Recently released law school employment data from the American Bar Association shows the class of 2017 fared better in the entry-level job market than recent predecessors.
Within 10 months of leaving law school, 75.3 percent of 2017 graduates landed full-time, long-term jobs that require bar passage or for which a law degree offers an advantage, the ABA reported. Those results are up from 72.6 percent for the class of 2016.
But national figures don’t offer the complete picture of how individual law schools do in helping their graduates secure jobs. We’ve waded through the ABA’s trove of employment numbers to break down how schools performed in 10 different areas, including sending graduates into jobs for which bar passage is a requirement; into federal clerkships; into large firm jobs; and into government and public-interest positions. We’ve also ranked schools according to their percentage of unemployed recent graduates, as well as each school’s underemployment rate, which includes graduates who are unemployed, in part-time or short-term jobs, or in nonprofessional jobs.
Representatives from Yale Law School and the University of Connecticut School of Law, which ranked 55th and 103rd, respectively, for placing graduates in full-time, long-term and nonschool-funded law jobs that required passing the bar, took some issue with the methodology related to job classification. They noted that, in an ever-changing field, newly conferred degree holders are increasingly starting out in nontraditional jobs, resulting in the two Connecticut schools appearing lower in the ABA-developed rankings than they usually do on superlative charts. Yale typically places in the top 10 law schools in the country, and UConn regularly shows up on top 25 to 50 lists.
“According to law.com, a gold standard law graduate position is one that is full-time, long-term, bar required and not funded by the graduate’s law school. We believe this is a misguided and narrow barometer of success,” said Yale’s Kelly Voight, assistant dean of career development, in an emailed message. “Applying this standard, law.com concludes that the 22 graduates from the YLS Class of 2017 who were each awarded around $47,500 in public interest fellowship funding from Yale Law School to devote a year to serving the legal needs of disenfranchised members of our society, are not placement successes. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Voight noted graduates were selected to receive fellowships through highly competitive processes, and they either rejected or chose not to pursue other positions in order to perform Yale-funded public-interest work.
“Not everyone who attends law school—and certainly not everyone who attends Yale Law School—has the goal of practicing law,” Voight added.
UConn Assistant Dean of Admissions Karen DeMeola, who is also the current president of the Connecticut Bar Association, agreed that job classifications can blur the picture. “One of the things that’s always troubling for me when statistics come out is most people try to pull out these interesting nuances,” she said. “I think there is a shortsightedness in pulling apart things like ‘bar-pass-required’ and J.D.-preferred jobs.”
DeMeola said a significant number of graduates are opting out of the entry-level associate’s job. “As we look at trends, often we see students who are taking offers in compliance or clerkships, and they are really happy in these jobs,” she said. “Millennials are not staying in jobs for 19 or 20 years—like I have. Not every job is in this kind of learning environment. For many, not stepping into the courtroom works quite well. I think it is really important for graduates to figure this out.”
Yale’s Voight concluded in her response that the numbers, as presented, skew Connecticut in a negative light. “All said, law.com has decided that YLS places 55th based on its determination of what a ‘gold standard’ job is. YLS graduates follow their own gold standards.”
The charts below illustrate how stratified legal education is when it comes to graduate employment. For instance, seven law schools sent 90 percent or more of their 2017 graduates into full-time law jobs that require bar passage, largely considered the gold standard for law jobs. (They were led by Duke Law School, at nearly 94 percent.) On the other end of the spectrum, 12 schools sent fewer than 40 percent of their recent graduates into those positions. (Thomas Jefferson School of Law reported the lowest percentage outside of Puerto Rico, at less than 26 percent.)
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We’ve also added a new category this year: elite jobs, the percentage of recent graduates in federal clerkships and law firms of 100 or more attorneys. We report each of these categories separately as well, but the combination offers a look at which schools are sending graduates on to some of the most competitive and sought-after jobs in the legal industry. Columbia Law School posted the highest percentage of 2017 graduates in Big Law, but Chicago took the top spot on the Elite Jobs list due to its strong federal clerkship track record. As usual, Yale Law School tops the federal clerkships list.
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