Remember all of those reports we’ve been seeing on why law school is a bad idea? Law school debt is outrageous. There seems to be a brain drain. The bar is seemingly unfair. No one wants to go to law school anymore. And when people do go, it’s uncertain if they will have a job requiring a JD when they finish.
Just don’t tell that to the top schools.
In an admittedly turbulent time to be pursuing a JD, things are ho-hum at top law schools. Just this week,the American Bar Association (ABA) reported their national figures showing the top schools continue to defy all legal employment woes and odds.
At the national level, 71 percent of 2014 law school graduates were employed, up from 67 percent a year ago. As for jobs requiring bar passage, the number is also up to about 60 percent compared to 57 percent last year.
USUAL SUSPECTS REMAIN ON TOP
Leading the way for graduates with jobs requiring bar passage — and not funded by the university — was the University of Pennsylvania Law School with 91 percent. Cornell Law followed closely behind with 90 percent of graduates finding bar passage-required work. Duke Law School was next with 88 percent. Rounding out the top five were Columbia Law School and the University of Chicago Law School at around 87 percent.
The rest of the top 10 schools were New York University School of Law, Harvard Law School, University of California-Berkeley School of Law, Stanford Law School and the University of Virginia School of Law, all with bar passage employment rates of more than 84 percent.
A glimpse at the other end of the spectrum shows Golden Gate University School of Law at the bottom with less than 25 percent of 2014 graduates currently holding jobs that required bar passage. The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law only placed 26 percent of 2014 graduates in bar passage-required jobs.
SLIGHT METHODOLOGY SHIFT
However, these figures do come with a caveat. This year was the first year that schools reported 10 months after graduation instead of the traditional nine months. Pepperdine University School of Law professor, Derek Muller tracks legal employment trends and told The National Law Journal he doesn’t think the added month played much of a role in the slight uptick.
Muller accounted the 2014 increase in jobs requiring bar passage to fewer graduates than 2013. There were 2,709 fewer people receiving JDs in 2014 compared to 2013, a trend Muller thinks will continue. “Because law schools are getting smaller, the job prospects for graduates are getting better,” he told The National Law Journal. “There are fewer graduates competing for those jobs.”
SALARIES REMAIN FLAT
As for salary, $160,000 remains the median for private sector jobs. Also this week, the Harvard Crimson reported on the most recent job placement stats specific to Harvard. In that report, Mark Weber, the assistant dean for career services at Harvard Law, made an interesting point claiming that figure does not represent signing bonuses, which are common in Big Law hiring. “Somebody could be making anywhere from a 10 to 25 thousand dollar bonus, so you’re getting closer to 200 thousand dollars right out of school,” he told the Crimson.
Interestingly, Harvard also has one of the highest median salaries for JDs going into public sector jobs. Public sector graduates made a median of $62,585, third only to Cornell University Law School ($64,729) and the University of Southern California Law School ($64,000).
Overall, the next few classes of law school graduates should enjoy slightly increasing placement statistics. The declining enrollment bodes well for a flat job market. As Muller told The National Law Journal, “The odds will be better for these students.”
DON’T MISS: LAW SCHOOLS THAT DELIVER THE JOBS & HIGHEST PAY