University of Georgia Law School, Athens (Photo: Alison Church/ALM) University of Georgia Law School, Athens (Photo: Alison Church/ALM)

More than 85% of 2018 graduates from the University of Georgia School of Law had jobs requiring passing a bar exam—the 18th highest rate among all U.S. law schools, according to a report last month by the American Bar Association.

UGA led the five Georgia-based law schools for this metric, which refers to graduates holding full-time jobs—none funded by the university—requiring passing the bar. Job placement observers consider this figure particularly important in valuing a degree from each law school.

Columbia University held the nation’s No. 1 spot, with 93.54% of its graduates holding qualified jobs. Nationwide, about 70% of all 2018 law graduates held qualified jobs. Including UGA, four Georgia schools approached or beat the national average.

Emory University School of Law took 67th, with 74.76% of 2018 holding qualified jobs.

Georgia State University College of Law was in 82nd place, with 71.51%.

Mercer Law School was in 91st place, with 69.75%.

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School was in 196th place, with only 25.6% of 2018 graduates holding qualified jobs.

UGA Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said the school “strives to be the best return on investment in legal education today.”

“We are pleased our Class of 2018 employment rates are among the best in the nation and have us as the leader in the state of Georgia,” he said, adding the schools remains “committed to working with all of our graduates to find quality employment.”

A spokeswoman from Emory Law said the school “prides itself in preparing students for an array of diverse career opportunities that leverage their law degree in both traditional legal careers as well as in careers where a JD is helpful, such as positions in banking, compliance and policy, to name a few. In addition, before entering the employment sector, some of our graduates seek additional legal specialization, such as Master of Laws (LLM) degrees in tax.”

Elizabeth Carr, Mercer’s assistant dean for career services, noted that the school saw an increase in graduates taking jobs where a law degree is required and those where having a JD degree is considered an advantage in applying.

“We are focused on helping our graduates find meaningful careers in a variety of different jobs, including those outside of what is considered the traditional legal path,” she said. “We were pleased to see that some of our students are finding jobs that are considered JD Advantages, since this is a rapidly growing field.”

Those jobs include, Carr said, a compliance specialist for a university, a contract manager for a financial institution, a chief policy manager for the Georgia House of Representatives Majority Caucus. Another graduate is doing a compliance post-graduate internship with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

“These types of jobs and areas of practice are where we expect to see the most potential for growth for legal employment as the legal landscape continues to change,” Carr said.

Comments from GSU and Atlanta’s John Marshall could not be obtained by the time this article was posted.

Overall, the percentage of newly minted JDs who found legal work increased for the fifth straight year in 2018, according to new employment data from the American Bar Association.

The latest figures show that 78.6 % of the class of 2018 had secured full-time, long-term jobs that either require bar passage, or for which a law degree offers an advantage, within 10 months of graduation. That was up from 75.3% the previous year.