’s website each year by March 31” for “persons who graduated with a J.D. degree between September 1 two calendar years prior and August 31 one calendar year prior.” That’s legalese for: nine-month employment outcomes for the Class of 2012 must appear on websites by the end of this month.

There’s no reason for schools to neglect that deadline. They already have the 2012 outcomes, which are tabulated as of February 15. They’ve had another month to compile the figures, which are due in the NALP office by next Monday, March 18. Most important, prospective students need that information. As applicants weigh the offers extended to them, and decide whether to attend law school, they should know the job outcomes for the students who graduated ten months ago–not just for the ones who graduated twenty-two months ago.

I have great sympathy for Career Services staff, who feel that they operate under a blizzard of deadlines. First NALP wants this, then US News wants that, and now the ABA wants a somewhat different set of numbers by yet another deadline. Permeating all of that, deans and faculty want them to !!get jobs for graduates by February 15!! Sometimes the dates and reports seem more important than the jobs and graduates themselves.

But this ABA deadline is the most essential one: publishing updated information to prospective students is crucial. That shouldn’t be simply the task of Career Services staff; it should be the first website priority for the school as a whole.

Every accredited law school will update its website multiple times between now and March 31. With admitted students weighing offers, there will be plenty of upbeat news items about alumni accomplishments, faculty awards, and other achievements. That’s as it should be. But let’s make sure that the 2012 employment data appear as well. They’re the first website priority.

I welcome notifications of schools that have already complied with the ABA rule and posted their 2012 job data.

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