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Last week NALP released its annual report on the job market for recent graduates. The report covered the class of 2009 and while many of the numbers were much better than expected, the numbers continue to show a weak job market for the legal industry, particularly for recent graduates.
On the positive side, 88.3% of the class of 2009 report being employed. While this is down from a high of 91.9% in 2007, it's still a healthier number than most had anticipated in a year when the legal jub market took a real beating.
Unfortunately, that number hides within itself some more troubling statistics. A large percentage of the jobs held by recent graduates are temporary. Many of these are public interest jobs or academic jobs. Law schools, concerned about their standing as reflected in the percentage of graduates who find legal jobs, have increased the number of on campus academia jobs - some of which are part time positions. Between 3,200 and 3,700 first year associates who graduated in 2009 had their starting date with large firms pushed back into 2010. Those associates, while reported as employed, didn't actually start work until recently - if at all.
Also reported as employed are sole practitioners, whose numbers increased last year.
Perhaps more worrisome is the decline in actual legal employment, with the percentage of jobs that require a JD dropping by 4 percent to 70.8%
It would be nice to view this as a temporary bump in the road to economic recovery, but 2010 isn't shaping up to be any better. As we head into summer associate season, law firms across the board are reporting smaller class sizes. This may prove to be a boon for those selected as summer associates, if it translates into a return to a high percentage of them receiving permanent offers. However with class sizes increasing and new law schools opening, shrinking summer programs do not point to a happy place overall.
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