Good News On The Job Front For JDs?

Soup Line

Signs for Optimism in ABA Jobs Report

 


Cynics relish bad news. And idealists seek out hope. But what happens when trends show a holding pattern? Is that news good or bad?

If you’re an optimist, the ABA’s 2013 law graduate employment data reminds us that the freefall is over. 57 percent of 2013 grads landed long-term, full-time jobs within nine months of graduation. That’s a slight uptick over the 56.2 percent for 2012 grads.

If you’re a cynic, the news just means we’ve hit a new normal of lowered expectations. For example, 11.2 percent of grads are still looking for work, a 0.6 percent increase over the previous year.

So should we pop a cork or leave the champagne to chill a little longer?

Probably the latter.

In most measurements, the needle moved very little in 2013. Still, the data often indicated a slight step forward.

On the plus side, the percentage of new hires at firms with under 500 lawyers rose from 39.3 to 39.6 percent. And the number of positions at firms with over 500 lawyers jumped nearly 10 percent to 3,989 hires in 2013. The government and business sectors were also hiring, with employment swelling from 10 percent to 10.6 percent and 14.9 percent to 15.2 percent respectively. In addition, the number of part-time and short-term positions fell slightly, meaning graduates are starting to land more stable work.

However, public interest hiring dropped over a percentage point. Education sector hiring dipped slightly too. What’s more, the number of law school-funded positions rose from 1,799 to 1,884 in the past year.

Despite law school applications declining at some schools recently, the class of 2013 was actually the largest ever: 46,776 students graduated from ABA-accredited schools in 2013, up from 46,364 in the previous year.

In short, the ABA stats may not indicate a turnaround, but they do signal that a recovery period could emerge in the coming years.

Sources: American Bar Association, American Bar Association