Class of 2018 Job Numbers: Optimism Abounds

The job market for law grads is booming.

New data released by the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) finds that the Class of 2018’s employment outcomes show improvement over the class of 2017’s – with numbers being the strongest in nearly 10 years.

“The employment outcomes findings for members of the Class of 2018 are strong and, along with the findings for members of the Class of 2017, clearly mark the beginning of a new post-recession cohort,” James Leipold, NALP’s executive director, says. “The employment outcomes for this class more closely resemble employment outcomes measured in the years before the recession than they do the classes that graduated between 2009 and 2013 in the immediate aftermath of the recession.”

THE NUMBERS

Overall, graduate employment for the Class of 2018 increased to 89.4%, showing a 0.8% increase from 2017. When it comes to full-time jobs requiring bar passage, the Class of 2018 saw employment at nearly 71%, a large increase of 2% over 2017.

“Certainly, the overall employment rate has improved because of two intertwined factors,” Leipold says. “First, and most importantly, the smaller graduating class has meant that there is less competition for the jobs that exist. Second, large law firm hiring has increased steadily since 2011, adding more than 1,900 jobs in seven years.”

BIGLAW EMPLOYMENT

As Leipold states, much of the increase in job employment is due to BigLaw recruiting heavily out of law school.

The Class of 2018 saw nearly 160 more associates than 2017 who were hired at law firms with more than 500 lawyers.

29.1% of 2018 grads were also employed by the biggest of BigLaw firms.

AREAS OF DECLINE

Despite the optimistic numbers, the NALP did highlight a few areas of concern.

While the relative strength of the job market for new law grads is quite strong, the unemployment rate 10 months after graduation is still higher by nearly three percentage points than before the recession.

On top of that, despite the rise in overall employment rate, the number of jobs found by graduates declined by about 150 this year, when compared to the Class of 2017.

“All of that suggests cautious optimism is in order, with an eye to the sky for ill winds and the understanding that independent of whatever happens with the national and global economies, the legal services sector continues to be in the midst of dramatic change that will be ongoing, and will, in the end, change the job market for law school graduates in ever more dramatic ways,” Leipold says. “Ten years from now the employment profile of the graduating Class of 2028 is likely to look quite different from the Class of 2018.”

Sources: NALP, Above The Law, National Jurist