NALP Employment Data

August 2nd, 2018 / By

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) has just released data about employment outcomes for the Class of 2017. More than two-thirds of graduates (68.8%) found full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar admission. According to NALP’s figures, that’s “higher than the rate measured before the recession.” The boost in employment outcomes, however, rests largely on the decline in JD class sizes. Between 2013 and 2017, the graduating class size fell by more than 25%.

Employment outcomes thus offer a mixed picture. On the one hand, as NALP’s Executive Director James Leipold writes, “we are closer than at any time since the recession to having the number of law school graduates more closely match the number and kind of jobs available.” Graduates are also obtaining more of the lawyering jobs they prefer; as Leipold notes, the percentage of graduates taking JD Advantage jobs has fallen, “suggest[ing] that despite the growth of new JD Advantage opportunities in areas like compliance, many law graduates prefer bar passage required jobs if they can be found.”

On the other hand, as Leipold also stresses, these positive employment outcomes rest on “a smaller [graduating] class and not more jobs.” Indeed, the Class of 2017 “secured fewer private practice jobs than any class since 1996.” The “unemployment rate ten months after graduation still remains much higher than it should be” and “the actual number of jobs obtained was flat or went down in virtually every sector.” (more…)

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Summer Employment

February 18th, 2016 / By

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) recently announced “an encouraging view of law firm recruiting,” pointing to the fact that “the average size of law firm [summer] programs has nearly recovered to pre-recession levels.” That statement conflicts with accounts I have heard from students, so I looked more closely at the NALP report.

It turns out that the average size of 2015 summer programs reported to NALP matches that for programs reported to the organization for the summer of 2007: Reporting firms in both years averaged thirteen second-years in their summer programs. The number of firms reporting to NALP, however, has declined dramatically since 2007.

In 2007, 425 firms told NALP that they had employed a total of 5,379 second-year students in their summer programs. That works out to an average of 12.7 students per program. Last summer 335 firms reported a total of 4,329 second-year summer associates. That’s 12.9 students per summer program–but it’s also 1,050 students fewer than in 2007. What should we make of this? Do these figures really give “an encouraging view of law firm recruiting”? *

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Law Schools More Transparent Than Ever

January 19th, 2016 / By

Since 1974, the National Association for Law Placement has surveyed ABA-approved law school graduates with the help of roughly 200 schools and a nod from the ABA. NALP’s annual survey asks graduates to describe their jobs, their employers, how and when they obtained the positions, and their starting salaries.

NALP checks the data for discrepancies and produces statistical reports of post-graduation employment outcomes for each law school. NALP must keep these “NALP reports” confidential, but individual schools may publish their reports.

Before the law school transparency movement, law schools did not publish NALP reports online for prospective students and others to see. Instead, these detailed, immensely useful reports occupied dusty filing cabinets. I recall when my organization first requested these reports from law schools, several career services deans told me they did not know where they were.
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Overpromising

April 18th, 2015 / By

Earlier this week, I wrote about the progress that law schools have made in reporting helpful employment statistics. The National Association for Law Placement (NALP), unfortunately, has not made that type of progress. On Wednesday, NALP issued a press release that will confuse most readers; mislead many; and ultimately hurt law schools, prospective students, and the profession. It’s the muddled, the false, and the damaging.

The Muddled

Much of the press release discusses the status of $160,000 salaries for new lawyers. This discussion vacillates between good news (for the minority of graduates who might get these salaries) and bad news. On the one hand, the $160,000 starting salary still exists. On the other hand, the rate hasn’t increased since 2007, producing a decline of 11.7% in real dollars (although NALP doesn’t spell that out).

On the bright side, the percentage of large firm offices paying this salary has increased from 27% in 2014 to 39% this year. On the down side, that percentage still doesn’t approach the two-thirds of large-firm offices that paid $160,000 in 2009. It also looks like the percentage of offices offering $160,000 to this fall’s associates (“just over one-third”) will be slightly lower than the current percentage.

None of this discussion tells us very much. This NALP survey focused on law firms, not individuals, and it tabulated results by office rather than firm. The fact that 39% of offices associated with the largest law firms are paying $160,000 doesn’t tell us how many individuals are earning that salary (let alone what percentage of law school graduates are doing so). And, since NALP has changed its definition of the largest firms since 2009, it’s hard to know what to make of comparisons with previous years.

In the end, all we know is that some new lawyers are earning $160,000–a fact that has been true since 2007. We also know that this salary must be very, very important because NALP repeats the figure (“$160,000”) thirty-two times in a single press release.

The False

In a bolded heading, NALP tells us that its “Data Represent Broad-Based Reporting.” This is so far off the mark that it’s not even “misleading.” It’s downright false. As the press release notes, only 5% of the firms responding to the survey employed 50 lawyers or fewer. (The accompanying table suggests that the true percentage was just 3.5%, but I won’t quibble over that.)

That’s a laughable representation of small law firms, and NALP knows it. Last year, NALP reported that 57.5% of graduates who took jobs with law firms went to firms of 50 lawyers or less. Smaller firms tend to hire fewer associates than large ones, and they don’t hire at all in some years. The percentage of “small” firms (those with 50 or fewer lawyers) in the United States undoubtedly is greater than 57.5%–and not anywhere near 5%.

NALP’s false statements go beyond a single heading. The press release specifically assures readers that “The report thus sheds light on the breadth of salary differentials among law firms of varying sizes and in a wide range of geographic areas nationwide, from the largest metropolitan areas to much smaller cities.” I don’t know how anyone can make that claim with a straight face, given the lack of response from law firms that make up the majority of firms nationwide.

This would be simply absurd, except NALP also tells readers that “the overall national median first-year salary at firms of all sizes was $135,000,” and that the median for the smallest firms (those with 50 or fewer lawyers) was $121,500. There is some fuzzy language about the median moving up during the last year because of “relatively fewer responses from smaller firms,” but that refers simply to the incremental change. Last year’s survey was almost as distorted as this year’s, with just 9.8% of responses coming from firms with 50 or fewer lawyers.

More worrisome, there’s no caveat at all attached to the representation that the median starting salary in the smallest law firms is $121,500. If you think that the 16 responding firms in this category magically represented salaries of all firms with 50 or fewer lawyers, see below. Presentation of the data in this press release as “broad-based” and “shed[ding] light on the breadth of salary differentials” is just breathtakingly false.

