Despite poor, and in some cases declining, bar passage rates in many jurisdictions over the last four years, we’ve seen steady overall improvement in the market for law school graduates, and the Class of 2018 is no exception. All trends are fairly positive, even if small, and even if some of those are driven by shrinking class sizes. Below are figures for the ABA-disclosed data (excluding Puerto Rico’s three law schools).
|Graduates||FTLT BPR||Placement||FTLT JDA|
|Class of 2012||45,751||25,503||55.7%||4,218|
|Class of 2013||46,112||25,787||55.9%||4,550|
|Class of 2014||43,195||25,348||58.7%||4,774|
|Class of 2015||40,205||23,895||59.4%||4,416|
|Class of 2016||36,654||22,874||62.4%||3,948|
|Class of 2017||34,428||23,078||67.0%||3,121|
|Class of 2018||33,633||23,314||69.3%||3,123|
Placement in bar passage-required jobs continued to improve, and graduates shrank. That put placement in full-time, long-term, bar passage-required jobs up to 69.3% (excluding school-funded positions). Unlike recent years, we also saw a small increase in J.D.-advantage position placement.
We can also compare the Class of 2018 to the Class of 2013—a recent high-water mark in total graduates and bar passage-required jobs (even if the percentage placed in those jobs was relatively low). We can look at placement by firm size, and by industry.
|FTLT||Class of 2013||Class of 2018||Net||Delta|
The sharp demise of sole practitioners and small law firm placement is significant. Last year, I noted that placement in these positions might be the most at-risk when bar passage rates decline. Also of note is the decline in “business” jobs, which were typically J.D.-advantage positions and less desirable for graduates. Note, too, the continued rise of big law jobs—up nearly 800 placements since the Class of 2013. There had been some speculation during the recession that those jobs might be disappearing and that alternative positions would be needed for future classes, but this seems to be the healthiest market.
We can also compare the year-over-year placement in these job types, which are perhaps more volatile but still illuminating.
|FTLT||Class of 2017||Class of 2018||Net||Delta|
Even year over year, we saw placement in large firms increase 180 positions, while solo and firms of 10 or fewer attorneys decline by over 220 positions.