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Job Market for New Lawyers On Fire: NALP

Newly minted lawyers are enjoying some of the most favorable employment conditions on record, according to fresh data from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).

The data comes courtesy of the “Employment for the Class of 2021—Selected Findings” report, which includes key observations pertaining to legal grads heading into the workforce.

Per the selected findings, overall employment was up for 2021 graduates by 3.5 percentage points and totals nearly 92%. This bests the 88.4% for the Class of 2020, according to NALP. Further, the median salary for the 2021 cohort sits at an all-time high of $80,000, which is up 6.7% when compared to the median salary of $75,000 for the previous year’s class.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2021 median pay for all lawyers was $127,990 at a rate of $61.54 per hour. Comparatively, the general median wage across the U.S. was $45,760 as reported in May of 2021.

“Driven by extraordinary demand for talent at the largest law firms, a healthy private practice market propelled strong, and in some cases record-setting employment and salary outcomes for this class,” said NALP Executive Director James G. Leipold. He also expects that momentum to carry over for this year’s class as well as the 2023 cohort as a result of aggressive summertime associate recruiting and comparatively flat graduating classes.

The data suggests the size of the upcoming Class of 2024 is expected to be “considerably larger” than the preceding six classes. Leipold said enrollment for that class was up more than 4,500 first-year students to 42,718 enrollees. “Combined, these factors suggest that some of the record employment and salary figures measured for the Class of 2021 will come to be seen as somewhere near the top of a curve that will inevitably trend lower for a period of time, a downward curve that will almost certainly be in place by 2024 if not before,” Leipold said.

From Twitter

PLP 2022.08.10Mary Kaylor, SHRM-CP @MKaylorTweets

"What can employers in the legal field do to keep top candidates engaged in the #hiring process and more likely to accept a job offer? See this post for a list of recommendations from some of the leading legal recruiting specialists at Robert Half. https://bit.ly/3zLWpOg"

Additional findings provided in the report are below.

  • With respect to employed graduates coming out of the Class of 2021, only 8.6% of them sought a different job; this represents a historic low.
  • Outside of 2020, this percentage has steadily dropped after hitting a record-setting 24.6% in 2011.
  • The Class of 2021 was unique in that it was the first to report the percentage of jobs accepted in the nation’s largest firms exceeded that of those taken in the nation’s smallest firms.
  • The percentage of jobs taken in solo practice hit an all-time low at 1.2% of law firm jobs.

The release of a full “Jobs & JDs report” is expected to be released in October, notes the NALP.

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