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

What is the status of legal employment?

From 2001 to 2010, the unemployment rate for lawyers increased only 0.5%, the same increase as for physicians and surgeons.

The most reliable source of employment data is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces the national employment data and sets our national unemployment rate. BLS data used here describes the status of employment in legal occupations as of the end of 2010, as well as during the decade beginning in 2001.

National Unemployment Levels for Legal Occupations 2010 (See Charts 1 & 2)

The 2010 national unemployment rates in legal occupations were:

Table 1

The current combined unemployment rate for all legal occupations is a modest 2.7%, well below the 2010 national unemployment rate of 9.6%. For lawyers, the 1.5% unemployment rate compares even more favorably to the national rate. Both rates contradict the claims of high unemployment in the legal profession asserted by the bloggers and media.

Employment Levels 2001-2010 (See Chart 3)

During the past decade, the job market supported an additional 123,000 positions for lawyers, as well as another 123,000 jobs in other legal occupations. [The minor discrepancies in BLS totals are due to their rounding large numbers.] Total jobs for the decade, including the year before the recession, were:

Table 2

Employment in legal occupations during this decade grew, and all fields within
the legal occupations grew at a modest rate over the decade:

Trends in Legal Employment 2001-2010 (See Charts 1 & 2)

During this decade, unemployment for legal occupations increased as follows, including during the recession which, according the National Bureau of Economic Research, began in December 2007:

Table 4

In this decade nationally, the percentage of unemployed workers in all occupations more than doubled from 4.7% to 9.6%, an increase of 4.9%. The unemployment rate for lawyers increased a modest 0.5%. As the decade opened, unemployment among lawyers was 3.7% lower than the national unemployment rate; as the decade closed, this gap favored lawyers by 8.1%.


Download Report 1Download the




National Unemployment Levels for Legal Occupations 2010
CHART 1: Unemployment Rate for Legal Occupations vs. National Unemployment Rate 2001-2010


Employment Levels 2001-2010
CHART 2: Number of U.S. Lawyers with Unemployment Rate 2001-2010


Chart 3 Recession and Unemployment 2007-2010
CHART 3: Legal Occupations # Employed 2001-2010




An independent, private, non-profit educational institution affiliated with Western Michigan University. The Law School, as an independent institution, is solely responsible for its academic program. Accredited by the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission. The Law School has campuses across Michigan in Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Admissions | Non-Discrimination Policy | Public Information | Mobile

© Western Michigan University Cooley Law School 2015

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School
In corde hominem est anima legis.

WMU Cooley Law Designated 2016 Military Friendly® School