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Employment of law school graduates hits 15-year high for Class of 2021

A graduate holds his mortar cap in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

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  • Employment of 2021 law graduates hit 91.9%, matching the most recent record set by the Class of 2007
  • The median salary hit a record high of $80,000

(Reuters) – Demand for legal talent at major law firms has pushed employment and salary figures for the law school class of 2021 to all-time highs, new data showed on Thursday.

The overall employment rate for 2021 law school graduates rose to 91.9%, a record last reached by the class of 2007, according to figures released by the National Association for Law Placement.

The 2021 figure represents a 3.5 percentage point increase from a pandemic-related decline to an employment rate of 88.4% for the Class of 2020.

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New graduates accepting jobs requiring the bar exam rose to 78.2%, compared to 74.6% for the class of 2020, and marking a record since the NALP began using its current classifications in 2001.

The strong employment results were driven by hiring activity from the largest law firms, said James Leipold, executive director of NALP.

There was “pent-up demand” for transactional work after the early COVID-19 shutdowns, which led to accelerated and “super competitive” hiring for entry-level lawyers and other positions, he said. .

Leipold also pointed to several rounds of pay increases at major law firms over the past year, spurred by competition for talent.

Many of the largest firms in the United States increased annual salaries for partners at all levels this year, where first-year attorneys saw their base salaries rise from $205,000 to $215,000.

The median salary for lawyers in law firms of all sizes was $131,500 for the Class of 2021, breaking the previous record of $130,000 set in 2009.

The overall median salary for 2021 law graduates across all job types was a record $80,000, compared to $75,000 for the class of 2020.

Leipold said in a statement to the report that he expects the legal job market to remain strong for law students graduating in 2022 and 2023 due to factors such as relatively stable class sizes and active recruitment. summer associates in law firms.

But, he said in the statement, the Class of 2023 could “begin to face headwinds” if the United States enters a recession. Large law firms are already facing increased spending and some falling demand, he said.

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Sara Merken

Thomson Reuters

Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as legal affairs, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Contact her at

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