On the other hand, around 80% to 90% of law students are now spending sums of money to get law degrees that would make economic sense only if they were to get large firm jobs. (Put the math in these two short paragraphs together and you have the law school mess in a nutshell).
Anyway, here are the outcomes of Fordham's OCI interview process for the last five years, not including 2012, for which statistics are not yet available (Fordham's OCI features large law firm employers almost exclusively):
Percentage of 2L full-time and 3L part-time students who accepted a job offer received via the OCI process: (Keep in mind that students interview through OCI two years before graduating. So fall 2007 OCI was for the class of 2009, and so forth).
2007: 54% (Class of 2009)
2008: 39% (Class of 2010)
2009: 18% (Class of 2011)
2010: 24% (Class of 2012
2011: 27% (Class of 2013)
Percentage of graduating class that got jobs with NLJ 250 firms:
Percentage of class that reported getting jobs with firms of 100+ lawyers (a somewhat more inclusive category for big law than NLJ 250 firms):
A couple of notes: A whole lot of people in the class of 2009 got no-offered, which helps explain the big gap between the 2007 OCI results and the class of 2009 hiring numbers. Going in the other direction, a non-trivial number of people in the class of 2011 -- about 7% of the class -- seem to have managed to scramble into a big law job despite striking out at OCI. So the astonishing collapse in OCI results between the classes of 2009 and 2011 is much more extreme than the end result for the two classes -- the class of 2009 did far worse in the hiring market than their OCI results suggested they would, while the class of 2011 did somewhat better.
The 2010 and 2011 OCI numbers suggest that somewhere around 30% to 35% of the Fordham classes of 2012 and 2013 will end up with market-paying jobs, although we need to be cautious about this for a couple of reasons. First, this assumes that these classes will be as successful as the class of 2011 in scrambling for big law work post-OCI, while at the same time not getting no-offered in significant numbers (as the classes of 2009 and to a lesser extent 2010 were). It also assumes that all or almost all jobs with firms of 100+ lawyers are market-paying. As more firms adopt the Orrick model of hiring non-partner track entry-level staff attorneys at $60K per year this assumption will become increasingly inaccurate.
Of course Fordham is just one school, situated in a unique market (New York has a vastly disproportionate number of the big law jobs in the U.S.). But these numbers do provide a glimpse, however partial, of what may be going on in big law hiring for the classes of 2012 and 2013, at the small minority of law schools where this is a significant question.
The document from which these numbers are drawn ends with the following observations:
One area [we] were unable to obtain data on is the effect of GPA on OCI outcomes. When asked if they could provide the number of students with below median GPAs who accepted Fall OCI offers, the CPC reported that they do not track such data. The widespread perception among students is that the process is largely grade driven. The CPC emphasized that this perception was incorrect, but was unable to release any data showing why that was so. The CPC went on to express how important it is for students, across all GPA ranges, to participate in their preference counseling programs.
As the numbers clearly show, while hiring has recovered since the Fall 2009 OCI season, it is still 50% below the pre-crash levels of 2007. When the Fall 2012 results are released next year, along with the post-graduation outcomes for the Class of 2012, it will become clearer whether the market is still recovering slowly, or if it has stabilized at something of a dismal new normal.