The Damaging

NALP’s false statements damage almost everyone related to the legal profession. The media have reported some of the figures from the press release, and the public response is withering. Clients assume that firms must be bilking them; otherwise, how could so many law firms pay new lawyers so much? Remember that this survey claims a median starting salary of $121,500 even at the smallest firms. Would you approach a law firm to draft your will or handle your divorce if you thought your fees would have to support that type of salary for a brand-new lawyer?

Prospective students will also be hurt if they act on NALP’s misrepresentations. Why shouldn’t they believe an organization called the “National Association for Law Placement,” especially when the organization represents its data as “broad-based”?

Ironically, though, law schools may suffer the most. What happens when prospective students compare NALP’s pumped-up figures with the ones on most of our websites? Nationwide, the median salary for 2013 graduates working in firms of 2-10 lawyers was just $50,000. So far, reports about the Class of 2014 look comparable. (As I’ve explained before, the medians that NALP reports for small firms are probably overstated. But let’s go with the reported median for now.)

When prospective students look at most law school websites, they’re going to see that $50,000 median (or one close to it) for small firms. They’re also going to see that a lot of our graduates work in those small firms of 2-10 lawyers. Nationwide, 8,087 members of the Class of 2013 took a job with one of those firms. That’s twice as many small firm jobs as ones at firms employing 500+ lawyers (which hired 3,980 members of the Class of 2013).

How do we explain the fact that so many of our graduates work at small firms, when NALP claims that these firms represent such a small percentage of practice? And how do we explain that our graduates average only $50,000 in these small-firm jobs, while NALP reports a median of $121,500? And then how do we explain the small number of our graduates who earn this widely discussed salary of $160,000?

With figures like $160,000 and $121,500 dancing in their heads, prospective students will conclude that most law schools are losers. By “most” I mean the 90% of us who fall outside the top twenty schools. Why would a student attend a school that offers outcomes so inferior to ones reported by NALP?

Even if these prospective students have read scholarly analyses showing the historic value of a law degree, they’re going to worry about getting stuck with a lemon school. And compared to the “broad-based” salaries reported by NALP, most of us look pretty sour.

Law schools need to do two things. First, we need to stop NALP from making false statements–or even just badly skewed ones. Each of our institutions pays almost $1,000 per year for this type of reporting. We shouldn’t support an organization that engages in such deceptive statements.

Second, we really do need to stop talking about BigLaw and $160,000 salaries. If Michael Simkovic and Frank McIntyre are correct about the lifetime value of a law degree, then we should be able to illustrate that value with real careers and real salaries. What do prosecutors earn compared to other government workers, both entry-level and after 20 years of experience? How much of a premium do businesses pay for a compliance officer with a JD? We should be able to generate answers to those questions. If the answers are positive, and we can place students in the appropriate jobs, we’ll have no trouble recruiting applicants.

If the answers are negative, we need to know that as well. We need to figure out the value of our degree, for our students. Let’s get real. Stop NALP from disseminating falsehoods, stop talking about $16*,*** salaries, and start talking about outcomes we can deliver.

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Clueless About Salary Stats

April 11th, 2015 / By

Students and practitioners sometimes criticize law professors for knowing too little about the real world. Often, those criticisms are overstated. But then a professor like Michael Simkovic says something so clueless that you start to wonder if the critics are right.

Salaries and Response Rates

In a recent post, Simkovic tries to defend a practice that few other legal educators have defended: reporting entry-level salaries gathered through the annual NALP process without disclosing response rates to the salary question. Echoing a previous post, Simkovic claims that this practice was “an uncontroversial and nearly universal data reporting practice, regularly used by the United States Government.”

Simkovic doesn’t seem to understand how law schools and NALP actually collect salary information; the process is nothing like the government surveys he describes. Because of the idiosyncracies of the NALP process, the response rate has a particular importance.

Here are the two keys to the NALP process: (1) law schools are allowed–even encouraged–to supplement survey responses with information obtained from third parties; and (2) NALP itself is one of those third parties. Each year NALP publishes an online directory with copious salary information about the largest, best-paying law firms. Smaller firms rarely submit information to NALP, so they are almost entirely absent from the Directory.

As a result, as NALP readily acknowledges, “salaries for most jobs in large firms are reported” by law schools, while “fewer than half the salaries for jobs in small law firms are reported.” That’s “reported” as in “schools have independent information about large-firm salaries.”

For Example

To see an example of how this works in practice, take a look at the most recent (2013) salary report for Seton Hall Law School, where Simkovic teaches. Ten out of the eleven graduates who obtained jobs in firms with 500+ lawyers reported their salaries. But of the 34 graduates who took jobs in the smallest firms (those with 2-10 lawyers), just nine disclosed a salary. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, no graduates in the latter category reported a salary.

If this were a government survey, the results would be puzzling. The graduates working at the large law firms are among those “high-income individuals” that Simkovic tells us “often value privacy and are reluctant to share details about their finances.” Why are they so eager to disclose their salaries, when graduates working at smaller (and lower-paying) firms are not? And why do the graduates at every other law school act the same way? The graduates of Chicago’s Class of 2013 seem to have no sense of privacy: 149 out of 153 graduates working in the private sector happily provided their salaries, most of which were $160,000.

The answer, of course, is the NALP Directory. Law schools don’t need large-firm associates to report their salaries; the schools already know those figures. The current Directory offers salary information for almost 800 offices associated with firms of 200+ lawyers. In contrast, the Directory includes information about just 14 law firms employing 25 or fewer attorneys. That’s 14 nationwide–not 14 in New Jersey.

For the latter salaries, law schools must rely upon graduate reports, which seem difficult to elicit. When grads do report these salaries, they are much lower than the BigLaw ones. At Seton Hall, the nine graduates who reported small-firm salaries yielded a mean of just $51,183.

What Was the Problem?

I’m able to give detailed data in the above example because Seton Hall reports all of that information. It does so, moreover, for years going back to 2010. Other schools have not always been so candid. In the old days, some law schools merged the large-firm salaries provided by NALP with a handful of small-firm salaries collected directly from graduates. The school would then report a median or mean “private practice salary” without further information.

Was this “an uncontroversial and nearly universal data reporting practice, regularly used by the United States Government”? Clearly not–unless the government keeps a list of salaries from high-paying employers that it uses to supplement survey responses. That would be a nifty way to inflate wage reports, but no political party seems to have thought of this just yet.

Law schools, in other words, were not just publishing salary information without disclosing response rates. They were disclosing information that they knew was biased: they had supplemented the survey information with data drawn from the largest firms. The organization supervising the data collection process acknowledged that the salary statistics were badly skewed; so did any dean I talked with during that period.

