Law students graduating from schools inside the District of Columbia underperformed compared to the national average for landing full-time, long-term employment in a job requiring bar passage or aided by a law degree within 10 months of graduation, according to American Bar Association data.
Nationwide, 75.3 percent of 2017 graduates found such employment 10 months after graduation, according to law school employment statistics released by the ABA last month.
In Washington, only Georgetown University Law Center exceeded that threshold, with nearly 77 percent of its graduates finding full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage or aided by a law degree.
(George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, located outside the District in northern Virginia, also performed better than the national average, with nearly 78 percent of its 2017 graduates’ finding jobs that met the same criteria.)
Nearly 70 percent of the George Washington University Law School’s 2017 graduates found such employment, as did a little more than 63 percent of Howard University School of Law graduates. For graduates of Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and American University Washington College of Law the figures were about 55 percent and 53 percent, respectively.
“There’s a definite need for students to be more creative” in order to secure good jobs, said Tonya Gaskins, director of career and professional development for Catholic University’s law school.
Gaskins said the market is much more competitive than when she received her law degree from Catholic University in 2003, especially after the economic recession of the last decade put a crimp in the Big Law employment pipeline for freshly minted graduates.
More than 40 percent of Georgetown Law’s graduates last year joined one of the nation’s 100 largest firms in terms of head count, according to ALM data. Nearly 18 percent of GW Law grads found jobs at one of the 100 largest firms, according to the same data.
Meanwhile, cutthroat competition for jobs may be one factor in what American Bar Association president Hilarie Bass has described as an alarming trend of law students who are overwhelmed. Bass told attendees of the National Legal Malpractice Conference in Washington last month that she was concerned about data showing poor wellness among students, warning that the legal profession was about to “face a tsunami of really, highly competitive but really pressured young people about to enter the economy.”
Not that the outlook is completely gloomy.
With the hiring freeze in the federal government lifted, some of the burden on recent D.C. graduates could become lighter. GW Law’s director of employment outreach, Katherine White, told The National Law Journal earlier this year that a growing number of students are pursuing careers at consulting firms, financial institutions and corporations that typically recruit graduates from business schools.
And, Gaskins noted, Washington is a hub for each of those kinds of jobs.
“No matter what you want to do, it’s here,” she said.