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The good news: The law school class of 2012 grads fared no worse than its predecessors did in the legal job market. The bad news: It didn’t fare much better, either.

Employment rates held fairly steady last year, according to data from the American Bar Association. Nine months following graduation, 82 percent of graduates had secured some form of employment—the same percentage as the class of 2011.

On a more positive note, 56 percent of the graduates secured long-term, full-time jobs that required bar passage, a 1 percent increase over the previous year. (This job category is widely seen as the most desirable).

However, there also was a 1 percent increase in the number of unemployed graduates, which stood at 11 percent nine months after graduation.

The latest trove of ABA jobs data, released Friday, reflected graduate hiring as of February 15—the organization rushed to provide the data to help inform prospective law students who would arrive on campus next fall. The ABA has made detailed employment figures available on its website for each accredited law school.

The class of 2012 faced a tough employment market not only because legal hiring has slowed, but also because there was more competition. The most recent graduating class was the largest on record at 46,364—more than 5 percent larger than the class of 2011, according to the ABA. (That figure is expected to decline because applications and new student enrollment has fallen off.)

There was also a slight uptick in the percentage of recent graduates in long-term, full-time jobs in which a J.D. is an advantage, if not a requirement. Nearly 10 percent of recent graduates landed jobs in that category, up by 1.4 percent from a year ago. J.D.-advantage jobs of any kind, including short-term and part-time, accounted for 13 percent of new graduate employment.

The percentage of graduates in jobs paid for by their law schools declined slightly, from 4.5 percent last year to 4 percent this year. The percentage of new graduates in business, government, public-interest jobs, clerkships and solo practices remained virtually unchanged. But nearly 1,500 more grads landed jobs at law firms this year compared to the previous graduating class. Still, that increase translated to just 1 percent in part because there were over 2,000 additional graduates on the job market in 2012.

Law schools did a slightly better job of tracking their alumni this year, providing employment information for 97 percent, compared to 96 percent last year

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com.

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