The criticism of law schools for “failing to report response rates” became a polite shorthand for describing the way in which law schools produced misleading salary averages. Perhaps the critics should have been less polite. We reasoned, however, that if law schools at least reported the “response” rates (which, of course, included “responses” provided by the NALP data), graduates would see that reported salaries clustered in the largest firms. The information would also allow other organizations, like Law School Transparency to explain the process further to applicants.

This approach gave law schools the greatest leeway to continue reporting salary data and, frankly, to package it in ways that may still overstate outcomes. But let’s not pretend that law schools have been operating social science surveys with an unbiased method of data collection. That wasn’t true in the past, and it’s not true now.

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Assumptions About JD Advantage Jobs

December 5th, 2013 / By

In a recent post, Professor Paula Young writes that she “hate[s] to make too many assumptions about graduates holding JD Advantage jobs.”
I wholeheartedly agree.

Ironically, we don’t need to make assumptions about these jobs: Law schools already have considerable data about them. Schools, however, are not disclosing the information they possess. Neither is NALP, which aggregates data nationally. I have written about this information gap before, encouraging schools and NALP to disclose more of the data they collect.

Here is a brief summary of what we know and don’t know, as well as what we publish and don’t publish, about JD Advantage jobs. We could eliminate much of the debate and mystery surrounding these jobs–simply by disclosing the data we already have about them.

What Are JD Advantage Jobs?

Career Services Offices do not simply gather information about whether a graduate is employed and, if so, whether the job is “JD Advantage,” “Bar Admission Required,” or some other category. In most cases, the office obtains the specific job title. Law schools, in other words, know whether their JD Advantage grads are compliance officers, investment bankers, accountants, land men, research assistants, paralegals, etc. They do not report those titles to NALP, but schools know them.

It would be quite easy for a law school to post a list of the JD Advantage jobs taken by their graduates each year, together with the number of graduates in each category. Compiling this information would take very little time at most schools. According to the ABA’s spreadsheet of 2012 job outcomes, half of all law schools had 25 or fewer graduates in JD Advantage jobs. Extracting those titles from existing spreadsheets and symplicity reports is straightforward: I hereby offer to do the work for any school that wants to send me their redacted data! This offer applies even to Thomas M. Cooley, the school with the highest number of JD Advantage jobs (161) among the Class of 2012.

Given the amount of ink that has been spilled over JD Advantage jobs, I don’t know why schools haven’t already published this information. There are some excellent JD Advantage jobs, and some schools have very positive stories to tell. Where the stories aren’t as positive, applicants deserve to have that information–and faculty members should be aware of the full spectrum of jobs taken by their graduates.

I hope it goes without saying that these disclosures should cover all JD Advantage jobs secured by a school’s graduates. Highlighting just a few jobs tempts cherry-picking.

Salaries

When it comes to salaries, we have less information about JD Advantage jobs than some of our publications suggest. Law schools request salary information from all employed graduates, and they report those figures to NALP. Graduates in JD Advantage positions, however, are substantially less likely to report their salaries than are graduates with jobs that require bar admission.

NALP does not publish all of the relevant salary information on the web, so I rely here on NALP’s hard copy book, Jobs & JDs, for the Class of 2011. In that class, 27,224 graduates reported jobs that required bar passage, while 5,214 reported positions for which the JD was an advantage. Among the first group, 15,999 disclosed their salaries; among the latter, just 1,771 did. NALP, in other words, knows the salaries for 58.8% of graduates who took jobs that required bar admission–but it knows those salaries for just 34.0% of the graduates who secured JD Advantage positions.

That’s a very large difference, almost 25 percentage points. NALP acknowledges that reported salaries are “biased upwards.” This is a problem for all salaries reported by NALP, but it creates special difficulties when comparing salaries across categories with different reporting rates.

NALP, for example, reports that the median salary for JD Advantage jobs among the Class of 2011 was $59,000. The median salary that year for jobs requiring bar passage was $61,500–which seems quite close. The comparison, however, does not take into account the much greater underreporting for JD Advantage jobs. Some individual law schools make the same mistake, comparing salary information for JD Advantage and Bar Admission Required jobs without noting the very different response rates in those categories.

When it comes to salaries for JD Advantage jobs, we need to do two things: (a) disclose clearly that we have less information about this category than about jobs that require bar admission; and (b) try to collect more information. If this employment category is important to our schools and graduates, we should devote more resources to understanding it.

Still Seeking Other Work

NALP’s employment questionnaire, used by almost all ABA-accredited law schools, asks a little-publicized question. The survey asks each employed graduate to check one of two boxes:

__ I continue to seek a job other than that described here.
__ I am not seeking a job other than that describe here.

NALP tabulates these responses by job category, but it does not publish the information anywhere on its website. Instead, the data are available only in NALP’s $95 annual report on jobs.

For the Class of 2011, here are the percentages of graduates in different job categories who were still seeking other work:

Bar Admission Required: 16.5% still seeking
JD Advantage: 46.8% still seeking
Other Professional: 52.1% still seeking
Non-Professional: 85.9% still seeking

These figures, of course, only approximate job satisfaction. Some ambitious graduates may always be seeking a better position, no matter how attractive their current job. Others may be dissatisfied with their work, but not actively seeking a new position. The relative percentages, however, are striking: law school graduates who hold JD Advantage, Other Professional, and Non-Professional jobs nine months after graduation are much more likely to be seeking other work than are graduates who hold jobs requiring bar admission.

As I wrote in a previous post, this pattern holds over time. Yes, some graduates are very satisfied with JD Advantage jobs. But for as long as NALP has collected the information, graduates in that category (or its predecessor, JD Preferred) have shown significantly higher rates of job seeking than their colleagues who obtained work requiring bar admission.

This information, as noted above, does not appear anywhere on NALP’s website–even though NALP has created an extensive page related to JD Advantage jobs, accompanied by a “detailed research analysis” of those jobs. Nor, to my knowledge, does any law school share this information about their graduates–although they all collect it. We could, if we wanted, publish the percentage of our employed graduates who are still seeking other work nine months after graduation. We could also break that percentage down by job category, revealing how many of our graduates in JD Advantage, Other Professional, and Non-Professional positions are seeking other jobs.

The information we collect about job seeking is at least as reliable as much of the other employment data we collect and publish. I have asked NALP, both through posts on this blog and direct emails, to add the job-seeking data to their site. They have not, unfortunately, done so. This type of omission contributes to ongoing distrust of law schools: We and our national placement organization are still disclosing data selectively. Applicants need to trust us to inform them, not merely to market to them.

