According to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), the overall employment rate for law school graduates is 85.6 percent, the lowest since the end of the recession. Historically, the overall employment rate for new graduates was lower only in the 1993, when it fell to 83.4 percent.
This employment rate masks an even more desperate reality: only 65.4 percent of the class of 2011 held actual attorney positions (jobs requiring passage of the bar,) a fall of 9 percentage points since 2008. When they do manage to obtain law-related jobs, new graduates are more likely to obtain jobs where a JD provides a benefit but for which passage of the bar is not necessary.
Fewer than half of those who graduated (49.5 percent) held jobs in private practice, the lowest percentage of graduates ever. The highest percentage of graduates entering private practice was in 1988, when it was 64.3 percent. In 2008, 56.2 percent entered private practice. Since then, the trend has seen a decline to a new low.
On the rise are the number of graduates who do not work in law-related jobs (7.2 percent, up from 5.6 percent in 2010) , work only part time (12 percent, up from 11 percent in 2010) in other professions or have gone back to school to earn additional degrees (3 percent, up from 2.9 in 2010).
The percentage of graduates who are not working rose in 2011 to 12.1 percent, up from 9.4 in 2010.
One can imagine the despair of those who are not able to find work; whether a graduate is able to find work as an attorney or not, she still owes tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. For the average law school graduate this debt hovers around $100,433.