Newly released data from the ABA suggests a sharp turnaround is underway for recent law school graduates with those able to secure “long-term, full-time positions where bar passage was required [rising] 7.6 percent to 26,066 from 24,149” over the previous year. The increase was sustained even in the face of the absolute size of the graduating class, one of the largest in recent years.
As the impact of the economic crisis took hold subsequent classes have shrunk and so there will quite likely be an improvement in job outcomes for grads this year and in the next few years, barring an unforseen problem in the wider economy.
This result will come as cold comfort to the law school critics who have been claiming law school is a failing institution. But it is entirely consistent with trends over many decades where legal employment responds cyclically to the macroeconomy.
My critical assessment of the case made by one of the leading critics, Brian Tamanaha, can be found here. That case “relies on very generalized data sets that do not provide persuasive evidence of misbehavior by any individual school, fails to test for counter-factual explanations, and draws conclusions that are only one among several possible explanations for the current situation.”
Other less comprehensive data prepared by Ben Barros at Widener Law suggests improved outcomes for 2010 and 2011 grads, too, as the economy has begun to pick up some momentum.