Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Penetrating Look at NALP's Numbers

The figures in this entry are furnished by the National Association for Law Placement. Specifically, these numbers are from NALP’s Class of 2008 Selected Findings.

According to page two of this PDF, “Scope of Employment Data,” the nation’s 198 ABA-accredited law schools produced 43,587 graduates in 2008. (Not mentioned is how many JDs the non-ABA accredited law schools pumped out.)

Now look at the number of jobs where bar passage was required: 30,334.

Going by these numbers alone, 13,253 JDs from the Class of 2008 COULD NOT HAVE BEEN HIRED AS ATTORNEYS, even if they had wanted to, i.e. 43,587 – 30,334. Also, using these figures, we can see that of the 43,587 JDs, about 69.6% of them were employed as lawyers within 9 months of graduation, i.e. 30,334/43,587.

(Surely, there were quite a few who passed a bar exam and can now call themselves “attorneys at law.” However, if that does not help you pay the bills, what is the point of having the license? So you can continue to pay fees to an organization that probably does not know you exist?)

Here is something else to consider: how many of the fortunate 30,334 are (or were) working as solos or in family-run firms?

From the last column on page 1:

Of those graduates for whom employment status was known, 74.7% obtained a job for which bar passage is required.

So, the NALP essentially concedes that ABA-approved law schools PRODUCE FULLY 25 PERCENT TOO MANY JDs. I understand that not everyone goes to law school for the express purpose of someday becoming a lawyer, but this is ridiculous. Surely, more than 75 percent of those in law school wanted to be lawyers at some point.

Look at page 1 – opening paragraph, first sentence. If NALP claims 89.9% employed within 9 months (for those whom employment status was known), how the hell can TTTs and TTTTs claim 95% or 99% employment rates? This simply doesn’t add up.

I also like how NALP notes that employment rates for law graduates are “considerably higher” than those from much of the 1990s. Yes, before the dot-com bubble. And when there were less law schools and less competition for legal jobs. It seems that law grads would have had it better in those economic times. Perhaps the employment rates are significantly better now because the schools simply got more creative in formulating their placement rates? I doubt it has anything to do with CDOs employing better methods to help law students out.

(For instance, my CDO told me to include my hobbies in my resume - in a different subheading. Yeah, because employers really give a crap that I enjoy reading, photography, and playing chess. I’m sure these things would have set me apart from other applicants.)

Let’s look at another revealing statistic: 977 JDs were enrolled in an advanced degree program. In what other professional degree program do you see in excess of 2% of graduates pursue another advanced degree? And these are the grads we know of! Do dental or medical school grads pursue another advanced degree within 9 months of graduating, instead of taking their licensing board exams?

In the final analysis, law schools produce FAR MORE graduates than there are available attorney (or law-related) positions. This NALP “Selected Findings” study confirms this. You industry apologists out there can try to spin this, BUT REALITY IS STARING YOU SQUARELY IN THE FACE.

I realize this is only a snippet of information. If you want, you can purchase NALP’s “comprehensive” Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Law Graduates - Class of 2008. The price is $65 plus $8 standard ground delivery, for NALP members; the cost is $90 for non-members. As for myself, I would rather spend $90 on important things, like food, heat, bills, etc.


  1. Wow. This is really clearly stated. Don't forget all the laid off associates from previous years that are competing for those same jobs. I think some 5.5K were laid off... and isn't an attorney with experience better than one without? So, let's make that 25K jobs available for these poor grads. Oh well. Too bad we can't wipe out the debt and start all over.

  2. Frankly I'm surprised that 30,034 have jobs required bar passage... My understanding was that the number of new lawyer jobs each year was hovering at around 10,000. I question the authenticity of these statistics - is there any reason to believe that they are legitimate?

  3. Actually I start to believe it when I start thinking about how many of those 30,034 must be doc-review jobs.

  4. The animals who run the law schools should be ashamed. The time has come for a total mobilization against legal education recruitment.

  5. I just wanted to illustrate that even going by NALP's own numbers, the law school industry produces far more JDs than there are available attorney positions. This conduct is shameful and disgraceful.

    Of those 30,334, how many got hired on at their family's law firm? How many decided to hang out their own shingle (and get on the court-appointed list, taking cases at $65 an hour)? How many are working as document review specialists? These things further skew the number of recently-added attorneys out there.

  6. 13,000+ is a pretty outrageous figure. Obviously though, not everyone who earns a JD also passes the bar (or even sits for it), even some from very good schools. How much of this is a failure on the part of the individual vs. the school is up to debate (obviously the lower ranked/worse the school the more I think it is their fault for letting in people who probably aren't qualified for law in the first place). I do wonder where the 30,000ish figure comes from? If only 90% both sit for and pass the bar (which seems like a fair rough guess)then the figure of those who both passed the bar and cannot find JD work falls to around 9,0000 (about 75%), still pretty horrible, but this is a pretty bad economy for everyone. While a 3/4 "sucess" rate is completely unacceptable I think it more constitutes something that needs big time overhaul than an outright scam. Of course, all of this assumes accurate info.

