American Bar Association / ABA, Biglaw, Job Searches, Law Schools, Unemployment

ABA Employment Stats Are Just As Dire As We Expected

On Friday, the American Bar Association released the employment data for the class of 2011 that they collected from their member law schools. By dumping the information on a summer Friday, perhaps the ABA was hoping that nobody would notice the statistics?

Well, we noticed. The numbers are too bad not to notice. Earlier this month we reported on the NALP employment data, and the ABA data here doesn’t look any better. Only 55% of people in the class of 2011 are known to have found employment in full-time legal jobs.

And really, that’s the nice way of putting it….

Law School Transparency has broken down the numbers. One particularly useful stat that the LST people have developed is called “underemployed”:

It’s common for people to look at the best possible outcome when they are thinking about going to law school. Students (or their parents) often fail to look at the worst. I’m talking about the 77 schools where more than a third of their graduates end up underemployed. That’s the kind of thing that should scare people away from law school, because you know it terrifies recent graduates of the class of 2012 who are staring into the abyss.

But we’re not going to change the entire perspective of a generation in one blog post. Instead, LST has a stat for the people who only want to think about the good things that can happen:

NALP statistics define large firms as shops with more than 500 attorneys. Here, LST is saying that even if we reduce the definition of “large” down to firms with 100 people or more, it’s still extremely challenging to find a full-time job. Obviously, there are things that you can do besides working in a large firm. But if you want to go from owing a lot of money because of law school to earning a lot of money in a big firm, remember that it only happens to 10.7% of you.

With the release of this law school data, we’re probably looking at one of the last time law schools are really going to care about the employment prospects for the class of 2011. We’re a year past their graduation. Unless these alums have money to give, law schools have little incentive to keep track of how they are doing.

But the class of 2011 is the last class you can argue “didn’t know” what was happening to the legal market. We’ve quoted NALP Executive Director James Leipold before on this point:

For members of the Class of 2011, caught as they were in the worst of the recession, entering law school in the fall of 2008 just as Lehman Brothers collapsed, going through OCI in the fall of 2009, and summering in 2010 if they were lucky enough to secure a summer associate spot, the entry-level job market can only be described as brutal. When this class took their LSATs and applied for law school there were no signs that the legal economic boom was showing any signs of slowing, and yet by the time they graduated they faced what was arguably the worst entry-level legal employment market in more than 30 years.

Translation: the class of 2012 was just not paying attention to the obvious warning signs, and the class of 2013 decided to be willfully ignorant of reality. For their sakes, I hope we’ve reached the bottom.

UPDATE (1:20 PM): Paul Caron at Tax Prof Blog has a particularly interesting breakout. He’s looking at the top 35 schools according to U.S. News, and then looking at where they rank in terms of providing full time, long term, legal employment. The biggest “underperforming” law schools are:

On the positive side… many of these law schools are attached to universities with exciting athletic departments!

Class of 2011 legal employment and underemployment numbers are in, and far worse than expected
[Law School Transparency]
ABA: Only 55.2% of the Class of 2011 Have Full-Time Long-Term Legal Jobs [Tax Prof Blog]

Earlier: How Did the Class of 2011 Fare in the Legal Job Market?

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