Law Graduates Finding More Jobs at Big Firms, Study Finds

More U.S. law school graduates are finding jobs at large firms even as legal hiring remains well below pre-recession highs, the National Association for Law Placement said in a report.

The number of jobs taken at firms with more than 500 lawyers rose 27 percent for the class of 2012 over the previous year’s levels, according to the study. The number of jobs, more than 3,600, is still less than the more than 5,000 jobs filled in 2009. Offers from the smallest firms, those with less than 10 lawyers, remained unchanged as percentage of total hiring, according to the study.

“The jobs picture is improving, if only slightly,” NALP Executive Director James Leipold said in a statement. “This class found more jobs -- and more jobs in private practice -- than the previous class, but because the national graduating class was so much bigger, the overall employment rate continued to fall.”

Employment for graduates fell to 84.7 percent from 85.6 the previous year, the fifth year in a row it has declined since 2008, according to the study. The employment rate is the lowest since 1994, the NALP said. The employment rate has fallen more than seven percentage points since reaching a 24-year high of 91.9 percent in 2007, according to the report.

The class of 2011 “represented the absolute bottom of the curve on the jobs front,” Leipold said in the statement. “The results for the class of 2012 bear that out, showing as they do, a number of improving markers.”

The national median salary for the new law firm hires rose to $90,000 from $85,000 the previous year. Salaries of about $160,000 accounted for 29 percent of law firm pay, according to the report.

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