Boston Business Journal reported on how 15 Northeast law schools fared in 2011 employment statistics after complying with new rules from the American Bar Association that mandated transparency when reporting law school employment data.
All ABA-accredited schools must report employment statistics on their websites. Some law schools responded to ABA regulations by posting messages on their websites, along with the numbers, to give prospective students a realistic perspective on the value of a law degree in the job market, while emphasizing the institutions’ assets.
Roger Williams University School of Law commented on its employment data that in 2010, twice as many individuals passed the bar exam as there were traditional legal jobs available in the United States: “Since 2004, total employment in law offices has remained flat even as law school enrollment has increased by seven percent,” the schools noted
Most Northeast schools now provide detailed employment statistics, often for multiple years, including how many graduates work in small, medium and large law firms and how earn six-figure paychecks. Vermont Law School’s website noted: “Because of the recession, the number of traditional jobs in large law firms has declined…”
The law degree used to be a ticket to a secure to a lucrative career, but the recession has dragged on leaving fewer than half of the 40,000 attorneys who graduated in 2011 with full-time jobs in law firms, according to CNN Money. Slightly less than 65% of newly admitted attorneys hold jobs that require a law degree, the National Association for Law Placement reports, down from 75% four years ago.
“It is not a blip. It is not temporary. It is a permanent, structural shift,” said the dean of the University of California’s Hastings law school in San Francisco, according to The Huffington Post on the jobless recovery.
Demand for lawyers didn’t keep up with the number of people applying for law school. Many Americans turn to low-cost options, such as legal clinics. Companies cost cutting have hired paralegals to do the work lawyers used to do, or businesses have migrated to online services like LegalZoom.com. New attorneys go head-to-head with experienced lawyers who have been laid off. First-year associates at law firms were a financial loss because their time was not billable at a profit.
According to CNN Money, Shana Bryce, a Harvard Law grad and author of a job hunting advice book, suggested that to get noticed, and ultimately hired, “you have to overcome your fear of rejection.”
ABA’s official employment statistics breaks employment into 12 categories. Law school employment data now gives more insight than in the past on whether law school graduates found legal jobs rather than merely full-time jobs, and whether such jobs were within their own institution. Students previously relied on school statistics to weigh the risks and benefits of going to law school. Salary figures were averaged, and did not reflect how many earned next to nothing compared to those earning six figures.