Total students starting law school, whether they start in the winter, spring, summer, or fall, or attend class part time or full time.
Job Characteristics Matrix
The job type, employer type, and school-funded job traunches are divisible into a four-part matrix.
Long Term (LT) Short Term (ST) Full Time (FT) Part Time (PT)
These jobs either have a fixed duration of at least one year or have no definite duration. Sometimes abbreviated as LT. A typical long-term job involves an employer hiring the graduate with no expectation or indication of how long the employer will employ the graduate.
These jobs have a fixed duration less than one year. Sometimes abbreviated as ST. A three-month contract attorney job is classified as short term.
These jobs are at least 35 hours per week. Sometimes abbreviated as FT.
These jobs are fewer than 35 hours per week. Sometimes abbreviated as PT.
Job Traunch: Job Type
Categorizes employed graduates by the type of jobs worked, relative to the career path, as opposed to the type of employer.
Bar Passage Required
Includes jobs as an attorneys or as judicial clerks. Except for clerks, these jobs anticipate or require that you pass the bar and be licensed to practice law. This category sweeps judicial clerks into the fray, whether or not they took or passed the bar.
Includes jobs as paralegals, law school admissions officers, and a host of other jobs such as consultants, bank examiners, and contracts administrators. A graduate falls into this category when the employer sought an individual with a J.D. (and perhaps even required a J.D.), or for which the J.D. provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but the job itself does not require bar passage, an active law license, or involve practicing law.
Includes jobs which require professional skills or training, but for which a J.D. is neither an advantage nor particularly applicable, such as an accountant, teacher, business manager, or nurse.
Includes jobs that do not require any professional skills or training and is not viewed as part of a career path.
Includes jobs that are financed, directly or indirectly, by the graduate's school or university.
The job type for these graduates were not reported to the ABA.
Job Traunch: Employer Type
Categorizes employed graduates through classifications that reflect the type of employer that employs the graduate; the categories do not reflect the type of job the graduate has with the employer. When a school reports 45% in "law firms," this means 45% of employed graduates work as an attorney, law clerk, paralegal, or administrator. Without access to the underlying data or another signal, you cannot evaluate which jobs graduates take in law firms.
One signal comes from using the percentage of employed graduates in bar passage required jobs. If this number is 100%, you can interpret 45% in law firms to mean 45% of employed graduates work as an attorney in a law firm. Some of these might be short-term or non-partnership track jobs, but you would be assured they are lawyer jobs.
Includes all jobs in private practice, including jobs as an associate, law clerk, paralegal, or other professional or clerical staff. Private practice includes public interest law firms, which are private and for-profit firms distinguished from other private firms in that a majority of their practice involves clients that are typically underrepresented, or groups that advocate for community rather than corporate interests.
Law Firm Size. Firm size refers to the total number of attorneys firm-wide counting all senior and junior partners, of counsel, staff attorneys, senior and junior associates, and the like.
Includes for-profit organizations not fitting the Law Firm category and some not-for-profits, like political campaigns. This category is broad and includes most employers that are not law firms, schools, or government organizations. The category encompasses everything from short-order cooks to in-house counsel, with document review jobs and managing the local U-Haul in between.
Includes clerkship positions at the federal, state, or local level, or at international or foreign courts. The defining characteristic of a clerk is one who provides assistance to a judge in making legal determinations.
Includes federal, state, and local government as well as jobs in military (whether JAG or other uniformed positions) and jobs with tribal governments, foreign governments, or the United Nations. This category does not include public defender or appellate defender jobs (which fall in the public interest category), jobs with political campaigns (which fall in the business category), or judicial clerk positions (which fall in the judicial clerkship category).
Includes publicly-funded jobs. Examples include organizations offering civil legal services, jobs as public defender or appellate defender, and jobs with private nonprofit advocacy, religious, social service, fundraising, community resource, or cause-related organizations. It also includes nonprofit policy analysis and research organizations, as well as jobs with unions but not trade associations or public interest law firms.
Education (formerly Academic)
Positions may be at any level, from elementary to higher education, including a law school in admissions or career services, and within either the private or public sector, e.g., private colleges, state universities, and local public education.
The employer type was not reported to the ABA.
Job Traunch: School-Funded Jobs
Categorizes employed graduates by whether the jobs are funded by the law school or university.
A position is law school or university funded if the law school or the university of which it is a part pays the salary of the graduate directly or indirectly and in any amount. Thus, a person employed by the law school in the law library or as a research assistant, research "fellow," or clinic staff attorney has a law school funded position. Similarly, if the position is in the university's library, the position is university funded.
