As you evaluate employment data, it is important to know something about how and when a variety of legal employers recruit, because there are distinct differences in the timing of recruitment among these employers. Law schools whose graduates are hired in greater numbers by large law firms will be advantaged in terms of employment statistics at graduation and at 10-months-out because of the way in which large firms recruit. Other types of legal employers recruit differently and typically later. Law schools that have a greater number of students going into smaller firms and the public sector will typically not show as many graduates employed at graduation and ten-months-out because of the recruitment timing practiced by these types of employers as explained below.
Large Law Firms (may be defined as 101+ attorneys firm-wide): These firms recruit the majority of their entry-level attorneys through “summer associate” programs. Firms will hire a certain number of second-year law students to work for them over a student’s second summer in law school. If the summer associate performs well, then a permanent job offer may be extended at the end of that summer. If the student accepts the offer, he or she would start work at the firm following graduation and after sitting for the bar examination. Because of the size of their firms, large law firms typically have had the ability to project two years in advance approximately how many attorneys they will need to recruit in a given year. This recruitment pattern is not typical for most other legal employers. The majority of legal employers recruit closer in time to when they can better project their need and hiring budget. Large law firms hire most heavily from top 50 law schools and place great emphasis on a student’s class rank. NALP reported that out of the 44,637 Class of 2013 law graduates nationwide, only 4,000 graduates (9%) obtained large firm (500+ attorneys) entry-level jobs. Read more
Mid-Sized and Small Law Firms: The majority of attorneys in the United States work in small or mid-sized firms. Though there are some exceptions, most small and mid-sized law firms do not have summer associate programs and often do not extend permanent post-graduate attorney job offers before a student’s graduation. Smaller firms hire when they have a need or when they are closer in time to an anticipated recruitment so that they can better assess their growth trajectory. Some small firms hiring associates may require that a recent graduate be admitted to the bar before applying for an attorney position or may hire a post-bar law clerk with a permanent attorney offer contingent upon bar passage.
Government Agencies (federal, state and local): Government recruitment timelines vary depending on the type of position. A “JD Advantage” position will not require that an applicant obtain a bar license before applying, so a recent graduate would be able to apply sooner for that type of position. For many government attorney positions, however, a graduate must wait until obtaining a bar license before applying. For example, in some cases, a graduate from the Class of 2015 would not be able to apply for open deputy district attorney positions until after receiving positive bar results in November of 2015.
Public Interest/Non-Profit Employers: Similar to government employers, most public interest employers do not give permanent job offers until candidates have obtained their bar licenses, and will typically expect that sincere candidates will demonstrate their commitment to the organization by volunteering before obtaining their bar licenses.