My second cut at the class of 2015 employment data:
Comparing the law-school classes of 2015 to 2014 (and excluding our three Puerto Rico law schools), there were 3,772 fewer graduates, a decline of 8.7 percent. Four employment categories constituted nearly 90 percent to this change: bar-passage-required jobs (52%), JD-advantage jobs (13.1%), law-school-funded jobs (14.3%), and unemployed grads seeking jobs (9.5%).
Changes among the employment types accounted for 85 percent of the 3,772 fewer graduates. The four largest drivers were 2-10-lawyer practices (25.9%), business-and-industry jobs (23.6%), government jobs (11.6%), and public interest jobs (7.5%).
Finally, I looked at the distribution of graduates among the employment categories and statuses by their Gini coefficients. Some of these are more informative than others given the small number of grads that fit into some of them, e.g. the two dozen employed – undeterminable grads. There’s nothing unexpected here. Aside from solos and unknowns, outcome inequality at law firms increases with firms’ sizes. Federal clerkships are still doled out like income in a landlocked, kleptocratic, military dictatorship. Public interest jobs aren’t so easy to come by either, which casts some doubt on the willingness of grads to take them given their student loan burdens.
In all, I’m surprised so little of the decline is attributable to fewer unemployed grads. Instead, it appears that small-law and non-law jobs took much more of the hit. The change in how law-school-funded jobs are tallied distorts these results somewhat, and I look forward to years in which the employment criteria remain constant. At least the categories and statuses (mostly) added up correctly.
Here’s an analytic table I base these opinions on.
|EMPLOYMENT CATEGORY||NO. OF GRADS||GRADS PCT. OF TOTAL||PCT. CHANGE IN GRADS||DISTRIBUTION OF CHANGE IN GRADS||GINI COEFFICIENT|
|Employed – Bar Passage Required||26,794||24,832||62.0%||63.0%||-7.3%||52.0%||0.30||0.32|
|Employed – JD Advantage||5,913||5,420||13.7%||13.7%||-8.3%||13.1%||0.36||0.37|
|Employed – Professional Position||1,787||1,634||4.1%||4.1%||-8.6%||4.1%||0.49||0.53|
|Employed – Non-Professional Position||600||537||1.4%||1.4%||-10.5%||1.7%||0.57||0.54|
|Employed – Law School||1,577||1,037||3.7%||2.6%||-34.2%||14.3%||0.73||0.79|
|Employed – Undeterminable||21||25||0.0%||0.1%||19.0%||-0.1%||0.93||0.94|
|Employed – Pursuing Graduate Degree||693||649||1.6%||1.6%||-6.3%||1.2%||0.44||0.50|
|Unemployed – Start Date Deferred||313||285||0.7%||0.7%||-8.9%||0.7%||0.64||0.63|
|Unemployed – Not Seeking||553||494||1.3%||1.3%||-10.7%||1.6%||0.54||0.57|
|Unemployed – Seeking||4,103||3,744||9.5%||9.5%||-8.7%||9.5%||0.43||0.47|
|Employment Status Unknown||841||766||1.9%||1.9%||-8.9%||2.0%||0.67||0.68|
|Unknown Employer Type||90||206||0.2%||0.5%||128.9%||-3.1%||0.84||0.94|
|Total Employed by Type||36,692||33,485||84.9%||84.9%||-8.7%||85.0%||0.29||0.30|
[UPDATE: As with last year, it appears the ABA took down the employment spreadsheet by late Friday afternoon, making this post … an exclusive. There may be substantial revisions to come.]
At last, something to write about! (And time to do it too!)
On Friday, the ABA updated its Employment Summary Report Web site, which provides employment data for each law school class going back to 2010. Many if not all law schools have uploaded their individual reports, and some intrepid researchers have already dug into them, but I prefer to wait until the easy-to-use spreadsheet comes out. Note: There may be revisions to these data, but this first, preliminary cut gives a good sense of the class of 2015’s employment outcomes. Also, I diligently account for all accredited law schools, so researchers should recognize that Concordia Law School must be inserted manually. Indiana Tech has no data.
39,423 people graduated from 204 ABA-accredited law schools outside of Puerto Rico roughly between September 1, 2014, and August 31, 2015. The employment information is good as of about March 15, 2016.
