National Jobs Trends
Schools enroll many more students than full-time legal jobs
At the height of the entry-level market in 2007, there were fewer than 30,000 full-time legal jobs taken by law school graduates. Still, law schools enrolled over 49,000 new students that year. The ratio of new students to new lawyers was over 1.6:1, and would increase to over 2:1 in 2010. In 2011, the ratio decreased below 2:1 again because schools enrolled fewer students. However, beginning in 2011 law schools began paying graduates to work jobs that are captured by the full-time legal job category. Discounting these jobs and law schools for the second year in a row enrolled about twice as many students as legal jobs.
The ratio has improved over the past three years as law school enrollment has fallen. The ratio for last three years is less than the ratio in 2007 each year. Even after discounting for school-funded jobs, the ratio was about a shade less than 1.5:1 in the two most recent years.
Jobs with large law firms (101+ attorneys) pay the highest salaries, which is increasingly important for servicing even below average debt levels. The biglaw peak in 2008 declined by 44% within three years, to its low in 2011. Now, the ratio of new students to new biglaw lawyers is about 6.2:1. Hiring at the largest firms has certainly improved since the 2011 bottom, although part of the improvement is attributable to an increase in non-associate jobs at firms, e.g. staff attorney. Hiring at these firms has been remarkably flat over the past three years, but these jobs are increasingly spread among fewer and fewer schools.