Cooley study shows lawyers have high employment rate

Drawing on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School last week announced preliminary results from a 10-year study of employment in the legal profession, showing that lawyers had among the lowest unemployment rates of all management and professional occupations in 2010.

According to 2010 data reported in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey, the national unemployment rate was 9.6 percent for all occupations, while the unemployment rate for lawyers was 1.5 percent. The vast majority of management and professional occupations had higher unemployment rates, and many had unemployment rates that were much higher, for example:

* Astronomers and physicists had double the unemployment rate of lawyers;

* Computer software engineers and accountants had more than triple the lawyer rate;

* Environmental engineers had more than four times the lawyer rate;

Among the ten categories of management and professional occupations established by the Bureau, legal occupations had a combined unemployment rate of 2.7 percent, the second-lowest rate. Health care and technical occupations topped the list with a slightly lower combined rate of 2.5 percent.

Bureau data also showed that between 2001 and 2010, the economy supported an additional 246,000 jobs for those in legal occupations, including 123,000 additional positions for lawyers. Even during the recession and modest recovery, the number of employed lawyers grew by 3.9 percent or 1.3 percent per year. From 2009 to 2010, the number of unemployed lawyers fell by 33.3 percent -- from 24,000 to 16,000 nationwide.

Cooley decided to release the study in a series of separate reports in order to insert the nation's most authoritative data into the public dialogue about the national legal employment picture. Report One covers the national employment data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Report Two will cover the national employment data for recent law school graduates released by the National Association for Law Placement. Report Three will review the salary information available from these and other sources.

Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc said that the data belies the assertions made about legal employment and contradicts the ill-conceived advice that law school should be avoided because there are no job opportunities. "The facts overwhelmingly discredit these assertions," he said. "Legal education is actually one of the best choices."

He added that when Report Two is published soon, it will show that the employment rate is very good for law school graduates. The 2010 NALP data establishes that the unemployment rate nine months after graduation for 2010 graduates was 6.2 percent for those who sought to enter the job market.

"No doubt the recession has presented challenges to recent graduates," said LeDuc, "but the reality is that over 93 percent of the reported 2010 graduates who sought jobs found them, and of that number, 85 percent found full-time, professional-level positions."


An executive summary of Report One can be accessed at

Published: Tue, Aug 16, 2011


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