Good news for legal employment outcomes for the Class of 2017

UPDATE: This entire chart may need to be redone because the ABA's data confusingly differs from the individual forms and its overall spreadsheet--funded positions were originally included in top-line figures. These figures have been changed. My apologies.

The American Bar Association released its comprehensive employment statistics for the Class of 2017, a few weeks ahead of last year's pace (a laudable improvement). Here are some top-line figures (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

The statistics reveal some fairly remarkable figures. Law schools have shed 12,000 graduates in four years. The result? A placement rate in unfunded full-time, long-term, bar passage-required positions has risen from about 56% to 67%.

Year over year, raw placement in those jobs improved slightly, too, with about 200 new placements in those jobs. Some improvement in bar passage rates (whether better test-takers or lower cut scores) surely can't hurt.

Significantly, placement in J.D.-advantage jobs has dropped fairly sharply in the last couple of years. For years, the versatility and flexibility of J.D. has been a common point of defense among law schools, not without some controversy. But those positions--which not only highlight the versatility of the J.D., but aren't contingent on passing the bar--have been declining, too. That said, if schools are able to place more graduates in bar passage-required positions, all the better for them.

I've continued to wonder whether the ABA's decision to change the reporting deadlines from 9 to 10 months after graduation has improved the reporting situation for schools--but, we lack any data about the impact of such changes.

In short, we have some good news for law schools. Placement has topped 2/3 in bar passage required jobs, and those positions have seen a modest improvement. I'll dig into some more industry-specific figures in the near future.