Conclusion

We already know quite a bit about JD Advantage jobs. If every law school published the information at its disposal, applicants would understand the kind of JD Advantage jobs taken by that school’s graduates. Faculty members would also gain insights into those jobs. With disclosures from individual schools, scholars could aggregate data to build a more complete national picture of JD Advantage positions. We don’t need to make assumptions about these jobs; we have data about them. Let’s commit to disclosing and analyzing that information.

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Old Tricks

June 23rd, 2013 / By

From time to time, I like to read real books instead of electronic ones. During a recent ramble through my law school’s library, I stumbled across an intriguing set of volumes: NALP employment reports from the late nineteen seventies. These books are so old that they still have those funny cards in the back. It was the content, though, that really took my breath away. During the 1970s, NALP manipulated data about law school career outcomes in a way that makes more contemporary methods look tame. Before I get to that, let me give you the background.

NALP compiled its first employment report for the Class of 1974. The data collection was fairly rudimentary. The association asked all ABA-accredited schools to submit basic data about their graduates, including the total number of class members, the number employed, and the number known to be still seeking work. This generated some pretty patchy statistics. Only 83 schools (out of about 156) participated in the original survey. Those schools graduated 17,188 JDs, but they reported employment data for just 13,250. More than a fifth of the graduates (22.9%) from this self-selected group of schools failed to share their employment status with the schools.

NALP’s early publications made no attempt to analyze this selection bias; the reports I’ve examined (for the Classes of 1977 and 1978) don’t even mention the possibility that graduates who neglect to report their employment status might differ from those who provide that information. The reports address the representativeness of participating schools, but in a comical manner. The reports divide the schools by institutional type (e.g., public or private) and geographic region, then present a cross-tabulation showing the number and percentage of schools participating in each category. For the Class of 1977, participation rates varied from 62.5% to 100%, but the report gleefully declares: “You will note the consistently high percentage of each type of institution, as well as the large number of schools sampled. I believe we can safely say that our study is, in fact, representative!” (p. 7)

Anyone with an elementary grasp of statistics knows that’s nonsense. The question isn’t whether the percentages were “high,” it’s how they varied across categories. Ironically, at the very time that NALP published the quoted language, I was taking a first-year elective on “Law and Social Science” at my law school. It’s galling that law schools weren’t practicing the quantitative basics that they were already teaching.

NALP quickly secured more participating schools, which mooted this particular example of bad statistics. By 1978, NALP was obtaining responses from 150 of the 167 ABA-approved law schools. Higher levels of school participation, however, did not solve the problem of missing graduates. For the Classes of 1974 through 1978, NALP was missing data on 19.4% to 23.7% of the graduates from reporting schools. Blithely ignoring those graduates, NALP calculated the employment rate each year simply by dividing the number of graduates who held any type of job by the number whose employment status was known. This misleading method, which NALP still uses today, yielded an impressive employment rate of 88.1% for the Class of 1974.

But even that wasn’t enough. Starting with the Class of 1975, NALP devised a truly ingenious way to raise employment rates: It excluded from its calculation any graduate who had secured neither a job nor bar admission by the spring following graduation. As NALP explained in the introduction to its 1977 report: “The employment market for new attorneys does not consist of all those that have graduated from ABA-approved law schools. In order for a person to practice law, there is a basic requirement of taking and passing a state bar examination. Those who do not take or do not pass the bar examination should therefore be excluded from the employment market….” (p. 1)

That would make sense if NALP had been measuring the percentage of bar-qualified graduates who obtained jobs. But here’s the kicker: At the same time that NALP excluded unemployed bar no-admits from its calculation, it continued to include employed ones. Many graduates in the latter category held jobs that we call “JD Advantage” ones today. NALP’s 1975 decision gave law schools credit for all graduates who found jobs that didn’t require a law license, while allowing them to disown (for reporting purposes) graduates who didn’t obtain a license and remained jobless.

I can’t think of a justification for that–other than raising the overall employment rate. Measure employment among all graduates, or measure it among all grads who have been admitted to the bar. You can’t use one criterion for employed graduates and a different one for unemployed graduates. Yet the “NALP Research Committee, upon consultation with executive committee members and many placement directors from throughout the country” endorsed this double standard. (id.)

And the trick worked. By counting graduates who didn’t pass the bar but nonetheless secured employment, while excluding those who didn’t take the bar and failed to get jobs, NALP produced a steady rise in JD employment rates: 88.1% in 1974 (under the original method), 91.6% in 1975, 92.5% in 1976, 93.6% in 1977, and a remarkable 94.2% in 1978. That 94.2% statistic ignored 19.5% of graduates who didn’t report any employment status, plus another 3.7% who hadn’t been admitted to the bar and were known to be unemployed but, whatever.

NALP was very pleased with its innovation. The report for the Class of 1977 states: “This revised and more realistic picture of the employment market for newly graduated and qualified lawyers reveals that instead of facing unemployment, the prospects for employment within the first year of graduation are in fact better than before. Study of the profile also reveals that there has been an incremental increase in the number of graduates employed and a corresponding drop in unemployment during that same period.” (p. 21) Yup, unemployment rates will fall if you ignore those pesky graduates who neither found jobs nor got admitted to the bar–while continuing to count all of the JD Advantage jobs.

I don’t know when NALP abandoned this piece of data chicanery. My library didn’t order any of the NALP reports between 1979 and 1995, so I can’t trace the evolution of NALP’s reporting method. By 1996, NALP was no longer counting unlicensed grads with jobs while ignoring those without jobs. Someone helped them come to their senses.

Why bring this up now? In part, I’m startled by the sheer audacity of this data manipulation. Equally important, I think it’s essential for law schools to recognize our long history of distorting data about employment outcomes. During the early years of these reports, NALP didn’t even have a technical staff: these reports were written and vetted by placement directors from law schools. It’s a sorry history.

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NALP Numbers

June 20th, 2013 / By

NALP, the National Association for Law Placement, has released selected findings about employment for the Class of 2012. The findings and accompanying press release don’t tell us much more than the ABA data published in late March, but there are a few interesting nuggets. Here are my top ten take-aways from the NALP data.

1. Law school leads to unemployment. I’m sorry to put that so bluntly, but it’s true. Even after adopting a very generous definition of employment–one that includes any work for pay, whatever the nature of the work, the number of hours worked per week, and the permanence (or lack thereof) of the position–only 84.7% of graduates from ABA-accredited schools were employed nine months after graduation. Almost one in six graduates had no job at all nine months after graduation? That statistic is beyond embarrassing.

