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Aug. 17 — The proportion of law school students who found jobs within 10 months after graduation held steady in 2016, survey results from the National Association for Law Placement show.
As of March, 86.7 percent of the class of 2015 was employed, the same as the rate for the previous class, the Washington nonprofit group said Aug. 17. The size of the 2015 class was smaller, but the number of hires also declined. This left the employment rate for new law school graduates unchanged from the 2014 class.
The employment rate has improved from 2014, when it dropped to a 20-year low, but remains below the pre-recession peak in 2007, when 91.9 percent of recent law graduates found jobs.
While newly minted lawyers were just as likely to find a job as members of the previous class, the number of private practice jobs declined by 7.6 percent, NALP Executive Director James Leipold said. “One of the things that sets this class apart is that they secured fewer private practice jobs than any class since 1996,” Leipold said in a report on the survey results.
Slightly more than half (51.3 percent) the class members who were employed in March obtained a job in private law practice, little changed from 50.9 percent for the previous class. The proportion of new graduates working in private practice has been largely unchanged since 2012, the survey said.
Another 22.3 percent of those who found jobs were employed in government, including the military and the judiciary; 17.2 percent worked in business; 7.1 percent obtained public interest jobs; and 1.9 percent held academic positions.
Downward pressure on law firm positions likely will continue in the coming years, as new technology and business systems create higher efficiency and competition from non-traditional legal services providers increases, Leipold said. Smaller law school class sizes are expected to graduate over the next few years, thereby easing competition for entry-level jobs, but “the ongoing changes facing the industry make it all but certain that the job market will continue to change for new law school graduates in the years ahead,” he said.
Law firms hired 17,168 new graduates, about 1,400 fewer than last year, with all of the decline occurring at firms with 500 or fewer lawyers. Practices with more than 500 lawyers hired 4,007 new graduates, the most since the recession, Leipold said. Total law firm hiring remains down by about 3,500 from its peak prior to the downturn.
For 2015 graduates employed in full-time, long-term jobs, the median salary was $64,800, a 2.9 percent increase over the previous class, NALP’s report showed.
At law firms, the median starting salary rose by 5.3 percent to $100,000. The median is the halfway point at which half of all new graduates earned less and half earned more.
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