Market for law graduates changes with recession

The recently released National Association for Law Placement Jobs & JDs report for the Class of 2009 reveals a challenging job market for recent graduates. The findings suggest that members of this graduating class were more likely than previous classes to be working part-time, working in a temporary job, working in a job that does not require a JD, or working but still looking for another job.

The national mean salary, based on those who are employed and working full-time was was $93,454 — but the adjusted mean, which accounts for the fact that the distribution of full-time salaries is not the same as the distribution of full-time jobs, was only $85,198. At law firms, the mean was $102,959 while the adjusted mean was $102,959.

Jim Leipold, executive director of NALP, noted that the newly added adjusted mean provides a more accurate idea of how much graduates are making in the current job market.

“As a matter of consumer information, especially for students who are considering applying to law school, the adjusted mean provides a better benchmark than the unadjusted mean because it accounts for the larger number of lower salaries that are not reported,” Leipold said. “As the distribution of starting lawyer salaries makes clear, very few new law school graduates earn anything close to the mean. Instead, many graduates will earn much more than the mean salary, and many more will earn much less.”

The overall employment rate for the Class of 2009 was 88.3 percent, which represents a 3.6-point drop from the recent historical high of 91.9 percent for the Class of 2007. The numbers also masks a number of weaknesses in the job market, including the large percentage of graduates who reported their current employment as “temporary” (25 percent) and the percentage of graduates who reported to be “seeking another job” (21.6 percent). Furthermore, research suggests that between 3,200 and 3,700 graduates who reported jobs in law firms had their start dates deferred beyond December 1, 2009.

“The job market for the Class of 2009 was very different than it was for the classes that immediately preceded it,” Leipold said, “and we have gone to great lengths to try to measure and describe some of those differences.”

The extended Jobs & JDs report provides salary tables by state, region, city, employment type, firm size (within the section on private practice salaries) and more.

A full copy of Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Law Graduates—Class of 2009 is available from the NALP bookstore at and a summary of selected findings can be found at Be sure to pick up the September issue of The National Jurist magazine (publishing Aug. 24) to find out Who's Hiring Now?