Editors’ Note: This article has been updated to reflect a Correction.
Of the 4,702 students who graduated from New York state’s 15 law schools in 2011, only 57.2 percent had found within nine months full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar admission, according to figures released on June 18 by the American Bar Association. The state figure is slightly better than the national average of 54.9 percent.
The data is perhaps the most sobering yet in a season of bad news about new lawyer employment. Less than one week earlier, the National Association for Law Placement reported that only two-thirds of new graduates landed any type of job requiring a law degree, and that the overall employment rate hit an 18-year low at 85.6 percent (NYLJ, June 11).
This is the first time the ABA has required law schools to report the number of their graduates in full-time, long-term legal jobs—a statistic that transparency advocates consider the most important for prospective law students. Previously, schools could lump together recent graduates in part-time jobs and full-time jobs, making it difficult to know how many graduates secured the most coveted jobs.
The newly released data does not include salary information, but are the most up-to-date numbers the ABA has ever made public.
In response to public pressure over the accuracy and availability of employment data, the ABA released that information nearly a year earlier than it has in the past. The ABA released a similar—though less detailed—data set of employment outcomes for the class of 2010 in April (NYLJ, April 23). The faster turnaround this year gives incoming students access to the employment outcomes of the most recent graduating class before they show up on campus in the fall.
But the information may give some would-be lawyers pause. Columbia and New York University were two of only five law schools nationwide to report full-time, long-term, bar passage-required employment rates of 90 percent or more, with Columbia reporting 94.1 percent of 2011 graduates were in such positions and NYU 90.1 percent.
Meanwhile, 30 law schools nationwide had corresponding percentages of below 40 percent, including CUNY School of Law, 36.9 percent; Pace Law School, 36 percent; and New York Law School, 35.5 percent.
When including part-time and short-term jobs requiring bar passage, only 65 percent of graduates from New York’s 15 law schools were in legal jobs nine months after leaving school, compared to 62.8 percent nationwide.
At New York Law, 44.5 percent of all 2011 graduates wound up in a position requiring bar passage, while only 40.1 percent of Pace graduates found such jobs.
Noting that the “economic climate is daunting for all,” Anthony Crowell, New York Law’s dean, said in a statement that the school is “committed to adapting and expanding our approaches to support our students in their post-graduate careers.” He added that New York Law alumni “are leaders in the public sector and the business world as well as in law firms.”
No one from Pace was immediately available for comment.
Both nationwide and in New York, 82.5 percent of 2011 law school graduates found employment of some kind, according to the ABA data. This is down from 2010, when the employment rate was 87.8 percent for graduates from New York’s 15 law schools and 85 percent nationally.
In New York, the overall employment rate for the class of 2011 ranges from a high of 97.6 percent for Columbia to 67 percent for graduates from Brooklyn Law School.
“The percentage doesn’t provide a complete picture,” said a Brooklyn Law spokeswoman. “The number of 2011 BLS graduates who are employed—305—is the fifth largest number reported by law schools in New York state. Being five out of 15 is far from last.”
The ABA data also provides insight into the number of students law schools are hiring themselves. In New York, 7 percent of the class of 2011 were in law school funded jobs, compared to 4.3 percent nationwide.
Twenty-eight law schools nationwide reported they had 10 percent or more of their 2011 graduates on their payroll. This includes Fordham University School of Law, 13.3 percent; Cornell Law School, 12.9 percent; CUNY, 12.6 percent; New York University, 12.2 percent; and St. John’s University School of Law, 11.2 percent.
The statistics represent a big jump for Cornell, which more than quadrupled the number of graduates it hired, to 26 in 2011 from six in 2010. All those hired in 2011 are in full-time, short-term jobs. No one from Cornell was available to comment on the increase.
NYU similarly reported hiring more than double the number of graduates it hired last year, 57 from the class of 2011 compared to 22 for the class of 2010.
A spokesman for NYU Law noted that all the graduates in law school funded positions are doing full-time legal work for outside organizations, not the school. Forty-five students received funding through the school’s Launch Grant Program for public service work or, in rare instances, at small private law firms. The program was expanded to a year-long grant from three to six months in the past due to the poor legal job market. The remaining students received named fellowships at organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union or International Court of Justice.
St. John’s also doubled the number of graduates it hired in 2011 to 31, compared to 14 from the class of 2010.
Fordham saw a slight decrease, hiring 57 graduates in 2011 compared to 73 in 2010. CUNY—which hired the largest percentage of graduates of any law school in 2010—also saw a decline, hiring 14 graduates in 2011, down from 24.
The ABA has provided its data in a large Excel spreadsheet format that allows users to compare statistics across schools, but also breaks the numbers out by individual law schools for those interested in particular institutions.