According to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP to the initiated), job placements for law school grads went up in 2014 after years of steady decline. So congrats everyone! We’re all getting elite jobs at the firms of our choosing. Six-figure salaries to start. Don’t forget to politely ask as soon as you’d like to make partner. And even though George Clooney is taken, there are plenty of other beautiful people to come home to after a long day of defending the world’s disenfranchised.
Well, okay. Maybe we should look a little more closely at the numbers before we get ahead of ourselves. Here’s what the NALP is saying: in 2014, almost 87% of law school graduates found employment within ten months of graduation. That is up 2.2% from 2013. Not entirely shabby. The median salary: $63K, up slightly from 2013.
It’s a bit of good-ish news after years of bad news. Job placement had been on the decline since 2007. That year, the global economy broke and out-of-work bankers started climbing over each other to apply to law school. Law school class sizes swelled until they reached their peak in 2013. But the legal field turned out not to be an entirely safe haven and the market became saturated. There were more law school graduates than jobs, and placement percentages started falling.
This bit of context makes the meaning of the 2014 uptick somewhat murky. A smaller class graduated in 2014, so there was less competition for available jobs. The actual number of new job placements actually declined, but because there were fewer rookie lawyers clawing for them, placement rates went up. So is the news all that good? Or does it just reflect the fact that the bankers have gone back to their banking and law school cohorts are back to their pre-crash sizes?
It’s not clear. My own (admittedly lay) read is that the market looks like it’s still oversaturated and probably will stay that way. But at least law students won’t have to rub shoulders with so many mid-life Wall Street guys. I saw The Wolf of Wall Street and that line of work seems like a real spiritual grind. You can keep the Quaaludes and emotional breakdowns, I’ll stick to jurisprudence, amiright?
And hey, don’t sweat the numbers too much. There is and will continue to be a need for lawyers. Just because other people are lured to expensive JD programs, become inundated in debt, and are dropped off in a job market that doesn’t want them, that doesn’t mean that will happen to you. Because, ya know. That happens to other people. You’re special.
Just kidding. I’m special. It will probably happen to you, but there’s no way it will happen to me, because, like, my mom always told me I could do great things. So.
Here are my closing thoughts: the national average means a lot less than the job placement rates at the actual programs you’re considering. Do your research and remember that admissions officers are basically salespeople. Skepticism is healthy. Especially considering that some law school actually pad their job placement numbers by giving recent grads short-term, low-pay work right after graduation.
That said, if you want to be a lawyer, don’t let a shitty labor market stand in your way. You can go do great things, and you’re extremely special. I promise.