Employment Rates Grow for 2013 Law Grads, U.S. News Data Show

Employment at graduation increased 4.4 percent between 2012 and 2013, U.S. News data show.

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More law school graduates are finding employment in jobs specific to their degree, data from U.S. News show. 

Data collected for the 2015 Best Grad Schools rankings show 42.8 percent of graduates from the class of 2013 are employed at graduation, compared with 41 percent of those who graduated in 2012 – an increase of 4.4 percent. Nine months after graduation, 66.5 percent of 2013 graduates were employed, up 5.6 percent from 2012, when 63 percent of graduates were employed.

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U.S. News defined "employed" as a full-time job that lasts at least a year for which passing the bar is required and having a J.D. is an advantage. In 2011, the American Bar Association changed its methodology for collecting employment data, which are also used in the U.S. News law school rankings, to include more detailed information than had previously been required. 

The same three universities have topped the U.S. News rankings for the last two years. The 2015 rankings show Yale University ranked first, with Harvard University and Stanford University ranked second and third, respectively. The year before, Yale was in first place, while Harvard and Stanford were tied for second.

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) in August reported that 2012 was the first year that showed signs of improvement for law graduates since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, and predicted that the same would be true for the class of 2013. According to NALP's employment and salary data, although the number of jobs obtained by 2012 graduates increased, the class was larger than the previous year, and the overall employment rate (measured nine months after graduation) dropped to 84.7 percent. 

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Still, the organization reported on Feb. 19 that entry-level law firm recruiting remained relatively flat for the fall of 2013, for the fifth year in a row. In the law job market overall, the rate of part-time employment dropped for the third year in a row in 2013, with just 6.1 percent of lawyers working part time, compared with 6.2 percent in 2012. 

"Given the direction the data is heading, I feel confident in calling this a post-recessionary trend at this point," said James Leipold, NALP's executive director, in a statement. "Law has always been an outlier among the professions for part-time utilization, but with nearly universal availability at this point, it is surprising to see utilization among large law firm lawyers falling even further."