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Employment prospects improve for Md.’s law school grads

The percentage of Maryland law graduates who found jobs requiring them to pass the bar has remained steady for another year, inching up by just 0.8 percentage points to 58 percent, compared with 62.4 percent nationwide.

That more graduates of Maryland’s law schools are finding employment reflects some growth in the legal job market as well as small graduating class sizes and more individualized career help for students, school officials say. (Thinkstock)

That more graduates of Maryland’s law schools are finding employment reflects some growth in the legal job market as well as small graduating class sizes and more individualized career help for students, school officials say. (Thinkstock)

There are signs of improvement in the annual employment data gathered and released by the American Bar Association, however: the combined portion of University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and University of Baltimore School of Law grads who found jobs either requiring bar passage or for which a law degree is an advantage continues to improve and outstrip national numbers.

At the same time, the percentage of local law school graduates who described themselves as unemployed and seeking work 10 months after graduating has decreased, with just 4.9 percent of last year’s UB Law grads and 6.3 percent of UM Carey Law grads reporting that they fall into that category, compared with 9.7 percent across the country.

The shifts reflect a combination of factors, local law school officials said, including some growth in the legal job market, as well as smaller graduating class sizes and more individualized career help available to students.

“The job market is improving a little bit — if you talk to law firms, they wouldn’t tell you its tremendous growth, but I do think there is more growth going on,” said Donald Tobin, dean of UM Carey Law. “The second thing is that we have reduced the number of students in our class. Between the two schools, we are graduating fewer lawyers for the market, which I think is helpful.”

Employment sources

Judicial clerkships have been a major source of employment for graduates in Maryland, according to Tobin and Jill Green, assistant dean of law career placement at UB Law. Just over a quarter of local graduates — 68 from each school, out of a total of 538 — headed to clerkships after graduating last year.

“We’re very lucky in Maryland that the Judiciary sees itself as a partner with the law schools and the bar, and we’ve been very successful in placing our students in clerkships,” Tobin said. “Students transition out of those clerkships to firm jobs and government jobs and other law-related jobs. Graduates get more experience in the litigation area, seeing what judges do, and then they become more attractive to firms.”

Most graduates who found full-time work at law firms were employed at firms with between two and 10 lawyers, according to ABA data, while just three 2015 graduates were managing solo practices.

About a quarter of last year’s UM Carey Law and UB Law graduates found “J.D. advantage” jobs, a category that includes positions such as a government regulatory analyst or a law school admissions officer. By comparison, those jobs accounted for less than 14 percent of positions held by 2015 law school graduates nationwide.

Career advancement

Both Tobin and Green said they expect that trend to continue in Maryland, as a significant portion of law school students in the state do not intend to practice law after they graduate.

“The bar passage-required jobs, people want to call that the gold standard — but not everyone going to law school wants to take the bar or be a practicing attorney,” Green said. “We have a population that’s coming to get the education because they want to advance in their career, particularly in the federal government, or they may a want a law degree to go into business.”

Nearly 84 percent of the local law schools’ class of 2015 had a job requiring bar passage or a J.D. advantage job, up from 80.7 percent for the class of 2014. Nationwide, 76.2 percent of the law school class of 2015 either had jobs requiring them to pass the bar or J.D. advantage jobs.

As the legal job market has shifted in recent years, both schools said they have increased their career guidance resources for students while decreasing class sizes.

At UM Carey Law, career assistance has become more individualized, Tobin said, with students receiving one-on-one counseling and advice. For relatively new attorneys or graduates, as well as students, UB Law has held “solo circle” events aimed to encourage professional development and networking, Green said.

“We are driving the messaging to our students that they’ve got to be out there working, whether in externships for credit, or getting paid,” she said. “They need to get practical experience and be involved in the community.”Employment_chart