Entry-Level Legal Job Market Shrank in 2017

The American Bar Association released its employment data for the 2017 law school graduating class April 20, and there’s both good and bad news.

The good news is that the percentage of graduates who found jobs requiring bar passage or offer an advantage to J.D. holders has gone up. Within roughly 10 months after graduating, 75.3 percent of 2017 graduates found such jobs. In 2016, only 72.6 percent of graduates found similar full-time work.

The bad news is that those numbers are higher because the 2017 graduating class was six percent smaller than the year before. 34,432 students graduated from ABA-accredited schools in 2017, whereas 35,749 did in 2016.

This means the actual number of full-time jobs for recent law school grads decreased by 630, going from 26,923 in 2016 to 26,293 in 2017, according to the ABA.

Big Law Business previously reported on the growth of so-called J.D. advantage jobs, which are jobs that don’t require a law degree or bar passage but for which having a legal education is seen as an advantage. These jobs can vary greatly, from management consulting to journalism to paralegal work.

It doesn’t look like these jobs are poised to take over the legal job market, however.

From 2016 to 2017, the percentage of law school graduates taking J.D. advantage jobs dropped from 14.1 percent to 11.8 percent, according to the ABA.

The percentage of graduates taking jobs that require bar passage increased from 64.5 percent to 68.7 percent.

The ABA’s complete list and breakdown of 2017 law school employment outcomes can be found here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Russell-Kraft at srussellkraft@gmail.com.

To contact the editor on this story: Casey Sullivan at csullivan@bloomberglaw.com.