How Lawyers Hire

The challenges new lawyers face when seeking employment today are well documented. In 2015, just 60% of graduating students found employment as lawyers, with another 11% finding law-related positions. Nearly 25% of graduates did not find any employment—including professional and non-professional jobs.(2) Students seem to have better employment outcomes when they can demonstrate achievement on traditional metrics: perceived prestige of law school attended, class rank, and law review experience. Evidence of this is especially pronounced when we examine employment outcomes for students based on the law school attended. The top ten schools for employment rates(3) also occupy spots near the top of the rankings published by U.S. News & World Report,(4) which dominates law school rankings.

Top Ten Schools by Employment Rates (U.S. News & World Report Ranking)

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Meanwhile, employers, including those hiring top students with law review experience from top schools, are dissatisfied with the preparation of new lawyers. In one survey, 95% of hiring partners and associates said they believe new lawyers lack key practical skills at the time of hiring.(5) In another, only 23% of practitioners said they believe new lawyers have sufficient skills to practice.(6) Bar organizations across the country have publicly grappled with the skills gap, including the American Bar Association.(7) Meanwhile, the media have reported countess stories with the same basic punchline: “What they taught us at this law firm is how to be a lawyer. . . . What they taught us at law school is how to graduate from law school.”(8)

This perceived skills gap may suggest that law schools are, in fact, falling short when preparing their students for practice. It may also suggest that legal employers are falling short when it comes to developing hiring practices that result in good hires. It is likely a combination of these problems, both of which the Foundations for Practice project seeks to address.

Endnotes:

2.  These numbers reflect long-term/full-time employment outcomes for 2015 graduates 10 months after graduation. The American Bar Association defines a “professional position” as “one that requires professional skills or training but for which a JD is neither required nor a demonstrable advantage,” and it defines a “non-professional” position as one that “does not require any special professional skills or training.” AM. BAR ASS'N SECTION OF LEGAL ED. – EMPLOYMENT SUMMARY REPORT, http://employmentsummary.abaquestionnaire.org/ (for numbers, select 2015 class under “Compilation-All Schools Data”; for definitions, select “2015 Questionnaire Definitions &Instructions”).

3.  These rankings are based on positions that are full-time, long-term, and require bar passage.

4.  U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, BEST GRAD SCHOOLS 2016 EDITION 100 (2015).

5.  LEXIS NEXIS, HIRING PARTNERS REVEAL NEW ATTORNEY READINESS FOR REAL WORLD PRACTICE 1 (2015), available at https://www.lexisnexis.com/documents/pdf/20150325064926_large.pdf.

6.  THE BARBRI GROUP, STATE OF THE LEGAL FIELD SURVEY 6 (2015), available at http://www.thebarbrigroup.com/files/whitepapers/220173_bar_research-summary_1502_v09.pdf.

7.  AM. BAR ASS'N TASK FORCE ON THE FUTURE OF LEGAL ED., REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS (2014), available at http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/report_and_recommendations_of_aba_task_force.authcheckdam.pdf.

8.  David Segal, What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 20, 2011, at A1, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/business/after-law-school-associates-learn-to-be-lawyers.html.