Employment reaches historic high-water mark with Class of 2019

The graduating class of 2019 was smaller than the year before, but more students got jobs, according to the newest employment data provided by the American Bar Association. The report, based on data from more than 33,500 graduates, shows that the employment rate improved from 92.7% to 93.6%. 

Even more impressive, the percent of students with long-term, full-time Bar Passage Required (BPR) jobs improved from 70.1% to 73.7%. It was the highest this percent has been since the ABA began tracking it this way in 2014. Also, the percent of students in either long-term, full-time BRP or JD Advantage (JDA) positions reached its highest percent — 80.55%. That percent was only 68.95% in 2014. 

Jerry Organ, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who watches employment number closely, pointed out in a blog post that employment numbers are almost as high as the percent of students who pass the bar exam. 

“With this number now so close to 100%, this might suggest that some full-time, long-term BPR positions have been going unfilled until some of the graduates who fail the July bar exam each year pass the February bar exam the following year,” he wrote. 

University of Pennsylvania posted the highest employment rate at 99.2%, followed by University of Chicago, Harvard University and University of Virginia at 99%. However, when modified for employment quality, Columbia University ranked No. 1. 

While the number of BPR positions has risen, the number of JD Advantage (JDA) jobs has declined. All JDA employment numbers are down, but the biggest drops happened in long-term, full-time and short-term, full-time jobs with nearly 100 less students (27-28%) getting positions in those categories. 

Law schools also continue to hire fewer graduates — 517 graduates from the Class of 2018 were hired, but only 415 graduates from the Class of 2019 got similar funded jobs. 

While the numbers hit historic levels, the data is from March 2020 – before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

“While these are very encouraging numbers, they may already be irrelevant,” Organ wrote. “These data do not capture any of the widespread economic disruption associated with the response to Covid-19, which has resulted in belt-tightening, salary reductions and layoffs at law firms around the country.  Indeed, some of the graduates of the Class of 2019 who were reported as employed on March 15, 2020, may already have lost their jobs.  Thus, these results for the Class of 2019 may stand as the high-water mark for employment outcomes for law school graduates for at least a few years.”

 

NALP %

NJ Modified employment rate

PENNSYLVANIA, UNIVERSITY OF

99.2%

96.3%

CHICAGO, UNIVERSITY OF

99.0%

96.8%

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

99.0%

94.4%

VIRGINIA, UNIVERSITY OF

99.0%

97.6%

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

98.8%

98.1%

CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY, UNIVERSITY OF

98.8%

95.5%

MINNESOTA, UNIVERSITY OF

98.7%

93.7%

IOWA, UNIVERSITY OF

98.6%

95.2%

DUKE UNIVERSITY

98.2%

97.1%

MICHIGAN, UNIVERSITY OF

98.0%

95.3%

STANFORD UNIVERSITY

97.8%

93.1%

UTAH, UNIVERSITY OF

97.6%

88.8%

GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

97.6%

84.8%

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY

97.6%

93.2%

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

97.5%

93.6%

WIDENER-COMMONWEALTH

97.4%

87.0%

SETON HALL UNIVERSITY

97.1%

91.8%

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

96.9%

94.7%

ILLINOIS, UNIVERSITY OF

96.7%

94.5%

NEW HAMPSHIRE UNIVERSITY OF

96.7%

85.6%

VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY

96.7%

93.5%

 

The NJ modified employment rate weights each employment type based on quality of that job, from 0% from non-professional part-time to 100% for Full-time, long-term BPA jobs. 

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