Some of those graduates were enrolled in other degree programs, and some reported that they were not seeking work. Neither of those categories, however, should offer much comfort to law schools or prospective students. It’s true that yet another degree (say an LLM in tax or an MBA) may lead to employment, but those degrees add still more time and money to a student’s JD investment. Graduates who are unemployed and not seeking work, meanwhile, often are studying for the February bar exam–sometimes after failing on their first attempt. Again, this is not a comforting prospect for students considering law school.

Even if we exclude both of those categories, moreover, 10.7% of 2012 graduates–more than one in every ten–was completely unemployed and actively seeking work in February 2013. The national unemployment rate that month was just 7.7%. Even among 25-to-29-year olds, a group that faces higher than average unemployment, the most recent reported unemployment rate (for 2012) was 8.9%. Recent graduates of ABA-accredited law schools are more likely to be unemployed than other workers their age–most of whom have far less education.

2. Nine months is a long time. When responding to these dismal nine-month statistics, law schools encourage graduates to consider the long term. Humans, however, have this annoying need to eat, stay warm, and obtain health care in the present. Most of us would be pretty unhappy if we were laid off and it took more than nine months to find another job. How would we buy food, pay our rent, and purchase prescriptions during those months? For new graduates it’s even worse. They don’t have the savings that more senior workers may have as a cushion for unemployment; nor can they draw unemployment compensation. On the contrary, they need to start repaying their hefty law school loans six months after graduation.

When we read nine-month statistics, we should bear those facts in mind. Sure, the unemployed graduates may eventually find work. But most of them already withdrew from the workforce for three years of law school; borrowed heavily to fund those years; borrowed still more to support three months of bar study; sustained themselves (somehow) for another six months; and have been hearing from their loan repayment companies for three months. If ten percent are still unemployed and seeking work the February after graduation, what are they living on?

3. If you want to practice law, the outlook is even worse. Buried in the NALP releases, you’ll discover that only 58.3% of graduates secured a full-time job that required bar admission and would last at least a year. Even that estimate is a little high because NALP excludes from its calculation over 1000 graduates whose employment status was unknown. Three years of law school, three months of bar study, six months of job hunting, and more than two out of every five law graduates still has not found steady, full-time legal work. If you think those two wanted JD Advantage jobs, read on.

4. Many of the jobs are stopgap employment. Almost a quarter of 2012 graduates with jobs in February 2013 were actively looking for other work. The percentage of dissatisfied workers was particularly high among those with JD Advantage positions: forty-three percent of them were seeking another job. JD Advantage positions offer attractive career options for some graduates, but for many they are simply a way to pay the bills while continuing the hunt for a legal job.

5. NALP won’t tell you want you want to know. When the ABA reported similar employment statistics in March, it led with the information that most readers want to know: “Law schools reported that 56.2 percent of graduates of the class of 2012 were employed in long-term, full-time positions where bar passage was required.” The ABA’s press release followed up with the percentage of graduates in long-term, full-time JD Advantage positions (9.5%) and offered comparisons to 2011 for both figures. Bottom line: Nine months after graduation, about two-thirds of 2012 graduates had full-time, steady employment related to their JD.

You won’t find that key information in either of the two reports that NALP released today. You can dig out the first of those statistics (the percentage of the class holding full-time, long-term jobs that required bar admission), but it’s buried at the bottom of the second page of the Selected Findings. You won’t find the second statistic (the percentage of full-time, long-term JD Advantage jobs) anywhere; NALP reports only a more general percentage (including temporary and part-time jobs) for that category.

NALP’s Executive Director, James Leipold, laments disclosing even that much. He tells us that the percentage of full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage “is certainly not a fair measure of the value of a legal education or the return on investment, or even a fair measure of the success of a particular graduating class in the marketplace.” Apparently forgetting the ABA’s attention to this employment measure, Leipold dismisses it as “the focus of so much of the media scrutiny of legal education.”

What number does NALP feature instead? That overall employment rate of 84.7%, which includes non-professional jobs, part-time jobs, and temporary jobs. Apparently those jobs are a more “fair measure of the value of a legal education.”

6. Law students are subsidizing government and nonprofits. NALP observes that the percentage of government and public interest jobs “has remained relatively stable for more than 30 years, at 26-29%.” At the same time, it reports that most law-school-funded jobs lie in this sector. If the percentage of jobs has remained stable, and law schools are now funding some of those spots, then law schools are subsidizing the government and public interest work. “Law schools,” of course, means students who pay tuition to those schools. Even if schools support post-graduate fellowships with donor money, those contributions could have been used to defray tuition costs.

I’m all in favor of public service, but shouldn’t the taxpayers and charitable donors pay for that work? In the current scheme, law students are borrowing significant sums from the government, at high interest rates, so that they can pay tuition that is used to subsidize government and nonprofit employees. Call me old fashioned, but that seems like a complicated (and regressive) way to pay for needed services. Why not raise taxes on people like me, who actually earn money, rather than issue more loans to people who hope someday to earn money?

7. Don’t pay much attention to NALP’s salary figures. NALP reports some salary information, which the ABA eschews. Those tantalizing figures draw some readers to the NALP report–and hype the full $95 version it will release in August. But the salary numbers are more misleading than useful. NALP reports salary information only for graduates who hold full-time, long-term positions and who report their salaries. That’s a minority of law graduates: Last year NALP reported salaries for just 18,639 graduates, from a total class of 44,495. Reported salaries, therefore, represented just 41.9% of the class. The percentage this year is comparable.

That group, furthermore, disproportionately represents the highest salaries. As NALP itself recognizes, salaries are “disproportionately reported for those graduates working at large firms,” so median salaries are “biased upward.” Swallow any salary reports, in other words, with a tablespoon of salt.

8. After accounting for inflation, today’s reported salaries are lower than ones from the last century. Although NALP’s reported salaries skew high, they offer some guidance to salary trends over time. Unfortunately, those trends are negative. During the early nineteen nineties, the country was in recession and law firms hadn’t yet accelerated pay for new associates. The median reported salary for 1991 graduates was just $40,000. Accounting for inflation, that’s equivalent to a 2012 median salary of $67,428. The actual reported median for that class, however, was just $61,245. Even when today’s graduates land a full-time, steady job, they’re earning 9.2% less than graduates from the last century.

