Job markets across the country took a severe hit following the financial crisis of the late 2000s, and the legal industry was unfortunately not spared. The effects have been long-lasting, with lawyer jobs being harder to come by and the job market for law school graduates looking discouraging year after year.
Finally, we have some good news, and 2019 law school graduates have reason to feel optimistic.
According to figures released by the National Association of Law Placement (NALP), employment outcomes for recent law graduates are the highest in a decade and are now approaching “pre-recession levels.” The NALP data shows that overall employment levels for law school graduates in the class of 2018 increased to 89.4%, which was a 0.8% increase from the class of 2017.
The most notable change, however, came in the number of law school graduates who, within 10 months of graduation, obtained full-time, long-term jobs that required a legal degree and bar passage. That employment rate reached nearly 71%, which was an increase of around 2% and higher than rates reported over a decade ago, before the recession.
2019’s future attorneys have every reason to believe that the improvements in the legal industry job market seen in 2017 and 2018 will continue, creating a modest post-recession boom in attorney hiring.
Job market improvements primarily have been attributed to two factors. First, law schools have recently seen smaller graduating classes. Second, hiring at large law firms has seen a steady increase since 2011. This combination of more jobs and less competition has translated into greater job prospects for recent law school graduates.
Of course, this news is most relevant for law school graduates seeking law firm job, as much of the job market optimism is focused on attorneys heading into private practice. The significant increases the legal industry is seeing in terms of hiring are coming out of large law firms that employ 500 or more lawyers.
In contrast, smaller law firms – those with 250 to 500 lawyers – are still hiring far fewer lawyers than they did prior to the recession. This is a strong indication that, while there is reason for 2019 law school graduates to be hopeful, the job market in the legal industry still has a significant way to go to see improvement across the board. Employment levels in non-firm job sectors, including public interest, government, and clerkships, saw no change between 2017 and 2018.
Law school class sizes also appear to be holding steady, with the classes of 2019 and 2020 expected to mirror that of 2018. Therefore, any employment advantages that the class of 2018 might have seen from declining law school enrollment won’t be a continuing trend.
So what does this all mean for 2019’s law graduates? While the numbers are encouraging and there are more reasons to be optimistic than there have been in the past decade, that optimism should be tempered with a dose of caution.
Veritext congratulates all 2019 law school graduates on their accomplishments. A global leader in litigation and deposition solutions, Veritext offers the cutting-edge solutions that new attorneys need to succeed. Contact us today to learn more about how Veritext can help you get the most out of your legal career.