26 October 2018

Employment up for law grads, but that's because there's fewer of them

Following years of post-recession decline, school employment is apparently rising again as law schools adapt to smaller class sizes.

Legal industry employment for recent law school graduates is on the rise, according a report from AccessLex Institute, a nonprofit organization that conducts research on legal education.

Pre-recession levels

In 2017, 72 percent of law graduates found jobs requiring them to pass the bar. This number has been increasing steadily and is almost back to its pre-recession levels of 75 percent. The percentage of recent law graduates who are unemployed has also declined since 2014, down to 8 percent in 2017. However, a root cause of the increase in employment rates seems to be the result of decreasing law school class sizes, meaning there are fewer graduates. The data indicates that from 2013 to 2017, the size of graduating classes contracted more than 25 percent, according to the National Association for Law Placement. Hence, fewer law school graduates are looking for entry level jobs than at any time in recent history.

Smaller classes

Aaron Taylor, executive director of the AccessLex Institute Center for Legal Education Excellence, explained the legal job market has been ‘essentially flat’ in recent years, leading law schools to adapt their classes accordingly. Mr Taylor told Bloomberg Law, ‘most people in legal education want to be able to enroll the most students they can that can come out and realistically find jobs.’ He added, ‘oo it’s a matter of finding that balance.’ Graduates in the law school class of 2017 also enjoyed higher than usual bar passage rates, according to AccessLex. Seventy-eight percent of first-time bar takers passed the exam in July 2017, up 4 percent from the previous year. Bar passage rates had been steadily declining since 2008, when 87 percent of July test-takers passed the exam. However, early score results released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners indicate that the July 2018 pass rates will likely be lower than last year.