How to Evaluate Law Schools' Jobs Data

Robert J. Morse

There's a very strong case to be made for knowing when you apply to law school what kind of jobs are available afterward, given the ongoing debate about whether a J.D. degree is worth the heavy cost.

As a result of new American Bar Association rules, a great deal more information can be had about the many types of positions law students take after they graduate. Each year, the schools report to the ABA how many of their most recent grads had jobs lined up by nine months after graduation.

The new standards require them to go into a lot more detail, noting, for example, whether each graduate's employment was long term (defined as lasting at least a year) or shorter term, was full time or part time, and whether it required passage of a bar exam.

U.S. News collected these same statistics when we surveyed the schools for our annual rankings, along with the same data on those members of the class who were employed at graduation.

[See the 2014 Best Law Schools rankings.]

For this year's rankings, U.S. News incorporated this richer data into our computation of the employment measure for the class of 2011 at graduation and nine months later. Placement success was calculated by assigning various weights to the number of grads employed in different types of post-J.D. jobs.

Full weight was given for graduates who had a full-time job lasting at least a year where bar passage was required or a J.D. degree was an advantage.

Less weight went to full-time, long-term jobs that were professional or non-professional and did not require bar passage, to pursuit of an additional advanced degree, and to positions whose start dates were deferred. The lowest weight applied to jobs categorized as both part-time and short-term.

All these weighted figures were then divided by the total number of 2011 J.D. graduates, and were used in the ranking formula only and are not published.

Employment stats displayed in the tables reflect actual rates (out of the total number of 2011 J.D. graduates) for the full-weight jobs: full-time, long-term, and where a J.D. and bar passage are necessary or advantageous.

Actual rates for the other types of positions appear in the profiles of each school's latest graduating class. All these employment data are only available via a U.S. News Law School Compass subscription.

[Read the full law school rankings methodology.]

Check back every now and then, as we occasionally add content to the website when we obtain additional data we think useful (whether on job placement, GPA, test scores, or other factors) or learn information that changes the data.