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Every June, the National Association for Law Placement releases its annual job report on employment trends for new graduates. And every year, at least for the past few years, it has been a time for muted optimism about the distant future and commiseration with the plight of others in the present.
How did the Class of 2013 shake out? Despite having a larger than normal fleet of graduates flooding the workforce, the news was basically flat: some good, some bad, but mostly "meh."
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NALP's report begins on an optimistic note: there are more jobs and more school-funded positions! Alas, there are also more graduates to fill those jobs, which means the employment rate dropped for the sixth straight year, to 84.5 percent. The 24-year high was 91.9 percent in 2007.
By any measure, salaries went up for the Class of 2013:
That's salaries for full-time jobs lasting at least a year. The trick is finding one of those jobs: while a few law firms increased hiring (raising the overall median), here are some less happy numbers:
NALP Executive Director James Leipold summed up the situation: "In general, the legal sector is best described as mostly flat in the Spring of 2014, with overall sector headcount still off by more than 40,000 jobs from its pre-recession high according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The entry-level job market reflects that mostly flat business environment for the legal sector generally."
If you are a frustrated job seeker, look no further than those who thought, "Hey, it's a recession. Let's wait it out in law school!" While the 2013ers didn't see marked increases in employment rates from the real rock bottom (the Class of 2011), that's just because there were simply too many of them.
The Class of 2013 was the largest in history, and subsequent classes are expected to be significantly smaller, with the Class of 2017 expected to shrink by 30 percent from this year's lot. If the trend of a gradual increase in the number of jobs continues, the outlook isn't too shabby for this year's 1Ls, the wise ones who waited to "buy low" on a law school education.
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