Here’s the employment status distribution.
Surprisingly, many of the employment status categories’ percentages are identical to last year, even though the absolute numbers have fallen. I almost thought I was looking at the 2014 data by mistake. Notably, the employment status tables added a section for “Employed – Law School/University Funded” jobs. It’s probable that a good chunk of these jobs were classified as “JD Advantage” until now, further clouding the validity of that category.
The display tables appear below the fold to conserve blog space.
I’ve been putting in more overtime at the office, but that gives me a chance to listen to music!
Here’s Peach Kelli Pop, our space explorers:
And Skylar Gudasz covering Big Star:
At the end, if you look carefully you just might see the last gen x American as the camera pans right. I even contributed a whistle.
Gudasz’s original stuff is quite good too.
I’ve updated the site’s most popular attraction, the Lawyers Per Capita by State page, thanks to updated population and lawyer counts. Kudos to the state bars for all reporting attorney numbers on time. Back in 2014, the Census Bureau’s press department honored the page by using its contents in a “Profile America” feature on the ABA’s foundation.
And for fun, here’s a time series chart depicting the saturation of lawyers by Bureau of Economic Analysis region.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) usually completes its updates of its many measures of occupational employment for the previous year by April. Data for 2015 are now available, allowing a comprehensive summary of lawyer employment for the year. For detailed discussion of what the BLS datasets are and how they address lawyer employment, I recommend the lawyer overproduction page [updated!].
For context, according to the Current Population Survey (CPS), the number of people who reported working as lawyers in 2015 grew 2.5 percent to 1,160,000. The employment projections program (EP program) placed the number of lawyer positions at 778,700 in 2014. The discrepancy between these two measures has existed for a long time and has yet to be explained. Although the CPS is considered more reliable, the EP program estimate is appropriate for discussing future lawyer employment. The CPS measures the number of people in an occupation, but the EP program estimates the number of positions in that occupation, including people holding multiple jobs. Both measures include part-time lawyers and self-employed lawyers in all industries.
The CPS also estimated 803,000 people working as lawyers on a wage or salary basis, an implausible 9.0 percent growth from the previous year (+66,000 lawyers). By contrast, the more accurate Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program found that the number of wage-and-salary lawyers grew by 1.1 percent last year to 609,930. The number of employee lawyers in the legal sector grew only a negligible 0.4 percent to 380,180.
Employee lawyers’ incomes were flat in 2015. The OES estimated a scant 0.6 percent median hourly wage growth, although the CPS registered a 4.2 percent median weekly wage increase. Going by the OES, the last peak for lawyers’ earnings was 2009; incomes are about $10,000 lower in real dollars since then. Here is an annualized dispersion.
These lawyer employment measures are not strong bellwethers for the value of legal education because they include many established lawyers and don’t measure recent graduate outcomes particularly well, especially those of graduates who do not promptly start careers in law. Readers are instead advised to look at my criteria for predicting improvements in law graduate outcomes for insight.
…And why it took until the last week of March for the LSAC to put the data up is not known at this time.
20,301 people took the LSAT in February 2016, down a trivial 0.3 percent from last year (20,358).
The four-period moving sum fell an even more trivial 0.1 percent to 105,883 tests. The last time LSATs were this low was … last year (105,940), so I’ll not regale you with what was on the pop charts as in the past.
Rereading December’s tea-leaf-reading post, I said something about how LSATs might be trending downward again after a bump. The February 2016 administration appears to be validating that hypothesis, but at this point only barely so.
Indeed, last year I thought the growth in LSAT’s was generated by people gunning for high-ranking law schools, but the 509 information reports didn’t bear that out, to my surprise. I had a hunch it’ll happen this year because there was such a surge in applications per applicant early off, but as your chief tasseographer, I ask for patience.
Speaking of applicants, I’d chart this year’s crop compared to last year’s, but they look nearly identical, so there’s no benefit. By whatever math you use, there will probably be around 56,000 applicants this year—that’s for all academic terms, not just fall.
Finally, Cornell Law School informs me that it misreported its graduate debt this year. I thank Cornell for its diligence, and the corrected figure now appears on the “debt rankings” post. As with the Idaho, I was unable to rebuild the HTML table as I’ve already deleted the master. Thus, corrections are inline only.