Bad News for the Law School Class of 2010: No Jobs Until 2012

Bad news from NALP. They told U.S. News & World Report that the legal job market for new JDs isn’t expected to pick up in the next two years. In fact, the employment statistics for this year’s graduating law school class are meant to be even lower than last year.

In other words, the Class of 2009 had it easy. About 88 percent of grads were employed within nine months after graduation. As Vault law editor Vera Djordjevich said regarding NALP’s 2009 numbers: “It’s worth noting that this percentage is still higher than that for each of the years following the last recession: 1991 (85.9%), 1992 (83.5%), 1993 (83.4%), 1994 (84.7%) and 1995 (86.7%). Looked at in a certain way, law graduates were downright spoiled for the last 10 years.”

“On the other hand,” Djordjevich continues, “Remember that many of these 2009 grads were hired out of summer programs in 2008, before the worst of the recession hit. That means that statistics for 2010 and 2011 grads (who would have been summer associates in 2009 and 2010) are likely to be much worse. We’ll see more of the effects of reduced summer programs, deferred start dates and smaller entry-level classes.” And it seems NALP has confirmed her prognosis.

“The Class of 2012 will be the first class for which we might see some kind of uptick in employment,” Jim Leipold, NALP’s executive director, told U.S. News. “I’m not making a prediction that it will recover in 2012; I’m saying it probably won’t recover much before then.”

Everyone agrees that a summer associate position is pretty crucial to securing a job after graduation. Only 3 percent of law firms say they recruit third-year students who hadn’t had an associate position. Add to that Leipold’s news that almost 25 percent of law firms have cancelled their summer programs, and you have a problem. The number of students without summer associate experience is getting bigger, and the number of law firms hiring students without summer associate experience is getting smaller.
Though there was some good news from NALP and the Bureau of Labor Statistics this spring–the legal sector gained 300 jobs in May–it really only applies to more experienced lawyers. New JDs will have to wait a little longer for their job prospects to return to “normal.”

This post is authored by Carolyn C. Wise,’s Senior Education Editor. She oversees the production of 10 annual guides covering undergraduate and graduate admissions, top internships, and career advice compilations for entry-level law and MBA job seekers. Her team is responsible for all educational content on, including law school profiles, admissions advice, LSAT prep and law school industry trends articles. Carolyn reminds students that, “studying is important, but it isn’t everything. Volunteer, or join a club or sports team. This will make you happier overall—and more attractive to potential employers.�?

To hear more on this topic, and to hear directly from Jim Leipold at NALP, check out Law School Podcaster’s full show, The Current Economic Environment.