Often, prospective law students will say, "I'd like to do X." X, being one of many things. I usually don't know how to answer, except sometimes to say that it can be pretty rare or difficult, or that their expectations may change in law school.
But I wondered, how many people each year who get a J.D. do end up doing X? Numbers might be useful.
So, I developed a series of categories (or, sometimes, dreams) about what a person who goes to law school may want to do.
These are, emphatically, not a student's "chances" at getting a job, except in the very loosest, perhaps Rawlsian, sense: if you were to be a law student behind the "veil of ignorance," here are roughly the odds you'd end up with one of these positions. But law school quality, law school performance, and a variety of other factors will dramatically increase or decrease one's odds--because we are not behind a "veil of ignorance." Instead, they are better understood as aggregate totals for these positions, and percentages as a total of one year's graduating law students (in 2013, it was 46,116 graduates, which is the denominator for the percentages). Additionally, still worse for one's "odds" in a category: many of these categories overlap. One may conclude that the "market" might bear a different number of these jobs if the "right" people sought them out (e.g., more J.D.'s would be elected to Congress simply if more ran)--which is, I suppose, a possible outcome, too, but one that is not entirely useful as a metric of evaluating existing totals.
But if someone says, "I want to do X," here are the numbers for how many people with a J.D. got to do X last year.
Get a "real law job" after graduating: 31,220 (67.7%)
Obtain a "successful start to a legal career" after graduating: 25,611 (55.5%)
(via ABA Employment Summary Reports, data for 2013 graduates, using the LST Score Reports definition of "successful start to a legal career," full-time, long-term, bar passage-required jobs excluding solo practitioners)
Work in "big law" after graduating: 6036 (13.1%)
(via ABA Employment Summary reports, data for 2013 graduates in full-time, long-term positions at law firms with at least 101 lawyers; totals may include non-bar passage-required positions; totals exclude clerks)
Clerk for a judge after graduating: 3325 (7.2%)
(via ABA Employment Summary Reports, data for 2013 graduates clerking full-time, long-term for federal, state, local, or other judges; totals do not include clerks with work experience)
Summer at a Vault 25 law firm: 2294 (5.0%)
(via NALP Directory, data for 2013 summer associates, using 2014 Vault rankings; NALP included data for 22 of 25 Vault firms, data from other three firms estimated from Chambers and Above the Law; total likely overstated slightly because it does not account for split-summers; offer rate at these firms was reported at around 98%)
Clerk for a federal judge after graduating: 1259 (2.7%)
(via ABA Employment Summary Reports, data for 2013 graduates clerking full-time, long-term for all "federal" judges, broadly defined; totals do not include clerks with work experience)
Work in a foreign country after graduating: 436 (0.95%)
(via ABA Employment Summary Reports, data for 2013 graduates obtaining a J.D. employed in a foreign country)
Teach at a law school: 127 (0.28%)
(via PrawfsBlawg, among AALS-affiliated law schools with tenure-track positions for positions beginning in 2013; preliminary totals for 2014 show around 73 positions, or 0.15%)
Teach at a law school, without obtaining an advanced degree: 58 (0.13%)
(via PrawfsBlawg, among AALS-affiliated law schools with tenure-track positions for positions beginning in 2013; preliminary totals for 2014 show around 36 positions, or 0.078%)
Become a federal judge: 55 (0.12%)
(via Wikipedia, list of federal judges confirmed by the Senate between May 1, 2013 April 30, 2014)
Clerk for the Supreme Court: 39 (0.085%)
(via Above the Law, list of clerks for October Term 2013)
Get elected to Congress: 22 (0.048%)
(via Wikipedia, 13 freshmen members of the Senate and 31 freshmen members of the House in the 113th Congress had law degrees; divided in half as elections occur every two years)