Monday, August 6, 2018

NALP concludes job market for law grads is "surprisingly strong"

Despite yesterday's news about a drop in the number of jobs available in the overall legal sector, the big picture for law grads is very good according to a new report released by the National Association for Law Placement.  The employment rate for new law grads is up as well as average salaries. Though the NALP found that the reason is due to a fewer number of law grads competing for jobs rather than an increase in the number of jobs available (which is consistent with yesterday's news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The American Lawyer has more details about this new NALP report:

Job Market for Law Grads 'Surprisingly Strong,' NALP Finds

Robust Big Law hiring bolstered the entry level employment market for the law class of 2017, which saw increases in both the overall employment rate and in median and average salaries.


The law class of 2017 graduated into a “surprisingly strong” job market, according to new entry level employment figures from the National Association of Law Placement (NALP).


Overall, new graduate employment increased one percent over the previous year, to 88.6 percent. But more tellingly, the percentage of 2017 graduates who landed jobs that require bar passage within 10 months of leaving campus rose more than 4 percent to nearly 72 percent. That annual increase is larger than the gains cumulatively posted over the previous four years, according to NALP.


The rise in the percentage of freshly minted lawyers in bar-pass required jobs alongside the boost in overall employment is the “single most important indicator of an improved market,” according to the NALP report.


“Barring another economic slowdown or interruption and barring a significant jump in law school enrollment as a result of rising applications, the employment outlook for recent law graduates looks brighter (if not exactly rosy) than it has at any time since 2008, and that is good news,” said NALP Executive Director James Leipold in an announcement on the new figures.


Recent data from the Law School Admission Council showed an 8-percent surge in the number of people applying to this fall’s entering law school class.


Much of the growth in the bar pass-required job category was fueled by increased Big Law hiring, NALP found. Firms with more than 500 lawyers hired about 370 more new associates than they did the previous year. Thus, more than a quarter of 2017 graduates in law firm jobs were at those large firms.


And yet, the Big Law hiring market has yet to recover to its pre-recession level.


“While the largest law firms of more than 500 lawyers hired more law school graduates than at any time since the recession, the number of entry-level jobs at those firms is still off by nearly 600 positions compared with the peak hiring measured with the class of 2008,” Leipold wrote in his commentary on the latest data.


That boost in Big Law hiring in turn helped drive up reported salaries—another welcome development. The median national salary reported by graduates in fulltime jobs was $70,000, up from $65,000 the previous year. The average reported salary was $95,320, up from $90,305 a year ago. More than one in five 2017 law graduates reported earning $180,000, which was the standard starting salary at many large firms at the time they were hired. Since then, a number of firms have raised new associates salaries to $190,000.


But there is a significant catch to all this good news, which is that for the fourth straight year, employment gains in the entry-level job market were the result of fewer law graduates vying for jobs and not from an actual increase in jobs.

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