Burk indicates he's going to post a lot more data on this question soon, which would be extremely useful as to the best of my knowledge no one has published or posted any systematic numbers on this. Here are a few numbers to add to Burk's list:
Fordham: 70 graduates (14.7% of those reporting employment status)
Virginia: 40 graduates (10.9% of the class)
Michigan State: 37 graduates (10.6% of those reporting employment status)
Ohio State: Approximately 14 (6.7% of the class; i.e., "about a third of the 20% of the class employed in temporary or part-time positions.")
A few notes: It will be interesting to find out exactly how many schools have posted such information at this point. As far as I know nobody was posting these numbers until a few months ago. And some schools are being quite cagey on this score: When asked about the matter directly last week, Columbia acknowledged it had such a program, but claimed to be unable to report how many of its 2010 graduates were taking advantage of it. I've been told by Michigan law students that the school's administration flatly refuses to disclose how many graduates are having their salaries paid for by the school during the NALP reporting window, or even if the school has such a program, although it's generally known among the student body that it does.
Also, while Prof. Burk's willingness to investigate this matter in a systematic way and to warn his colleagues that the employment situation is really bad are both wholly admirable, his sense of that situation is still in fact far too optimistic:
We’ll have a more complete dataset in a week or two, but I predict that more detail will indicate that significant numbers of the most prestigious law schools in the country are funding temporary employment for significant portions of their graduating classes. And what that suggests is that the current legal job market is appreciably more depressed than many interested observers had previously estimated. We thought it was bad, but not this bad. After all, if something like one in five of the graduates of the 50 most prestigious law schools in the country can’t find a permanent, full-time law job within a year after graduating, what does that tell us about the prospects for graduates of the additional 150 accredited schools falling below them on anybody’s list? There are a number of schools in the “unranked” section of US News’s listing with nine-month placement rates under 50%. Holy cow. [bolding supplied]In fact, for the real legal employment rate (identified correctly by Prof. Burk as permanent full-time employment requiring a law degree) to get to anywhere close to 80% would require a truly massive improvement in the situation at the vast majority of top 50 schools, and indeed that employment number is currently being achieved by a total of perhaps six schools.
Consider that at the University of Colorado, 17.5% of the class of 2010 was completely unemployed nine months after graduation. Less than half the class had permanent full-time employment requiring a law degree. Now it's true CU is near the bottom of the top 50, but let's look a little more closely at the numbers at a much higher ranked school -- numbers Prof. Burk links to in his post. Minnesota is currently a top 20 school, yet only 191 of 284 graduates (67.25%) were known to have a "long-term" position of any kind, law-related or not. Yet even this number is misleading. It includes seven "long-term" positions funded by the law school, and it counts 34 of 39 judicial clerkships as "long-term." (20 of those 34 "long-term" clerkships are state and local rather than federal.).
The explanation for this is probably that NALP defines "short-term" employment as a definite term of less than one year, so a contract of exactly one year in duration counts as "long-term." (Although NALP has treated judicial clerkships as short-term employment in its national stats, I've been told that beginning this year it is going to start categorizing one-year clerkships as long-term. If this is correct, the organization is helping law schools mislead prospective students about the actual long-term employment rate of graduates nine months out).
The Minnesota stats also include 28 "long-term" jobs in "business and industry" (How many of these jobs require a law degree? How many of them are in retail?), plus 36 "long-term" jobs working for law firms of less than 11 attorneys, or as solos. Indeed, if we count up the jobs Minnesota graduates had nine months after graduation that could be defined (very liberally) as real legal jobs, in the sense of "jobs someone might have considered an acceptable outcome ex ante before investing $160K and three years to get a JD" we get:
64 jobs with law firms of more than ten lawyers
20 "government" jobs
7 public interest jobs
15 federal clerkships
(Note it's not even clear that all these jobs are full-time and/or JD required).
That's 106 positions out of 284 graduates, or 37.2%. This number, probably not coincidentally, tracks closely with the number of graduates for whom Minnesota has salary data: 37% of those working in private industry; 30% of those working in public positions.
The real (in the sense of representing a loosely acceptable outcome) employment rate isn't just under 50% at bottom tier schools: it's well under 50% at a top 20 school. That's how bad things really are.