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Class Of 2011 Legal Employment And Underemployment Numbers Are In And Far Worse Than Expected

By Kyle McEntee and Patrick J. Lynch
June 15, 2012

LST's Press Release:

Mister Hart, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer.
– Kingsfield, The Paper Chase

The ABA has released Class of 2011 job outcome data for all domestic ABA-approved law schools. The data are far more granular than ever before. Law School Transparency has analyzed the data and made the school-specific data available on its website for easy comparison.

The ABA data shed considerable light on how poorly the 2011 graduates fared. We can now say with certainty that the employment picture is far worse than previously reported. Only 55.2% of all graduates were known to be employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs. A devastating 26.4% of all graduates were underemployed.

According to the ABA data from 195 law schools:

Full-time, Long-Term Legal Jobs:

  • These jobs require bar passage or are judicial clerkships and are for at least 35 hours per week and have an expected duration of at least one year.
  • The national full-time, long-term legal rate is 55.2%.
  • At 73 law schools (37.1%), less than 50% of graduates had these legal jobs.
    • 30 schools (15.2%) had less than 40%
    • 10 schools (5.1%) had less than a 33%
  • 89 schools (45.2%) exceeded the national rate of 55.2%.
    • 31 schools (15.7%) had more than 67%
    • 19 schools (9.6%) had more than 75%
    • 5 schools (2.5%) had more than 90%


  • We define a graduate as underemployed when he or she is "Unemployed – Seeking", pursuing an additional advanced degree, in a non-professional job, or employed in a short-term or part-time job.
  • The national underemployment rate is 26.4%.
  • 180 schools (91.4%) reported a rate greater than 10%.
    • 144 schools (73.1%) had more than 20%
    • 109 schools (55.3%) had more than 25%
    • 57 schools (28.9%) had more than 33%
    • 20 schools (10.2%) had more than 40%

Large Firms (at least 101 attorneys):

  • 10.7% of graduates were employed at large firms in full-time, long-term positions
    • Graduates seek these jobs in part because they're the jobs that tend to pay the highest salaries.
  • At only 45 schools (22.8%) were more than 10% in these jobs.
    • 20 schools (10.2%) had more than 20%
    • 15 schools (5.6%) had more than 33%
    • Only 3 schools were over 50% – Columbia, Northwestern, and Penn.

Law School Transparency's founder, Kyle McEntee, urged caution to students planning to enroll this fall. McEntee said, "Law school still costs way too much money compared to post-graduation employment outcomes. If you plan to debt-finance your education or use your hard-earned savings, seriously think twice about attending a law school without a steep discount. For the vast majority of prospective law students who have not received an extensive scholarship, it will make sense to wait for prices to drop."

There has been some speculation that the class of 2011 may represent the bottom, though this view is grounded more in optimism than evidence. Rather, evidence points to a structural shift in legal employment, especially at the entry-level, that signals a new normal far below pre-recession levels. Technology, globalization, and law firm strategies are substantially changing our profession.

To view every ABA-approved law school's profile, visit

To view comparison charts, visit

Established in 2009, Law School Transparency is a nonprofit legal education policy organization. Our mission is to improve consumer information and to usher in consumer-oriented reforms to the current law school model. We operate independently of any legal institutions, legal employers, or academic reports related to the legal market.