James Leipold

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) just released its employment data for the law school class of 2013. Roughly nine months after graduation, how are these folks faring in the job market?

As we’ve come to expect from jobs reports in the post-recession “new normal” (which is no longer really “new”), there’s good news and there’s bad news. The big picture: new graduates found more jobs in total and median starting salaries grew, but the overall employment rate fell due to the historically large graduating class.

Shall we take a look at some numbers?

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I think the class of 2011 will historically come to be seen as the bottom of the market.

Jim Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), in comments made during the group’s 2014 conference in Seattle, Washington. Recall that the overall employment rate for the class of 2011 was just 85.6 percent — the lowest since 1994 — with less than half finding jobs in private practice.

This glass is half-full, right?

It depends. Your view of the direction of the job market for summer and entry-level associates will depend upon which metrics you focus on. That seems to be the bottom line of the latest findings from the good folks over at the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).

The overall outlook seems to be… muddled. Some indicators are up a little; some indicators are down a little. Things appear a bit flat — which is not that different from last year.

But I’m finding (or trying to find) reasons for optimism. Hear me out….

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[T]here is nothing about the current market that suggests starting associate salaries will be moving up any time soon.

James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), crushing the hopes and dreams of future Biglaw associates across the nation. Salaries for entry-level attorneys have been “essentially flat” since 2007 (although median pay rose to $160,000 once again after slipping to $145,000 last year).

Why don’t your CSO officers look like this?

The official NALP numbers are out for the class of 2012, and they stink. We’ve known for a while that they were going to stink, but the final numbers stink slightly more than we thought they were going to stink.

While we had been hoping that entry-level hiring would be slightly up for the class of 2012 over the class of 2011, it’s actually slightly down. The overall employment rate for new law school graduates fell to 84.7%. It’s the fifth consecutive year that figure has fallen. The last time the numbers were this low was in the aftermath of the 1990-1991 recession. Things stink.

You don’t have to tell the class of 2012 that their hiring stinks; they’ve been living in it for over a year now. And you don’t have to tell the class of 2013 that their prospects aren’t much better; they’re out of school now, they know. Rising 3Ls in the class of 2014 might be deluding themselves that everything is going to be sunshine and roses for their class, but if they aren’t busy securing jobs this summer, they’ll learn what bitterness and failure taste like soon enough.

In fact, the only people who seem to need to be told that hiring is REALLY, REALLY BAD are American law schools, who continue to make statements and push programs as if getting a job in this market happens in a classroom instead of on a telephone or at a networking event…

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‘But Dean Mitchell said I’d get a job!’

Despite rumors of impending layoffs, many people thought that 2012 would be the year that Biglaw would make its comeback after being dragged through the wringer of the recession. You’d think that Biglaw’s “solid performance” last year would’ve served as an indicator of its hiring needs, but as with most predictions having to do with Biglaw, you’d be wrong.

The numbers are in for the fall 2012 summer associate recruiting season, and they’re nothing to write home about. In fact, according to the latest National Association for Law Placement (NALP) report, the median and average numbers of summer offers made to 2Ls took a tumble.

In an uncertain economy, this depressing kind of recruitment activity may be the new normal for Biglaw….

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Admit it: when you applied to law school, your admissions essay was probably about your desire to help some poor, disadvantaged group of people. You walked in the door bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to conquer the world one unpaid public interest internship at a time.

If by some chance you weren’t convinced to give up on your dreams of helping the disenfranchised, now that you’ve graduated, you’ve probably realized that this whole “public interest” thing isn’t exactly working out so well for you. After all, servicing six figures of debt is no easy task on a $45K salary, even with school-sponsored loan repayment assistance programs (if your school has one). As it turns out, now you’re one of those poor, disadvantaged people.

This leads to a very relevant question that was recently raised by the National Association for Law Placement: should you even consider pursuing a public interest career path after graduating from law school? Is it really worth it? Let’s take a look at some salary figures and find out….

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Back in April, we brought you a story about a family who had written to Dear Abby, an advice columnist, about their child’s law school loan debt. Apparently the mere thought of assisting their darling daughter with the repayment of her $100,000+ debt load was just too much to bear. The daughter had already ruined her own life, so why should they ruin theirs too? And yet, tens of thousands of students are still willing to look this student loan debt problem in the face and laugh.

Yes, in a time where the Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement is forced to write entire columns about the fact that there is no conceivable way he could describe the current entry-level job market as “good,” others are still considering applying to law school.

For example, today we found out that the matriarch of another family sought wisdom from an advice columnist as to whether her husband should go to law school. How did she respond? Let’s just say Dear Prudence is a little more in tune with the realities of today’s legal job market than Dear Abby will ever be….

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* Oh, by the way Dewey & LeBoeuf partners, the little contribution plan you signed that received court approval last week might not protect you from your former landlord’s claims for back rent. Hope you’ve all got an extra $45 million sitting in the bank. [Am Law Daily]

* Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Bernette Johnson will finally get to claim her seat as chief justice of the state’s high court after official judicial recognition — on both the state and federal level — that the year 1994 does indeed come before 1995. [Bloomberg]

* No matter how hard law school administrators wish it were so, or how much they beg Jim Leipold of NALP, he’s never going to be able to describe the current entry-level legal job market as “good.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* NYU Law School is changing its third-year program in the hopes of making a “good” market materialize. If you ship students to foreign countries for class, maybe they’ll get jobs there. [DealBook / New York Times]

* “[W]e’re determined to do everything we can to help them find jobs and meaningful careers.” We bet Brooklyn Law’s dean is also determined to avoid more litigation about employment statistics. [New York Law Journal]

* Has the other shoe finally dropped? After the Second Circuit ruled that YSL could sell monochromatic shoes, the fashion house decided to drop its trademark counterclaims against Christian Louboutin. [Businessweek]

We haven’t had a good New York to 190 post in a while, and maybe there’s a reason for that. While many associates (and partners) feel that they’re long overdue for a raise, starting salaries have grown stagnant in New York — and across the country, for that matter. Remember back in 2007 when we first reported that Simpson Thacher raised incoming associates’ base salaries to $160,000? That was five years ago, and these days, you’ll be lucky if you’re making what you would’ve been taking home before that $15K salary bump.

While that $160K sweet spot for first-years is still the norm in many large markets, it’s no longer as widespread as it once was. In fact, that figure represents only 46 percent of first-year salaries in firms with more than 700 lawyers — and that percentage has been on a steady decline since 2009, when layoffs and terror ran rampant in Biglaw.

Sorry about that tiny pink paycheck of yours….

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