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Small Bright Spots in Weak Employment Outlook for Law Grads

Data from the American Bar Association shows that nine out of every 10 graduates of the Columbia Law School found full-time legal jobs in 2013. Those jobs were not paid by the school either, according to The National Law Journal.

On the other side of things, 56 percent of Whittier Law School’s graduating class from 2013 is unemployed and looking for work nine months following graduation or were employed in part-time, temporary, or nonprofessional positions.

The unemployment rate from Whittier is the highest rate reported, but it was not the only law school to report struggling numbers. Close to 27 percent (26.8) of the class of 2013 were unemployed or working part-time or non-legal jobs, according to Kyle McEntee, the executive director of the Law School Transparency.

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There were 163 law schools accredited by the ABA that have underemployment rates of 20 percent or higher.

“The future remains grim for prospective law students,” McEntee wrote on the website for the Law School Transparency. “Law school enrollment was nearly 40,000 in the most recent year. The current entry-level legal market cannot support such large classes.”

The class of 2013 was able to find long-term, full-time jobs requiring bar passage at a rate of 57 percent. This is an increase from 56.2 percent in 2012. Columbia is now in the top spot for 2013 true law jobs. The California Western School of Law of San Diego reported an unemployment rate closing in on 36 percent.

Judy DeVine is the director of communications at Whittier. DeVine said, “This does not mean, however, that we accept these difficulties. To the contrary, we are taking major steps to improve the situation for our graduates. We have revamped our career development office, are in the process of hiring a new dean for this area and are planning a new program to help our students transition to successful law practice.”

The number of students in school-funded jobs rose slightly, to 1,900 total. This accounted for just four percent of recent law graduate jobs.

The highest number of graduates in these jobs came from Emory University School of Law. This rate sits at 23 percent, good for 67 graduates from the school. This is an increase from the 14 percent of law graduates at Emory who took jobs paid for by the school in 2012. There is a program, “Bridge to Practice,” that is for fellowships for law school students. Susan Clark is the associate dean for marketing and communications at Emory.

“We stress to students the importance of finding the right legal position, not just any legal position, and we work collaboratively with students to seek out employers that match our graduates’ interests and desired geography,” Clark said. “Some students have even turned down positions in order to participate in the fellowship program.”

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