Report finds ‘huge gaps’ in employment of new US lawyers by race

  • National Association for Law Placement data highlights racial disparities in hiring law graduates
  • NALP found differences ranging from employment rates to federal clerk hiring

(Reuters) – Two-thirds of black students graduating from law school last year landed jobs within 10 months that required passing the bar exam, compared to 81% of white law graduates, according to news reports. National Association for Law Placement (NALP) data.

The organization’s latest jobs report, released Wednesday, highlights continuing racial disparities in legal entry-level employment. Imbalances range from overall employment rates and median salary to employment in highly sought-after federal internships and practice settings.

Overall, 78% of the JD Class of 2021 have secured jobs that require passing the bar. This figure was 81% for white graduates; 77% for Hispanic graduates; 76% for Asian graduates; 69% for Native American or Alaska Native graduates; 66% for black graduates; and 58.5% for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander graduates.

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“I am truly troubled by these shortcomings,” said NALP executive director Jim Leipold. “Especially for Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and black college graduates, because those gaps are significant.”

Leipold warned that employment rates for Native Americans and Native Americans in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands are “more volatile” due to the small size of the two groups. The number of black law graduates is steady, by contrast, but their employment outcomes consistently lag behind those of their white classmates, he said.

Law schools and law firms have done a better job of recruiting diverse students and summer associates over the past two years, Leipold said, but when it comes to maintaining that diversity , “these institutions are collapsing”.

“We are seeing huge discrepancies in the move to bar by race and ethnicity. We see huge gaps in job opportunities by race and ethnicity. We see huge gaps in progression through the ranks of associates to associate by race, ethnicity and gender,” he said.

NALP is a nonprofit organization of law schools and legal employers. It collects and analyzes entry-level legal hiring data.

His data also shows significant racial disparities in the hiring of federal articling students, who are among the most prestigious and competitive positions available to recent law graduates.

White law graduates made up 68.5% of the JD class of 2021, but they earned 80% of all federal internships that year, the NALP found. Hispanic law graduates made up 11% of the class of 2021, but only 5.5% of federal clerks. Black graduates made up 7.5% of their class, but only 5% of federal clerks, according to the report.

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Reporting by Karen Sloan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Karen Sloane

Thomson Reuters

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools and legal affairs. Contact her at

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