By Karen Sloan for Reuters
Employment rates for the law class of 2021 rebounded from the pandemic-induced slump that hit the previous class, ending up stronger than they were two years ago.
Nearly 76% of last year’s new juris doctors found jobs that require bar passage within 10 months of leaving campus — up from 72% among the class of 2020, according to figures released Monday by the American Bar Association. And 83% of 2021 law grads had either full-time, long-term jobs that require passing the bar or jobs for which a J.D. is an advantage, up from 77% the previous year.
“The higher percentage of graduates in the Bar Passage Required or J.D. Advantage jobs likely reflects a modest increase in the number of jobs nationwide, perhaps due to the legal market’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic,” said Bill Adams, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education.
Those employment gains are particularly notable because there were 1,292 more J.D. graduates competing for jobs in 2021 than in 2020, Adams said. The total number of jobs requiring bar passage or benefiting from a J.D. that were secured by last year’s law graduates grew by nearly 3,000 — an 11% increase over 2020.
Employment rate gains in previous years were largely fueled by a declining number of law graduates looking for work — a trend that began to reverse in 2020. But 2021 brought increases in both graduates and legal jobs, which is a positive sign for the legal academy and the legal industry.
Employment outcomes for the class of 2021 were even better than the pre-pandemic J.D. class of 2019, of which nearly 74% landed jobs that require passing the bar and nearly 81% took full-time bar passage or J.D. advantage jobs.
Similarly, the percentage of 2021 law grads who were unemployed and looking for work 10 months after graduation fell to 5% from more than 8% in 2020, the data show.
Slightly more than half of the class of 2021 took jobs at law firms, while 10% each went into government jobs, the business and industry sector, and clerkships. Nearly 8% of recent graduates took public interest jobs.
The gains in entry-level legal hiring mirror the legal sector’s larger jobs recovery. The number of legal services jobs nationwide eclipsed its pre-pandemic peak in October 2021, and has continued to grow each month since then, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.