The National Association for Law Placement (NALP), which tracks changes in the legal profession, has released its findings on employment for the Class of 2015. Following are highlights from the report.
• The number of law school graduates declined for the second year in a row. This is following a record high in 2013.
• Despite an overall employment rate of 86.7% for the Class of 2015, which was unchanged from the Class of 2014, 2015 graduates got the lowest number of private practice jobs in the last two decades. Private practices include both solo practitioners and firms of any size. James G. Leipold, NALP’s executive director, sees little change in the coming decades as law firms use “growing efficiencies created by technology and business systems and increased competition from nontraditional legal service providers.”
• 51.3% of 2015 graduates were hired by private practices. Approximately 30% found positions with the government, including the judiciary and military, or in public interest organizations. Just over 17% found jobs in business.
• In recent years, the largest employers have been large law firms with 500 or more lawyers. These big firms have added 1,000 jobs over the last four years, while every other category lost positions.
• Even though the percentage of graduates hired was the same as in 2014, it was considerably less than that of the 2007 graduating class, which was 91.9%. Employment for law school grads fell steadily for six years after the economic crisis of 2008, but rose from 84.5% in 2013 to 86.7% in 2014, where it stayed in 2015.
• The percentage of graduates securing positions where passing the bar is required/anticipated increased minimally for the second year in a row to 66.6%. This is only the second increase since 2007. Another 14.5% of grads took jobs for which having a JD is an advantage, or even a requirement, but for which passing the bar is not required. This percentage shows a small decrease for the first time since 2007.
• The overall median starting salary for 2015 grads was $64,800, a 2.9% increase from 2014, and the law firm median starting salary for 2015 grads was $100,000, a 5.3% increase from 2014.
See the New York Times article “2015 Law School Graduates Got Fewer Jobs in Private Practice” for more on this topic.