Employment prospects appear promising for Pennsylvania law students, based on recent data from the American Bar Association about where the class of 2017 found jobs within 10 months of graduation. And the outlook is even brighter for those with an open mind about their line of work after graduation.
Of 10 law schools in Pennsylvania and Delaware, five landed more than 69 percent of their graduates in jobs that require bar passage—69 percent being the national average. They were University of Pennsylvania Law School, Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law, Penn State Law and Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law.
The best employment rate among them was at Penn Law, where 90.6 percent of graduates landed a job requiring bar admission.
An even greater number of Pennsylvania firms exceeded the national employment average when including jobs that do not require bar passage, but where having a law degree is an advantage.
Nationally, 75.3 percent of graduates got a full-time, permanent job that either requires bar admission or where having a J.D. is an advantage. Eight Pennsylvania schools surpassed that percentage, and Penn Law came in first in the country at 98.8 percent employment.
Drexel, Penn State’s Dickinson Law, Duquesne University School of Law and University of Pittsburgh Law School all saw a notable increase in their national employment rankings when J.D.-advantage roles were included.
Nationally, fewer graduates landed in jobs where a law degree is advantageous but bar admission is not required in 2017 than in 2016. Last year 11.8 percent of graduates got those jobs, down from 14.1 percent the year before, the ABA said, and less than 1,100 such jobs were reported.
In addition to leading full-time lawyer and J.D. advantage employment rankings, Penn also had the lowest unemployment rate among the Pennsylvania schools, and the third-lowest unemployment rate nationally, at less than half a percent. And it had the fifth-highest percentage of graduates in “elite” positions—federal clerkships (11 percent of Penn grads) and jobs at law firms of 100 or more lawyers (68 percent of Penn grads).
Widener University Commonwealth Law School and Widener University Delaware Law School , at 67.2 percent and 59.6 percent, respectively, had the lowest full-time employment rates among area firms, and were the only two to fall below the national average.
Looking at the category for elite jobs, Penn far outpaced the other area law firms. Of Penn graduates, 78.5 percent ended up in elite positions, versus 21.7 percent at Temple, the next best Pennsylvania school for elite jobs, followed by Villanova, at 18.2 percent. Other schools fell between 11.1 and 16.7 percent for elite placings, except for Widener Commonwealth and Delaware, at 6.6 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.
Penn was the only school in the state where more than half of graduates ended up at large law firms. The closest behind were Temple, at 18 percent, Villanova, at 17 percent, and Pitt, at 16 percent.
Several Pennsylvania schools stood out for the number of graduates who got government and public interest jobs. Penn State Dickinson had the sixth highest percentage of grads in those positions, at 31.1 percent. Penn State Law and Widener Commonwealth were not far behind, at 21.9 and 21.3 percent. All three schools are in close proximity to Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg.
Few federal clerkships went to Pennsylvania law school grads, according to the ABA, and most of them were at Penn, which had 28 federal clerkships. Dickinson also had three.
As for state and local clerkships, Widener Delaware was a leader in that category, sending 25.7 percent of graduates to those jobs—the fourth-highest percentage nationally.