Legal job market still tough for law schools graduates

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Nine months after graduation, area law schools — with the exception of the University of Pennsylvania Law School — were lucky if more than half of their graduating classes had found full-time, long-term employment that required bar passage, according to data recently released by the American Bar Association.

Those numbers were more or less in line with the national average.

As Legal Intelligencer affiliate The National Law Journal reported, only 57 percent of 2013 graduates nationwide were able to obtain long-term, full-time jobs that required bar passage.

The single outlier among area schools was Penn Law, which ranked fourth nationally in that metric.

Of Penn Law’s 259 graduates, 222, or 85.7 percent, were able to secure full-time, long-term jobs that required bar passage and were not funded by the school itself, according to the ABA.

To put it in perspective, the next closest local school in that category, Rutgers School of Law-Camden, saw 175, or about 63 percent, of its 276 graduates gain similar employment.

Penn Law also ranked third nationally in the percentage of its 2013 graduates who got jobs at law firms with more than 100 lawyers. According to the ABA data, 155, or 59.8 percent, of Penn’s graduates were able to do so.

Among area law schools, Villanova University School of Law ranked a distant second behind Penn, with 30, or 12.5 percent, of its 240 graduates joining firms of 100 lawyers or more.

Also of note, Penn Law was the only Pennsylvania law school that had the majority of its graduates find jobs outside the state.

Only 36, or 13.9 percent of its 2013 graduates, got jobs in Pennsylvania, while 104, or 40 percent, got jobs in New York and 37, or 14.2 percent, got jobs in Washington, D.C.

Mariel Staszewski, Penn Law’s director of career services, attributed the school’s success in a difficult economic climate to its focus not only on traditional classroom instruction, but also on providing its students with practical experience and opportunities to be competitive in the job market.

“Employers have been really receptive to this strategy,” Ms. Staszewski said.

Penn Law also ranked in the top 10 of law schools nationwide in terms of the number of its graduates who obtained federal clerkships, with 24, or 9.3 percent, of its graduates doing so.

The closest area law school to Penn Law in that category was Villanova, which saw four, or 2.9 percent, of its graduates go on to federal clerkships.

When it came to state clerkships, Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law outperformed every other area school and ranked 19th nationwide, with 24, or 12 percent, of its 200 graduates going on to clerk for state judges.

Neil B. Sirota, Penn State Law’s assistant dean of career services, said the school’s faculty and staff are “big believers” in the extra year of legal training clerkships offer law school graduates.

Mr. Sirota said the school’s litigation-oriented curriculum allows its students to be “uniquely prepared” for those positions.

Job placement

With the exception of Penn Law, Rutgers-Camden and Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, area law schools all fell within the 45 percent to 55 percent range in terms of 2013 graduates who went on to full-time, long-term employment that required bar passage and was not funded by the school itself.

Temple was the third-best area law school in terms of job placement, with 175, or 59.3 percent, of its 295 graduates finding full-time, long-term employment not funded by the school.

Penn State had the lowest job placement percentage among area law schools in that category, with 94, or 47 percent, of its 200 graduates securing full-time, long-term employment.

Mr. Sirota said that, while the job market has been challenging, he’s optimistic that it will turn around sooner rather than later. “We’re definitely seeing improvement as the economy improves. It just takes a little time.”

Widener University School of Law-Delaware saw 132, or 47.3 percent, of its 279 graduates find full-time, long-term work.

Drexel University School of Law saw 69, or 50 percent, of its 138 graduates move on to full-time, long-term positions.

Duquesne University School of Law saw 108, or 52.6 percent, of its 205 graduates obtain full-time, long-term employment.

About 56 percent of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law’s 242 graduates went on to full-time, long-term jobs, while 54.5 percent of Widener University School of Law-Harrisburg’s 121 graduates and about 53.8 percent of Villanova’s 240 graduates did the same.

In terms of job placement with large law firms, Temple and Pitt ranked close behind Penn Law and Villanova among area law schools with about 11 percent and 9.5 percent of their graduates, respectively, joining 100-plus-lawyer firms.

Duquesne and Drexel, meanwhile, each saw about 8 percent of their 2013 graduating classes go on to 100-plus-lawyer firms.

Rutgers-Camden saw 6.5 percent of its graduates join firms with more than 100 lawyers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the two Central Pennsylvania universities had among the lowest percentages of graduates to go on to large law firms.

Only eight, or 4 percent, of Penn State’s 200 graduates went on to firms with more than 100 lawyers, while four, or 3.3 percent, of Widener-Harrisburg’s graduates joined 100-plus-attorney firms.

Widener-Delaware saw only 10, or 3.6 percent, of its 279 graduates go on to 100-plus-lawyer firms.

Widener-Harrisburg did, however, have the highest percentage of graduates among area law schools to go on to government or public interest jobs. Nearly 20 percent of the law school’s 121 graduates went on to such work.

The next-closest area law schools were Drexel and Temple, which saw 11.6 percent and 11.5 percent of their graduating classes, respectively, go on to government or public interest work.

Rutgers-Camden had the lowest percentage among area law schools, with only 13, or 4.7 percent, of its 276 graduates taking government or public interest positions.

Unemployment rates

Compared to law schools across the country, the percentage of graduates actively seeking employment who still hadn’t found any work nine months after graduation was relatively low at most area law schools, with the exception of Villanova, which saw 51, or 21.3 percent, of its 240 graduates still unemployed and ranked 17th nationally in that category.

On the other end of the spectrum, only four, or 1.5 percent, of Penn’s 259 graduates were still unemployed nine months after graduation.

The rest of the area law schools fell somewhere between those two extremes.

About 19.5 percent of Penn State’s 200 graduates had yet to find work, placing it just outside the range of the 20 law schools with the highest unemployment rates nationwide.

About 15 percent of Pitt’s 242 graduates were still unemployed, while 11.5 percent of Drexel’s graduates had yet to find employment.

About 11 percent of Duquesne’s 2013 graduating class and 9.1 percent of Temple’s graduating class had not landed a job nine months out.

Aside from Penn Law, the lowest unemployment rate was at Widener-Harrisburg, with only 6.6 percent of its graduates failing to find work.

Zack Needles can be contacted at 215-557-2493 or Follow him on Twitter @ZNeedlesTLI.

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