Class of 2021 Law Grads Entered One of the Strongest Legal Job Markets Ever. What Does This Mean for Future Grads?

Elevated View Of A Male Manager Shaking Hands With Female Applicant At Workplace

Law school graduates from the Class of 2021 are experiencing a 91.9% employment rate, up 3.5 percentage points from 2020, according to a recently released report from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). The legal job market matches the previous record set by the Class of 2007, just before the Great Recession.

The economic rebound and increased demand for legal services following the 2020 COVID-19 shutdowns have led to as strong a set of employment and salary outcomes as NALP Executive Director James G. Leipold has seen in more than 18 years, he said in the report.

“Certainly, [the data] confirm that the slight downturns in many markers measured last year were not the beginning of a larger downturn in the job market but instead were one-time downturns that reflected the market interruptions and many complicating factors brought on by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Leipold said. “Notwithstanding those interruptions, the legal employment market for new law school graduates has remained strong, and as we have seen in the past, remarkably resilient despite economic challenges.”

Key findings from the report

In addition to the record-high employment rate, several findings from the report illustrate the strength of the legal job market.

  • More jobs were obtained. The actual number of jobs obtained increased for the first time since 2013. Almost 2,400 more jobs were obtained compared to 2020.
  • Most jobs were full-time, long-term, bar-passage required positions.7% of graduates with known employment status were in these types of jobs.
  • Unemployment decreased. The overall unemployment rate, measured 10 months after graduation, fell 3 full percentage points to 6.3% from 9.3%.
  • Class of 2021 grads are making more money. The mean salary for the Class of 2021 rose 6.4% to $109,469, a historic high.

Overall, large firms accounted for the highest increases in employment and number of jobs. Solo practitioner and public service jobs, conversely, saw the largest decreases.

NALP employment status and employment types data
Source: NALP

Predictions for current law school students

As Leipold mentioned, the profession has proven to be resilient, despite “numerous obstacles” that could affect job searches, including delayed and online bar exams and shutdowns to parts of the economy.

Future graduating classes will likely be considerably larger than in the previous six years and may face different challenges, Leipold suggested in the report.

Law school applicants for 2021 enrollment reached almost 71,000, up significantly from 62,917 in 2020, according to data from the Law School Admissions Council. Applicants for 2022 enrollment decreased by 11.7% compared to 2021, reaching 62,624 as of August 1.

NALP report predicts that the legal job market will stay strong for these graduates, however, these years may be seen as a peak.

The full Jobs & JDs report from NALP is anticipated to release in October 2022. For more information, visit NALP’s website.

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