Monday, April 25, 2011

Are recent law grad employment stats much lower than we believe?

That's the upshot in this article by U. Colorado Professor Paul Campos published in The New Republic. According to Professor Campos, when you factor in how many law grads are working in non-legal jobs, temporary legal jobs (he counts state trial court clerkships as "temporary" but not appellate clerkships since they most often lead to full time employment) and students who mistakenly report their jobs as permanent when they are instead temporary, he concludes that the "employed 9 months after graduation" figure might be less than 50% even for a USNWR top 50 school.

According to the NALP, 88.2 percent of all law school graduates are “employed” within nine months of graduation. If we exclude people employed in non-legal jobs, and people doing part-time work, the NALP number drops to 62.9 percent.

There are a few problems, however, with even this lower number. The first is that it is only reported for law schools as a whole. NALP does not provide this number for individual schools, while USNWR does not report it at all. This means that the only school-specific information currently available to students is extremely misleading.

But the bigger problem is that the 62.9 percent figure is still too high. While it excludes non-legal jobs and part-time work, it does not exclude people in temporary positions. So it seems worth asking: How many of the graduates who report doing full-time legal work have permanent jobs—in the employment law sense of permanent—as opposed to doing temp work, such as being paid $20 an hour to proofread financial documents in a warehouse, or $12 an hour to do slightly glorified secretarial tasks?

. . . .

I [examined] employment data drawn from 183 individual NALP forms, in which graduates of one top 50 school self-reported their employment status nine months after graduation.

. . . .

When we take temporary employment into account, it appears that approximately 45 percent of 2010 graduates of this particular top-50 law school had real legal jobs nine months after graduation. And the overall number is likely lower, since it seems probable that the temporary employment figures for the graduates of almost any top 50 school would be better than the average outcome for the graduates of the 198 ABA-accredited law schools as a whole.

Even this grim figure, however, may be unduly optimistic. All these statistics are based on self-reporting, and neither law schools nor NALP audit the data they publish. In the course of my research, I audited a representative sample of individual graduate responses and found several instances of people describing themselves as employed permanently or full-time, when in fact they had temporary or part-time jobs (I found no instances of inaccuracies running in the other direction). Perhaps some graduates exaggerate their employment status out of embarrassment, or for strategic reasons, but, whatever their reasons might be, this apparently not uncommon practice suggests that the true employment rate should be lowered even further.

You can read the rest here.

Hat tip to Belly of the Beast.


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