Sep 01, 2015

Industry Highlight: Legal Services Index

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the legal sector added 200 jobs in July 2015, continuing a trend of modest and intermittent growth over 2015. Over the past four months, the number of legal jobs has remained relatively flat, with overall headcount fluctuating between 1,122,000 and 1,122,500. But since the start of 2015, the industry has added 4,200 jobs and currently employs 35,000 more people than the previous year.

Employment in the overall business and professional services sector, which includes legal services, gained 40,000 jobs in July 2015.

Employment in Legal Services

Employment in Legal Services

Source: BLS

Employment for New Law Grads

According to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), which tracks job outcomes for law students, people who graduated from law school in 2014 were slightly more likely to be employed than the classes before. This is the first time that the job rate for new law grads has trended upward since 2007.

Employment Rate of Graduating Law School Classes

Employment Rate of Graduating Law School Classes

Source: NALP

According to some people at the American Bar Association (ABA), law schools are skewing job results. The Wall Street Journal reported that the job market for law grads has been problematic for years, and some schools are spending their own money to pay their students a salary when they graduate in order to salvage the careers of their grads and bolster their own numbers. Emory Law paid for 23 percent of all full-time, permanent legal positions its graduates obtained in 2014, according to ABA figures. The University of Southern California paid salaries for 18 percent of graduates who obtained long-term legal jobs. The NALP says that most school-funded positions pay between $12,000 and $29,000 per year.

The NALP reports that the employment rate is down to 86.7 percent for 2014 graduates, compared with almost 92 percent for the class of 2007. Salaries have remained flat in almost every category. The national median salary for full-time jobs lasting at least one year was $63,000 in 2014, up slightly from $62,467 from the previous year. At law firms, the national median salary was $95,000 while in government, the national median salary was $52,700.

Law school enrollment has declined over the past few years. According to the Law School Admission Council, the number of law school applicants dropped 36.6 percent over the past four years. The ABA reported that 2,709 fewer students graduated with law degrees in 2014 compared to 2013. The class of 2017 is about 30 percent smaller than the class of 2013. 

“It’s the survival of the fittest, it’s a bloody arena. Law schools are battling for a diminishing number of students.” ~James Leipold, Executive Director at NALP