Employment In The Legal Profession
Report 1: National Employment - 2010

Introduction

Unemployment among lawyers was 1.5% in 2010, far below the national unemployment rate of 9.6%.

This report is the first in a series of reports exploring the current status of the employment market for lawyers. Report One summarizes data produced by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding national employment and unemployment for workers in legal occupations. Report Two will analyze data collected by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) for recent graduates of the nation's ABA-accredited law schools who are about to enter this market. Report Three will explore compensation in the legal profession.

What follows is an executive summary of Report One, a study of the current employment situation for lawyers and for those who work in legal occupations. This is the national market into which this year's law school graduates will enter. All data in Report One was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS or Bureau) Current Population Survey. The full version of Report One, including more detailed BLS data and BLS methodology, will be released soon.

The purpose of Report One is to insert the nation's most authoritative employment data into the public dialogue about the national legal employment picture. Since the onset of the recession and during the slow recovery, this public dialogue has been dominated by bloggers and a small element within the media. According to their posts and stories, lawyers are largely unemployed, law school graduates have no hope for employment, and the investment in law school is not worthwhile. They assert that attending law school is a bad decision because of the lack of jobs, given the cost of legal education. Most of these assertions are anecdotal, unbalanced, lacking in factual support, and as Report One reveals, contrary to official U.S. employment data. This report uses BLS data to explore three questions:

(1) What is the status of legal employment?
(2) How has the recession impacted legal employment?
(3) How do legal occupations compare to other occupations?

The annual data produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that lawyers had among the lowest unemployment rates of all management and professional occupations in 2010. Unemployment among lawyers was 1.5% in 2010, far below the national unemployment rate of 9.6%. The BLS annual data also reveals that over the last ten years the employment rate for lawyers is among the most stable of all occupations, that the total number of workers employed in legal occupations has increased every year, and that lawyers are among the occupations least affected by the recent recession. These facts have been curiously absent in the public dialogue about the national legal employment picture.

 

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REPORT QUESTIONS

(1) What is the status of legal employment?

(2) How has the recession impacted legal employment?

(3) How do legal occupations compare to other occupations?