JDs are still struggling. In the latest study regarding employment rates for freshly graduated law students, performed by the National Association for Law Placement and due for release this August, we see yet another year of decline — the sixth in a row — with the employment rate dropping to 84.5 percent, the lowest since 1993’s 83.4 percent.
There are some golden notes of hope mingled in with the stagnant news of market decay we’ve been hearing for so long. For instance, the NALP found that more JDs were hired in 2013 than the year before. The lower employment rates pertain to the larger class size 2013 has seen.
Other good news is that starting salaries for lawyers is nosing up, increasing 6 percent to $95,000. 2012 saw a $90,000, and 2011 $85,000. But will we see a return to the $130,000 of 2009? Furthermore, will we see a return of employment rates to the 24-year record high of 91.9 percent we saw in 2007, before the market crash of 2008? Not likely, according to the NALP.
“Law graduates must enter law school with the understanding that the jobs picture, while strengthening, is one that will continue to evolve, and in the course of that evolution it is almost certain that new opportunities will present themselves, just as it is certain that some traditional opportunities that law school graduates have long counted on will continue to erode,” said NALP Executive Director James Leipold, as reported by the Philadelphia Business Journal. “The traditional market for large numbers of law graduates by large law firms seeking equity-track new associates is not likely to ever return to what it was in 2006 or 2007.”
Perhaps he would have said the same thing in the early 90’s after the recession of 1990-91? After all “never” is a long time, and things only seem like they will stay bleak when they are bleak. As he said, the field will continue to evolve, and that means it will surprise us — pleasantly at times.