Legal Job Market Showing Historic Growth

Legal Job Market Showing Historic Growth

The legal job market was left for dead five years ago. Its passing was greatly exaggerated. Now, it is poised to become one of the great comeback stories.

New data from the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) finds that the class of 2017’s employment outcomes were “surprisingly strong.” According to the NALP, overall graduate employment increased to 88.6%, which is one percent higher than the class of 2016. Most importantly, the number of graduates employed in jobs requiring bar passage increased more than 4% to 71.8%. And that increase is larger than the increases in the past four years combined.

“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,” NALP Executive Director James Leipold tells Law.com.

Increase In BigLaw Hiring

A large part of the growth in the legal job market is due to the increased in Big Law hiring, according to the NALP.

Firms with more than 500 lawyers, on average, hired roughly 370 more new associates when compared to 2016. To put that into perspective, that’s more than a quarter of 2017 graduates in law firm jobs.

The increase in BigLaw hiring has also helped to push up reported salaries. For graduates in full time jobs, the median salary is $70,000. In 2016, that number was $65,000. Salaries of $180,000 accounted for almost 37% of reported law firm salaries, compared to about 28% for the Class of 2016, according to the NALP.

Employment Gains May Be Result Of Less Competition

While this news is certainly positive, there’s a slight catch.

According to Law.com, the growth in the entry-level job market is the result of fewer law grads competing for jobs and not actually an increase in the number of jobs available.

When compared to the class of 2016, the class of 2017 is actually 2,200 graduates smaller. Compared to the size of the class of 2013, the class of 2017 is actually a 25% smaller.

For actual jobs, the class of 2017 reported 1,200 fewer jobs than 2016, even though the employment rate was higher.

“All of this suggests that the dramatic falloff in law school enrollment, coupled with a recovering Big Law market, has in some ways provided the correction that was needed, and we are closer than at any time since the recession to having the number of law school graduates more closely match the number and kind of jobs available,” Leipold tells Law.com. “While the worst of the underemployment problem has now been remedied, the unemployment rate ten months after graduation still remains much higher than it should be.”

Sources: Law.com, NALP, Above The Law