9. The lights of BigLaw continue to dim. NALP acknowledges the “‘new normal’ in which large firm hiring has recovered some but remains far below pre-recession highs.” The largest firms, those with more than 500 lawyers, hired more than 3,600 members of the Class of 2012, a total that modestly exceeded the number hired from the Class of 2011. Current employment, however, remains well shy of the 5,100 graduates hired from the Class of 2009. Meanwhile, a growing percentage of those BigLaw hires are staff attorneys rather than associates. These lower-status, lower-paid lawyers currently comprise 4% of new BigLaw hires, and they are “more common than just two years ago.”

Inflation, meanwhile, has eroded salaries for even the best paid associates in BigLaw. In 2000, NALP reported a median salary of $125,000 for graduates joining firms that employed more than 500 lawyers. Adjusting for inflation, that would be $166,662 for the Class of 2012. BigLaw associates won’t starve on the median $160,000 they’re actually earning, but they’re taking home less in real dollars than the associates who started at the turn of the century.

For associates joining the second tier of BigLaw, firms that employ 251-500 lawyers, the salary news is even worse. In 2000, those associates also reported a median salary of $125,000, which would translate to $166,662 today. The actual median, however, appears to be $145,000 (the same figure reported for 2011). That’s a decline of 13% in real dollars.

10. It goes almost without saying that these 2012 graduates paid much more for their law school education than students did in 1991, 2000, or almost any other year. Law school tuition has far outpaced inflation over the last three decades. It’s scant comfort to this class–or to the classes of 2010, 2011, or 2013–that heavy discounts are starting to ease tuition. These are classes that bought very high and are selling very low. There’s little that law schools can do to make the difference up to these graduates, but we shouldn’t forget the financial hardship they face. If nothing else, the tuition-jobs gap for these classes should make us commit to the boldest possible reforms of legal education.

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Straight Talk About JD Advantage Jobs

April 28th, 2013 / By

Earlier this month, I expressed my concern about NALP‘s aggressive marketing of JD Advantage jobs to pre-law students. Last week NALP posted additional information about these jobs on its website. Although some of the data are interesting, NALP is still withholding key information it possesses about JD Advantage jobs: law graduates are much less satisfied with these jobs than with ones that require bar admission.

The omission is both regrettable and deceptive. NALP has published much of the data it collects on JD Advantage jobs, while ignoring some of the most negative–and relevant–information in its possession. This biased disclosure reflects poorly on NALP, but it also embarrasses us as legal educators and professionals. NALP is a membership organization composed of law schools and legal employers, so it speaks for us. The last thing that law schools need, after years of bad press about distorted job statistics, is publication of more misleading data.

As educators, we care about both our graduates’ welfare and the accuracy of data. NALP’s dissembling with respect to JD Advantage jobs raises real questions about whether it is capable of continuing to represent our interests. Perhaps it is time for law schools to create a different organization–or work solely with the ABA–to collect and publish unbiased data about the careers of law school graduates. We need that information, not only to advise prospective and current students, but to guide our own decisions about how to reshape legal education. Feel-good presentations that omit key facts will not help us confront the ongoing challenges to our schools and profession.

I summarize here some of the information we currently have about JD Advantage jobs, including the data omitted by NALP. I also suggest ways that we could begin collecting more objective data about these jobs. If JD Advantage jobs are going to play an important role in the future of legal education, we have to get serious about examining these positions.

Looking Back

There have always been law graduates who pursued careers outside of law practice. The information we have, however, suggests that most of those graduates embraced alternative careers after practicing law for at least a few years. An earlier statement by NALP, for example, acknowledges: “It is certainly true that people with JD degrees work in a wide variety of alternative careers. However, while that may be true down the road, lawyers most often choose a non-traditional path after practicing law for at least a few years.” (This statement still appears on the NALP website, but it is not connected to the pages promoting JD Advantage jobs as entry-level positions.)

This distinction is important. Graduates who take JD Advantage jobs after practicing law differ from those who seek these jobs immediately after law school. The historical record suggests that some employers value the JD plus law practice experience for certain jobs; the record tells us very little about the value of the JD alone for those career paths. When we advise current and prospective students about the value of JD Advantage jobs, we have to be careful to distinguish graduates who used their degrees plus practice from those who attempted to secure JD Advantage jobs immediately after law school. A graduate who takes a job in “compliance” right after graduation has a very different job from one who moves in-house to do compliance work after three years in a regulatory law practice. Their long-term career trajectories may also differ; we have little available information on that score.

Earlier graduates in non-traditional positions offer an important resource for gathering information about JD Advantage jobs and, if those jobs seem promising, developing career paths for current graduates. We have to seek that information, however, in a serious way. It’s not enough simply to talk with these graduates at reunions. We need to map law-related opportunities more systematically, seek feedback on which law school experiences are particularly valuable for those jobs, and analyze objectively how much a JD contributes to graduates obtaining those positions and advancing in them.

JD Advantage Today

As entry-level jobs in law practice have contracted and shifted to less attractive positions, law graduates have looked to alternative fields. NALP’s Detailed Analysis of JD Advantage Jobs shows how important those jobs have become. Among 2011 graduates who reported their job status, 12.5% took JD Advantage jobs. That represents one out of every eight graduates. As a percentage of all graduates, including those who did not report their job status, graduates in JD Advantage positions accounted for 11.7% of the class.

According to recently released ABA figures, the percentage went up for the class of 2012. Among those who reported their employment status, 13.2% held JD Advantage jobs. As a percentage of the full graduating class, these jobs accounted for 12.9% of graduates.

Those percentages are substantially higher than the rates reported during the century’s first decade. For the class of 2001, 5.9% of graduates reporting their employment status indicated that they held “JD Preferred” jobs; that category was the precursor for the contemporary “JD Advantage” one. For the class of 2004, the figure was 7.5%, and in 2007, it was also 7.5%. The percentage edged up to 7.8% for the class of 2008, then began jumping noticeably each year: to 8.8% for the class of 2009, 10.2% for the class of 2010, 12.5% for the class of 2011, and 13.2% for the class of 2012.

This pattern in itself suggests that law graduates are turning to JD Advantage jobs as a “Plan B” when they cannot find jobs in law practice. Interest in these jobs has not been “growing steadily” since 2001, as NALP suggests in its recent analysis. Instead, interest jumped significantly after the recession hit the legal market in 2009. We need to look seriously at graduates’ satisfaction with JD Advantage jobs. Do recent graduates hope to build a career in this work? Or are they using JD Advantage jobs as place-holders while looking for work in law practice? If the latter, how well can graduates make that transition?

