At the University of Virginia School of Law, 98 percent of the class of 2010 was employed nine months following graduation. That figure was 92 percent at Vanderbilt University Law School and 90 percent at Washington & Lee University School of Law.
All three schools reported those postgraduate employment rates to American Bar Association during an especially tight job market. Additionally, each reported that a relatively high 11 percent of their 2010 graduates were in jobs financed by the schools themselves.
That is just one nugget of information contained in an expansive database that the ABA has released on its Web site. The database contains far more detailed employment information than the organization has made public previously.
For the first time, the ABA has provided information about the number of graduates in jobs paid for by their law schools; the number of graduates in both short-term and long-term jobs; and the number of graduates working in a variety of different-sized firms and whether those jobs were permanent or temporary.
The new data do not include any information about the number of graduates in part-time or full-time jobs, nor any salary information. Their release followed mounting public pressure by transparency advocates and Congressional leaders to improve the quality and amount of law school consumer information available.
The new data are available on the ABA’s Web site in two forms. Users can search individual schools’ employment reports for the class of 2010, or they can download a spreadsheet that includes employment information for all 200 ABA-accredited law schools.
Even though the data are somewhat now out of date — information about the class of 2011 was due at the ABA in Febuary — they nevertheless offer insights into the legal job market and how law schools are adjusting to market forces. Law schools have never previously been required to reveal how many graduates they employ, but the new data show that the practice is fairly common:
• 27 percent of ABA-accredited law schools reported that they had not hired any of their 2010 graduates.
• 48 percent of schools reported hiring between 1 percent and 5 percent of the class of 2010.
• 11 percent of schools hired between 6 percent and 10 percent of their 2010 graduates.
• 9 percent of schools hired between 11 percent and 15 percent of the class of 2010.
• Three schools hired more than 15 percent of their classes: The City University of New York School of Law hired the most, at 19 percent, followed by the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law at 18 percent and the University of San Francisco School of Law at 17 percent.
CUNY Dean Michelle Anderson attributed the school’s high percentage to its LaunchPad for Justice program, which hires law graduates to represent indigent New Yorkers who face eviction.
“The LaunchPad is a triple win: Housing courts gain a new set of volunteer attorneys in an area with crushing caseloads; people in need gain valuable legal assistance to save their tenancy; and recent law school graduates gain hands-on experience that makes them more prepared in a tough job market,” Anderson said. “Many of those participating in LaunchPad used the skills, experience and contacts they obtained through participating to secure employment as public interest attorneys.”
University of North Carolina law professor Bernie Burk began conducting his own survey of law school-funded jobs in the weeks before the ABA released its data. His research, which he has written about on the blog The Faculty Lounge, was based on a small number of law schools that voluntarily disclosed the number of 2010 graduates they hired.
Burk became interested in the trend when law schools continued to report high employment figures when the legal job market contracted in 2009 and 2010, he said. “I started thinking, ‘What kinds of jobs are these?’ I was actually surprised at how widespread the practice is. It’s a powerful reflection of how hard it is to get a full-time legal job right now.”
Burk theorizes that the law schools are motivated not by the hope of gaming the U.S. News and World Report rankings, but by the need to help struggling graduates get a foot in the door. A few might be employed by the school directly as research assistants, but most are in public-interest posts where they gain real-world experience, even if the law school signs their paychecks, he said.
“I think this type of program, if administered properly, is potentially an effective way to help students transition into full-time legal jobs,” Burk said.
For the most part, lower-tiered schools were not employing their graduates in large numbers, according to the ABA data. Among the top 50 schools as ranked by U.S. News, Georgetown University Law Center employed 11 percent of the class of 2010, the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law employed 12 percent; Boston University School of Law employed 13 percent; the University of Minnesota Law School employed 14 percent; and the University of Notre Dame Law School and Fordham University School of Law employed 15 percent.
Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law reported an employment rate of 98 percent, with 12 percent of its class of 2010 in school-funded jobs. Those graduates were in public-interest fellowships at nonprofit organizations for at least six weeks and earn a stipend from the school, said Dean Douglas Sylvester.
Some of those fellowships turn into fulltime positions, he said, stressing that the school did not start the program to manipulate its U.S. News ranking. In fact, he noted, U.S. News Director of Data Research Bob Morse has warned that the publication may stop counting graduates as employed if they are paid by their alma maters.
“Next year, those graduates won’t count as employed [by U.S. News]. See who drops those programs then,” Sylvester said. “We’re standing by our graduates and trying to do absolutely everything we can to think of to help them.”
Of the 43,706 law graduates in 2010, 85 percent were employed after nine months, the data show, but 14 percent were in short-term jobs. Additionally:
• 34 percent of law schools reported that between 1 percent and 10 percent of their class of 2010 had short-term jobs nine months after graduating.
• 38 percent of law schools reported that between 11 percent and 20 percent of their 2010 graduates had short-term jobs.
• Nearly 13 percent reported that more than 20 percent of their class of 2010 had short term jobs. Golden Gate University School of Law reported the highest percentage of graduates in short-term jobs, at 43 percent, followed by the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law at 41 percent and the University of San Francisco School of Law at 36 percent.
Administrators at Golden Gate were unavailable for comment on Monday.
Fifteen schools reported employment rates of 95 percent or higher for the class of 2010. The University of Chicago Law School, Virginia and Arizona State each reported employment rates of 98 percent. Stanford Law School, New York University School of Law, Columbia Law School and Cornell Law School each reported a rate of 97 percent.
Contact Karen Sloan at email@example.com.