Employment For Law Grads Is Up, But There Is A Major Caveat

Job numbers from the 2019 graduating law class show an uptick in employment from the previous year, but the data may be unreliable because it comes from the period immediately before the nationwide economic constriction that occurred in mid-March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

So says the American Bar Association, which today (June 1) released employment data for the graduating law class from nearly 200 ABA-approved law schools showing more than 80% of 2019 grads reported securing full-time, long-term employment, up from about 78% in 2018. The problem: Each year’s employment outcomes measure law graduate employment on March 15, approximately 10 months after spring graduation — and for the class of 2019, that was right about when the U.S. began shutting down amid the full brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Because the data reported for the Class of 2019 reflects law graduate employment outcomes on March 16, 2020 — the first business day after March 15 — it may not reflect current law graduate outcomes in today’s changed economic environment, the ABA says in a news release.

EMPLOYMENT TICKS UPWARD TO 80.6% 10 MONTHS AFTER GRADUATION

For the class of 2019, the ABA’s aggregated school data shows that 80.6% of 2019 graduates of the 198 law schools enrolling students and approved by the ABA to offer the J.D. degree were employed in Bar Passage Required or J.D. Advantage jobs roughly 10 months after graduation. That compares to 77.7% of the graduates reporting similar full-time, long-term jobs last year.

The higher percentage of employed graduates, the ABA says, results from both a modest increase in the number of jobs and an approximately 0.8% decrease in the size of the graduating class. The actual number of jobs increased by 751 (2.82%) year over year, going from 26,601 in 2018 to 27,352 in 2019. See the table below for details.

But here’s the caveat: Any law grads who lost their jobs in the ensuing pandemic-caused cratering of the U.S. economy have not been factored in. So the rosy picture is almost certainly inaccurate — a snapshot of the final moments of a bustling economy.

Select national outcomes and side-by-side comparisons for the classes of 2018 & 2019. ABA

Further reports on employment outcomes, including links to individual school outcomes and spreadsheets aggregating those reports, are available on the ABA Required Disclosures page.

The ABA’s accrediting body, under Standard 509 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, requires schools to report to the ABA and publicly disclose varied information, including employment outcomes. Employment and other statistics are posted to the section’s statistics website. Earlier this year, the section released both individual school and aggregate bar passage statistics.

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