The employment rate for law school graduates of 2009 was 88.3 percent as of February of this year, a 3.6 percent drop from 2007’s historical high, and the national median salary of $72,000 was unchanged from the Class of 2008, according to NALP’s Jobs & JD’s report released this week.
For those working at law firms, the national median salary was $130,000 as compared with $125,000 the prior year. The national mean was $115,254.
However, NALP offered for the first time an “adjusted mean” that drove the national mean downward. The new measure is designed to account for the fact that fewer than half the salaries for jobs at small law firms are reported while salaries at large law firms are often a matter of public record. With the additional weight given to reported small-firm salaries, the adjusted mean salary for full-time law firm jobs was $102,959.
James Leipold, NALP’s executive director, explained the system in a press release.
“As a matter of consumer information, especially for students who are considering applying to law school, the adjusted mean provides a better benchmark than the unadjusted mean, because it accounts for the larger number of lower salaries that are not reported,” Leipold said. “Nevertheless, the overall mean for starting salaries, whether adjusted or unadjusted, is best used to measure the rise and fall of aggregate salaries over time, and not the likelihood of earning a particular salary when graduating from law school. As the distribution of starting lawyer salaries makes clear, very few new law school graduates earn anything close to the mean. Instead, many graduates will earn much more than the mean salary, and many more will earn much less.”
NALP found the most common employment setting was that of private practice at law firms, which was reported by 55.9% of the members of the Class of 2009 who provided employment information. This figure has fluctuated only between 55% and 58% since 1993.
Over one-quarter (25.8 percent) of Class of 2009 graduates who reported being employed on February 15, 2010, were working in public service positions, including government jobs, the military, judicial clerkships, and public interest positions. This percentage has also remained relatively stable for almost three decades. Employment in business was 13.5 percent, essentially unchanged from 2008, and still within the 13-14% range reported for the last six years.
At 3.5%, the percentage of jobs in academia was the highest ever recorded by NALP, with the number of jobs up by over 400 compared with the Class of 2008. The report speculates that could be the result of schools providing post-graduate job opportunities given the tight job market.
NALP’s Class of 2009 Jobs & JDs report is based on information submitted by 192 ABA-accredited law schools on 96% of the graduates in the Class of 2009.