The position is funded directly if the graduate is on the payroll of the law school or the university. The position is funded indirectly if the law school or the university funds another entity in any way and in any amount to pay the salary. The position is also funded indirectly if it is paid through funds solicited from or donated by an outside supporter.
The school funds are typically very modest stipends. At some schools, students may work in private positions, but the vast majority require that the student volunteer at a nonprofit or government office.
Note: Some jobs that otherwise qualify as school-funded jobs are not included in this traunch. These jobs pay at least $40,000 and both the employer (school) and graduate intend the graduate to be there for at least a year, as opposed to expecting the graduate to move on as soon as possible.
Job Traunch: Location (State)
Categorizes employed graduates by the state in which their jobs are located. The ABA only publishes the three most popular states each year, though schools often choose to publish additional location data on their websites and on the LST Reports.
Additional Job Traunches
Schools collect additional data—and sometimes publish the resultant information—that categorize employed graduates by additional job characteristics.
Job Offer Timing
Categorizes employed graduates by when each graduate received the offer for the job held as of March following graduation. The options are before graduation, between graduation and bar results, after bar results, and unknown.
Categorizes employed graduates by how each graduate first made the contact that resulted in his or her obtaining the job. Some students enter law school expecting career services to hand them a job, while many others think the jobs will be funneled through on-campus interviews. Even before the economy crashed, many graduates found their jobs without the direct help of career services, either through connections or other self-initiated contact. When data are unavailable for a graduate, s/he is marked as unknown.
Job Type by Employer Type
Looks at all graduates by the type of employer (e.g. Law Firm) and categorizes graduates by the type of job they work for that employer (e.g. Paralegal), producing data about the number of, for example, paralegals or associates employed by a law firm.
Large Regional Law Firms
Law firms with between 101 and 250 attorneys total across one or more offices.
National Law Firms
Law firms with at least 251 attorneys total across one or more offices.
These graduates are unemployed, pursuing an advanced degree, or have an unknown employment status. Otherwise, the graduate is employed.
Pursuing Graduate Degree Full Time
The graduate is pursuing further graduate education as of the reporting date. Such academic programs include degree-granting and non-degree granting programs. Whether a graduate is enrolled full time is determined by the definition of full time given by the school and program in which the graduate is enrolled. Sometimes abbreviated as FTD.
Unemployed – Start Date Deferred
The graduate has accepted a written offer of employment by the March 15th reporting date, but the start date of the employment is subsequent to March 15th. In order to qualify in this category, the start date must be identified with certainty, or the employer must be compensating the graduate until actual employment begins.
Unemployed – Not Seeking
As of March 15th, the graduate is "not seeking" employment outside the home and is not employed. Graduates who are not seeking employment because of health, family, religious, or personal reasons are included. A graduate who is performing volunteer work and is not seeking employment is included. Also included is a graduate who was offered a position, turned it down, and is not seeking further employment as of March 15th.
Unemployed – Seeking
As of March 15th, the graduate is "seeking" employment but is not employed. A graduate who is performing volunteer work and is seeking employment is included. Also included is a graduate who was offered a position, turned it down, and is seeking another position as of March 15th. A graduate who is studying for the bar exam and is not employed as of March 15th is considered to be seeking employment unless classification of the graduate as "not seeking" can genuinely be supported by the graduate's particular circumstances. A graduate who is employed as of February 15th but seeking another job should be reported in an employed category.
Employment Status Unknown
The law school does not have information from or about the graduate upon which it can determine the graduate's employment status.
Jobs with the government (at any level) or with public interest organizations, such as charitable non-profits and unions. Unless otherwise specified, we count only jobs that are both long-term and full-time.
Categorizes employed graduates by whether each graduate continues to look for a new job, despite already being employed. The options are seeking, not seeking, and unknown.
Small Law Firms
Law firms with 10 or fewer attorneys, including solo practitioners.
Small Regional Law Firms
Law firms with between 11 and 100 attorneys total across one or more offices.
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Job Statistics at Western Michigan University - Cooley Law School
Total 2021 graduates: 411
- Includes 0 transfer students
- 43.8% of graduates had long-term, full-time legal jobs
- 74.2% graduates had any long-term job
- 69.6% graduates had any full-time job
- Enrolled 191 new 1L students in 2022, -34.6% compared to 292 in 2019 (2022 grads)
Key jobs data
2018 State placement