The number of jobs for 2019 graduates of American Bar Association-approved law schools improved modestly, as of mid-March, with 80.6% of the 2019 graduates getting full-time, long-term work compared to 77.7% of the graduates in similar jobs the previous year.
But the report released June 1 from the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar came with an asterisk. The annual report of employment outcomes measured employment as of March 15, days before the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the economy.
“This date occurred just as the U.S. began experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bill Adams, managing director for ABA Accreditation and Legal Education. “As such, the data reported for the class of 2019 may not reflect current law graduate outcomes in today’s changed economic environment.”
The spread of COVID-19 and the resulting economic downturn have significantly impacted the legal profession, with media reports indicating hiring freezes, pay cuts, and layoffs or furloughs of both lawyers and support staff. Just how steep a decline is still emerging, and the pandemic’s impact on employment for the class of 2020 should be reflected in next year’s report.
For 2019, full-time jobs that either required or preferred J.D. degrees climbed to 27,352, or 751 more jobs than the previous year. The overall increase of 2.82% from 2018 results from both a modest increase in the number of jobs and an approximate 0.8% decrease in the size of the graduating class.
The economic shift triggered by the pandemic will likely reverse a modest, long-term trend of more jobs in the legal sector. In April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that employment of lawyers would grow 6% from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
The approximately 200 ABA-approved law schools are required to report and publicly disclose a variety of information, including employment outcomes, each year. The council of the section is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accrediting agency for programs leading to the J.D.
- Employment Outcomes for 2019 law graduates
- ABA Required Disclosures
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (updated April 10, 2020)
- ABA Journal: 'Modest increase' for class of 2019 jobs but also smaller class size, ABA data shows (June 1, 2020)