Survey: 24% of JDs Who Passed the Bar in 2000 Aren’t Practicing Law
A decline in graduates practicing law. Lower salaries for women. A shift away from big law. A high satisfaction rate with their choice to pursue law.
Those were the contradictory results from the third wave of the “After the JD” study. The 2012 survey, which included over 3,000 respondents, tracks a national sample of lawyers who passed the bar in 2000. The previous two waves, which were conducted in 2003 and 2007, also documented lawyers migrating from the private to the business sector, a trend that accelerated from 2007-2012.
Funded by the American Bar Foundation, the National Association for Law Placement Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, the study also revealed these results among the class of 2000:
- 24% of law graduates are no longer practicing law, with those graduates moving into areas like nonprofits, education, government, banking, and real estate.
- Full-time female attorneys earned only 80% of the pay of their male counterparts. Women also comprised 52.3% of law firm partners, while 68.8% of male graduates had achieved partner status.
- Graduates of top 10 law schools earned over $73,500 more annually than graduates of tier 4 schools.
- In tier 3 schools, students with the highest grade point averages earned $121,500 more annually than their classmates with the lowest grade points.
- On a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 represented the highest satisfaction, respondents averaged a 3.92 when asked how happy they were with their choice to become a lawyer.
- On a similar 1-to-7 scale, respondents considered law school to be a good investment, with an average response of 5.5. However, that number dipped to 4.91 when they were asked if they would do it all over again.
- The percentage of graduates working in the business sector grew from 8.4% in 2003 to 27.7% in 2012. Graduates working in private practice dropped from 68.6% in 2003 to 44.1% in 2012.
- Among top 10 schools, the percentage of graduate working in “big law” firms of 250 lawyers or more declined from 55.3% in 2003 to 16.8% in 2012.
Ronit Dinovitzer, American Bar Foundation faculty fellow, refers to the class of 2000 as “golden age graduates,” who entered the profession when there was greater demand for their skills. However, the results show that a quarter of these graduates had left the practice of law barely a decade after graduation. While some might call this a “crisis,” it may also reflect that these graduates were better positioned to change careers as their lives evolved. However, as Daniel Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern Law notes, it may also indicate that times have irreparably changed, and law schools must better prepare students for careers outside of practicing traditional law.
Source: ABA Journal
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