The job picture for new lawyers is improving, another indication that the legal profession has returned to, if not exceeded, pre-pandemic outcomes in its hiring of newly graduated lawyers.
Data released April 18 by the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar shows that 83% of the 2021 graduates of ABA-approved law schools found full-time jobs for which bar passage was a requirement or an advantage, up nearly 6 percentage points from a year earlier. This represents 29,624 law graduates employed in these full-time, long-term jobs 10 months after graduating law school compared to 26,638 new hires in 2020.
The employment growth occurred despite an increase of 3.8% in the number of graduates for the 196 ABA-approved schools year over year, said Bill Adams, managing director of ABA accreditation and legal education.
“The higher percentage of 2021 graduates in the Bar Passage Required or J.D. Advantage jobs likely reflects a modest increase in the number of jobs nationwide, perhaps due to the legal market’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic,” Adams said.
The data, which is collected by the section as part of its consumer information efforts for prospective law students and the public, also shows that for the 2021 class, unemployment 10 months after graduation dropped three percentage points to 5.3%. For the 2020 class, unemployment at 10 months after graduation stood at 8.3%.
A review of the data also shows that for the first time in at least a decade, more than half of all new law school graduates were working at law firms 10 months after graduation. That number has been climbing steadily over the past 10 years. For the class of 2012, it was 39.3%; for the class of 2021, it was 50.6%.
Another trend: The number of new law graduates getting jobs in the business sector has fallen. For the 2014 class, more than 15% worked in businesses 10 months after graduation. But only 10% of last year’s law graduates were employed in that sector.
The new ABA data supports other evidence that hiring in the legal profession has stabilized. In August 2021, the National Association for Law Placement issued a report that showed 2020 graduates fared better in employment outcomes than expected given pandemic concerns.
- ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar: “Employment Outcomes as of April 2022 (Class of 2021 Graduates)”
- ABA Legal Education Statistics and Required Disclosures for Individual Schools
- National Association for Law Placement: “Jobs & JDs Employment for the Class of 2020 — Selected Findings”
- 2021 ABA Profile of the Legal Profession (See Legal Education chapter)
- ABA Journal: “New ABA data shows increase in jobs for recent law grads”