Job Satisfaction

NALP already has data on some of these questions. As part of its annual survey of law graduates, NALP asks employed graduates whether they are “seeking a job other than the one” reported to their Career Services Office. The answers to this question shed important light on a graduate’s job satisfaction. Graduates answer this survey within nine months of law school graduation. If they are seeking another job that quickly after graduation, the reported job either lacks permanence or holds little appeal.

Responses to this question consistently suggest that law graduates prefer jobs that require bar admission over JD Advantage ones. In 2001, just 6.7% of graduates working in lawyering jobs (those that required a law license) were looking for other work; a full third (33.3%) of those with JD Preferred jobs were actively seeking another job. In 2004, the percentages were 8.5% (for those in jobs requiring bar admission) and 37.0% (for JD Preferred jobs). Three years later, in 2007, the percentages were virtually identical to the 2004 ones: 8.7% of graduates with lawyering jobs were seeking other work, while 37.7% of those with JD Preferred positions were on the job market.

NALP’s latest figures, from 2011, show the same pattern. With a tighter market and more ad hoc jobs, the percentages have risen in both categories. 16.5% of graduates with lawyering jobs were seeking other work, and 46.8% of those with JD Advantage jobs were doing so. For graduates with other types of professional employment, the percentage was even higher: more than half (52.1%) of those graduates were sufficiently dissatisfied with their jobs to be seeking a different one.

These figures further suggest that JD Advantage positions are fallback jobs, rather than affirmative career decisions, for many graduates. Some graduates may eagerly pursue jobs in this category, but a large number do not. Almost half are seeking other work as soon as they begin these positions. Even among JD Advantage workers who have temporarily withdrawn from the job market, at least some may hope to move into law practice eventually.

This is essential information to know about the job market, but you won’t find the data on NALP’s web page offering a “Detailed Analysis of JD Advantage Jobs.” A prospective law student or interested law professor would have to purchase NALP’s $90 book on Jobs and JDs to find that information. The student or professor, of course, would also have to know that the additional data exist.

We need to grapple with negative information about JD Advantage jobs, not selectively ignore those data. Which graduates are satisfied with JD Advantage jobs and why? What work are the other graduates doing? Will that work help them secure jobs that better fulfill their career ambitions?

Toward Better Data

As noted above, I’m not sure that NALP is the best organization to collect more data on JD Advantage jobs or other evolving facets of the job market. The organization’s recent treatment of JD Advantage jobs suggests that it is spinning data rather than providing objective information. The ABA might serve as a better resource for ongoing career information. That professional group is providing data more quickly than NALP, and it is publishing the data in both summary and detailed form. Law School Transparency is also offering rapidly updated, objective career information through its Score Reports.

Whatever organizations we work with in the future, here are some questions that we need to address about JD Advantage jobs:

1. What are these jobs? Both NALP and the ABA allow graduates and their schools to decide whether a job qualifies for this category. It is very easy for a JD graduate or a JD-granting institution to conclude that their degree confers a “demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing” a particular job. These decisions, however, may overstate the value of the JD. Is a job as a substitute middle school teacher a “JD Advantage” one? What about a job as a police officer? Law graduates in these jobs probably would draw upon their legal training, but are these the type of jobs we envision as “JD Advantage” ones?

There’s no reason to debate these questions in the abstract. We should simply require schools to list the jobs they have counted as “JD Advantage” ones. The ABA could publish that information, both for individual schools and in the aggregate. Some students may find positions as middle school teachers or police officers attractive; others may decide that the JD is not the best route to those positions. By publishing the data, we can inform both students and ourselves about possible career paths for law graduates.

2. How many students take different types of JD Advantage jobs? Law schools count paralegal positions as “JD Advantage” ones, but they rarely tout those jobs. Instead, websites tend to refer to policy analysts and investment bankers. Following the previous suggestion would allow us to advise students (and ourselves) about the prevalence of graduates in these very different JD Advantage positions.

3. How do other degrees and experiences contribute to graduates’ success in pursuing JD Advantage positions? A JD offers an advantage for some accounting positions, but it is very unlikely that a law graduate could obtain an accounting job without also holding a degree in accounting. Similarly, some JDs in business hold an MBA along with the JD. To give our students good counsel, as well as to enhance our own understanding of legal education, we need to collect more granular data about the relationship of JD Advantage jobs to other degrees. This research might suggest that other degrees shoulder much of the weight in securing some “JD Advantage” positions. Alternatively, it might identify particular joint degrees as especially useful for law students. The research might also suggest that we could benefit our students by incorporating elements of other degree programs in the JD curriculum.

4. How do law graduates fare in fields dominated by graduates with college or master’s degrees? According to the Department of Labor, only 20% of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators hold a professional or doctoral degree; both BA and MA degrees are more common in this field. The Department does not even mention the JD as an educational prerequisite for a Human Resources Manager; 73% of those workers have just an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, while 27% possess a master’s degree. What do we mean, then, when we say that the JD provides an advantage for these positions? Do law graduates enter these fields at higher levels of responsibility than graduates with other preparation? Do they advance further? Based on anecdotal information, my sense is that the answer to both of these questions is “no.” The JD plus practice experience gives graduates an advantage in these fields, but the JD alone may not. But that’s just an impression; we need hard data on this issue.

Answering questions like these will help us advise prospective and current law students. Equally important, this information will inform our own decisions about the future of legal education. Is a three-year necessary for these JD Advantage jobs? Would a one- or two-year degree serve equally well? What elements of legal education contribute to these jobs? Is it critical thinking skills? Knowledge of legal doctrine? Both? How large are the contributions? We have to be willing to ask these questions as researchers and to interpret the answers objectively. Armed with that information, we can make responsible and productive decisions about how to improve the value of legal education.

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NALP and the JD Advantage

April 7th, 2013 / By

With contraction of the legal job market, law schools are touting “JD Advantage” jobs for graduates. According to NALP, the National Association for Law Placement, these are “jobs that do not require bar passage, an active law license, or involve practicing law in the traditional sense.” Instead, JD Advantage jobs are positions in which “a JD provides an advantage in obtaining or performing the job.”

NALP is now helping law schools promote these JD Advantage positions to prospective students. The organization has created a new webpage, What Is the JD Advantage?, as part of its Prelaw Portal. The page enthusiastically advises prospective law students: “It turns out that the JD degree prepares you for a variety of exciting jobs and careers. While many law school graduates go on to practice law, many others go on to play leadership roles in a variety of settings. Many law school graduates obtain positions for which Bar Passage, or even a JD, is not required, but their legal training is deemed to be an advantage or even necessary in the workplace. As the saying goes ‘you can do almost anything with a law degree!'”

