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Study: More law grads struggling

When the National Association for Legal Placement released disappointing law school graduate job placement figures in early June, Executive Director James Leipold said he expected more bad news to come.

This proved to be true with NALP’s release of starting salaries for 2010 law school graduates. According to the report, median starting salaries fell 13 percent, mean salaries fell 10 percent and beginning private practice salaries fell by 20 percent.

Leipold said the numbers weren’t actually due to a drop in starting pay, however.

“Aggregate starting salaries fell because graduates found fewer jobs with the high-paying large law firms and many more jobs with the smallest law firms, those that pay the lowest starting salaries,” he said. “No single legal employment sector really saw its starting salary change very much from the previous year.”

NALP figures are based on information submitted by 192 ABA accredited law schools. The Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit career planning and development firm has been gathering employment and salary data for law school graduates since 1971.

“We have been watching this market deteriorate for several years now, but even I was surprised to see that the percentage of graduates employed in a full-time job requiring bar passage had dropped to 64 percent,” Leipold said of NALP’s studies. “In this market far more graduates are stringing together several part-time or temporary jobs to approximate a full-time equivalency for themselves.”

Establishing a solo practice right out of law school, utilizing entrepreneurial skills and taking a temporary position are much more common ways for graduates to cope with the job market and lower salaries, Leipold said.

In a June report, the economic and employment data consulting firm Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. found New York has the highest oversupply of lawyers. It found the state will need approximately 2,100 new lawyers a year until 2015. However, 9,787 attorneys passed the New York Bar in 2009 and even though not all of those graduates will practice in New York, there is still going to be a heavy surplus of attorneys for years to come.

Nationally, Economic Modeling Specialists found nearly twice as many passed the bar exam (53,508) in 2009 than attorney job openings (26,239).

The study findings may be found at

The nation’s largest legal placement site,, tried to put a more positive spin on the bad news for law school grads.

“Going solo is not the only option,” said LawCrossing CEO A. Harrison Barnes. “We have been able to gather thousands of openings from smaller and mid-sized firms.”

The latest NALP study found 53 percent of the law firm jobs taken by 2010 graduates nationwide were in firms consisting of 50 attorneys or less.

The starting salary study results may be found at