    Also, I'd imagine there are at least a few doctors and dentists who pursue advanced degrees. My understanding is they can pair them up with an MBA, and yes even a JD and make a ton in the industry. Further, I'd imagine some who get a JD/PhD were only interested in some esoteric academic disciplines to begin with, but who knows.

  7. I doubt dentists and doctors actively pursue other degrees anywhere near the rate that JDs do. First off, the ADA and AMA limit the number of schools and seats to make sure that there are not a glut of graduates.

  8. I'm a 2008 grad who passed the bar but has yet to find a legal job. It didn't stop my law school from reporting me as employed in their stats, so the actual numbers may be even more depressing than these numbers demonstrate.

  9. These figures are puffed up by the schools, who then send in these self-reporting numbers to NALP. There is no independent, outside audit of these numbers. I guess they go by the "honor" system - you know, because law schools would NEVER artificially inflate their numbers or anything. And there is NO incentive for doing so.

    Graduates from other schools have told me that their CDO will count them as employed, even if they are delivering pizzas, pouring lattes, tending bar, selling insurance, or parking cars. So it doesn't surprise me to hear that law schools count unemployed JDs as employed. Apparently, your school believes that passing the bar = employed.

    The harsh reality is this: once you are done paying tuition, law schools do not give a damn what happens to you.

  10. You've got a better option for people that majored in English, Economics and Political Science?

    What else are they going to do? This looks like a pretty good chart for any English or poly sci majors. They get an average score, on the LSAT go in a bout 80k in debt to pay for law school and come out of school making 60k or so (That chart did say a significant portion of those students took jobs that require a JD).

  11. Spoken like a truly clueless future law student. Look, the better option is to get a job- ANY job. I am a 2007 law school grad of a private tier 2 school and the debt is not 80K (depending on what school) it's more like 150K-200K. There are NO opportunities for law grads- sorry, there just aren't. Getting a decent attorney job is an EXCEPTION, not the rule. You'll invest blood, sweat, tears, incur crushing debt and graduate with literally not a chance in hell of making a living as an attorney. People always assume they'll be different, that law grads who struggle must be outliers, but they're not. If you go, you'll figure all this out.
    Honestly Nando, I'm surprised that there are supposedly as many attorney jobs as that. My law school sent me a follow-up after I graduated asking for my employment stats (in 2007) and I was so ashamed I didn't have anything lined up I didn't respond. But of course, my school reports something like 98% employment with an average salary of 125K. Ha! More like welcome to doc review for life.

  12. That’s where you are wrong. These figures are self-reported. No one checks for accuracy. (As far as the NALP goes, they say a lot of things - that doesn't make them right.) These figures are designed to lure in unsuspecting English, economics, and political science majors.

    Someone with such a soft undergrad degree will likely be working at a low salary. However, look at the large numbers of practicing lawyers working their ass to the bone and making $35K-$45K. So, maybe they make more than some political science major working in a call center.

    However, you are not taking into account the “opportunity costs” of going to law school, i.e. lost (or significantly reduced) income over three years. Plus, being an attorney is a MUCH more stressful job than answering customer calls or working in an office setting. And JDs typically have an extra $80K-$110K in debt to deal with.

    I understand that the American service-based, low wage economy is one factor pushing college grads into law school. I have mentioned that before on this blog. Young people have limited options right now. And law schools cynically use this to their advantage.

    The average starting salary is skewed upwards by: (a) six-figure salaries offered by big law firms to the select few; and (b) the fact that those who are employed in well-paying jobs are much more likely to respond to the graduate surveys than those who are unemployed or working for peanuts.

    The NALP figures DO NOT provide the full picture. These numbers are not fair and accurate, as the average attorney is certainly NOT making $60K right out of law school.

    People who get an average score on the LSAT usually end up going to TTTs or TTTTs. These students MUST really excel in law school, in order to have any shot of making good money. The lower-ranked the school, the less chance one has of success.

    I assure you that very few TTT grads are starting out at $60K. I knew guys who were ranked towards the VERY top of my class who would have been thrilled to have come out making $60K. This blog is about reality, not wishful thinking.

    As far as advice for soft majors, the four exceptions listed in my blog header should suffice. In the alternative, we could all decide not to adopt society's definition of "success" as our own. Pursue those things that will make you happy.

  13. Nando,

    Did you see that Max Baucus's mistress that he nominated for a U.S. Attorney position was a Drake Law grad?

    Turns out there are multiple ways to the top!!!

  14. This is not meant to undermine the validty of your observations in any way because I htink you're dead on. However, I reported that my job did not require bar passage but did require a JD. Why? I am a judicial clerk. I passed the bar but it wasn't required for me to keep my gig.

    Best part of my job is that I get to be an unemployment statistic in one year, BUT they've already got me as a grad who is "employed" and who "had his job before graduation." Assholes.

  15. So, I just wasted minutes of my life reading this blog. Did you ever think if you stopped spending so much time crying about not getting a job, and more time looking, you may be able to find one?

  16. Jeff, I do have a job. (That's why I only post here once or twice a week.) Maybe if you focused more on COMPREHENDING what you read, you would have noticed that I am employed.

    I am putting my story out there so others don't make the same poor decision. If you want to lick the industry's boots, go ahead. I won't dissuade you from going deep into student loan debt.


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