The page then offers videos of five recent law graduates who are happily pursuing JD Advantage positions. The featured jobs are desirable ones: two of the graduates are Presidential Management Fellows; one is a communications director for a U.S. Congressman; one is a senior human resources manager; and the fifth is a vice president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The graduates speak glowingly of their work and endorse the versatility of a law degree. Each video opens with the slogan: “you can do anything with a law degree.”

This is feel-good stuff designed to promote law school attendance. Some educators might dismiss the webpage as harmless puffery. We all know that it’s not possible to do “anything” with a law degree. Law school graduates can’t practice medicine, pilot planes, speak Urdu, or do hundreds of other things without training separately in those fields. And there are many things one can do with a law degree (sell coffee, scrub floors, go to prison), that most graduates prefer not to do.

Law schools, however, shouldn’t dismiss this webpage as puffery; they should demand that NALP take the page down. The page omits material, negative information about JD Advantage positions–information that NALP itself collects and has readily available. Rather than share the negative data through its Prelaw Portal, or elsewhere on its public website, NALP shelters most of that information in its annual Jobs and JDs book. Few prospective students know about that publication–or would spend the $90 that NALP charges for a copy.

At the same time that NALP omits material information from its “JD Advantage” webpage, the organization reassures prospective students that NALP is “the premier resource for information on legal employment and recruiting,” and that it is able to “provide comprehensive information” on topics related to entry-level jobs secured by law graduates. NALP, in other words, is trading on its reputation as an impartial data collection agency while providing biased information to prospective law students. Even worse, NALP must know that the information on its site is incomplete and overly rosy. Law schools shouldn’t tolerate this type of behavior from an organization that represents us.

What NALP Knows

NALP has four types of data that undermine the unalloyed enthusiasm of its “JD Advantage” webpage. First, and most important, NALP knows that many law graduates in these positions are actively seeking other work. Graduates with jobs that require bar passage, in contrast, are much less likely to be shopping for other work.

As part of its annual employment survey, NALP asks every law graduate to “indicate whether you are seeking a job other than the one described here.” To my knowledge, aggregate responses to this question appear nowhere on NALP’s website; they appear only in NALP’s Jobs and JDs report. Those reports consistently show that graduates with JD Advantage jobs (or “JD Preferred” ones, as NALP used to label this category) are much more likely to be seeking other work than are graduates in “Bar Passage Required” positions.

In 2001, for example, just 6.7% of law grads with Bar Passage Required jobs were seeking other work nine months after graduation; a full third (33.3%) of graduates in JD Preferred positions were doing so. The figures were similar in 2004: 8.5% of graduates in Bar Passage Required jobs were seeking other work, while 37.0% of those in JD Preferred positions were doing so. The same was true in 2007: only 8.7% of graduates in Bar Passage Required jobs were still on the job market, while 37.7% of those with JD Preferred positions were actively seeking work.

For the most recent year, 2011, graduates in both categories were less satisfied with their nine-month positiions. Even among graduates with jobs requiring bar passage, 16.5% were actively looking for other jobs. But a whopping 46.8% of graduates in JD Advantage jobs were looking for other work. Almost half of all graduates with “JD Advantage” jobs were dissatisfied enough to still be on the job market–just nine months after law school graduation. That fact belies the “you can do anything” cheerfulness of NALP’s JD Advantage pitch to prelaw students.

Second, NALP knows that contemporary JD Advantage jobs are much more likely than lawyering ones to be part-time. For the Class of 2011, 21.0% of JD Advantage jobs were part-time; just 8.0% of Bar Passage Required jobs fell in that category. A diligent searcher could find this information on NALP’s general website, but not on its JD Advantage webpage.

Third, NALP knows that a similarly high percentage of JD Advantage jobs are short-term temporary ones. A recent ABA Report shows that 25.2% of all JD Advantage jobs secured by the Class of 2011 were short-term positions. Just 9.7% of jobs requiring bar passage, in contrast, were temporary ones. NALP collects similar information about the short-term nature of JD Advantage jobs, but does not report it, either on the JD Advantage webpage or elsewhere on its site.

NALP, finally, knows that JD Advantage jobs pay less than ones requiring bar passage–and that holders of JD Advantage jobs are less likely to report their salaries. The difference in reported salaries is relatively small: the median for JD Advantage positions was $59,000 in 2011 while that for Bar Passage Required ones was $61,500. More significant, only 33.8% of JD Advantage workers reported their salaries–compared to 57.3% of graduates holding jobs that required bar passage. As NALP itself recognizes, reported salaries skew high. The dramatic under-reporting of JD Advantage salaries suggests significantly lower pay in that sector.

These four facts raise concerns about the desirability of JD Advantage jobs. Prospective students should know these facts, especially the fact about the number of JD Advantage job-holders who are still seeking other work. NALP should know better than to publish cherry-picked videos and cheery claims without disclosing the information it possesses about these “do anything” jobs.

What NALP Doesn’t Know

It’s very troubling that NALP is promoting JD Advantage positions without disclosing the key information it possesses about those jobs. Equally disturbing, NALP is pushing these positions despite its lack of essential information about this job sector. When I first saw NALP’s JD Advantage webpage, I assumed that the organization had gathered data about the full range of jobs labeled “JD Advantage.” I thought, for example, that NALP would know how many of those jobs are Presidential Management Fellowships, how many are compliance positions, how many are paralegal spots, and how many are primary school teaching positions. That type of information would give NALP some basis for promoting JD Advantage jobs as desirable ones–or at least for giving prospective students information about their different options.

After corresponding with NALP’s staff, however, I discovered that NALP does not know what kind of jobs appear in the JD Advantage category–much less the percentage of each type of job. NALP relies exclusively on graduates and law schools to categorize their jobs as “Bar Passage Required,” “JD Advantage,” “Other Professional,” or “Non-Professional.” When NALP tells prospective students that they “can do almost anything with a law degree,” NALP doesn’t know what graduates with JD Advantage, Professional, or Non-Professional positions really are doing with their degrees.

This strikes me as even more irresponsible than NALP’s omission of the facts it knows about JD Advantage positions. If NALP–or individual law schools–want to promote JD Advantage jobs, then we should collect more information about those jobs. How many of our graduates are Presidential Management Fellows and how many are paralegals? Are the graduates in HR positions doing advanced work, or are they taking jobs that are available to college graduates? If NALP or its member schools believe that JD Advantage jobs are important to the future of legal education, then we should collect and publish honest information about those positions. Without that information, statements that “you can do anything with a law degree” aren’t just glib–they’re disingenuous.

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