Tuesday, November 6, 2012

JD other

We've been talking for the last year about the "JD Other" graduates, the ones who hold jobs that don't require bar admission. According to NALP, almost a quarter of the Class of 2011 fell in this category: they were employed nine months after graduation, but not in jobs that required a law license. NALP's official publication, Jobs and JDs, reports that 5,214 members of the class held "JD Advantage" jobs; 2,199 held "Other Professional" jobs; and 805 held "Non-Professional" positions. Taken together, those 8,218 graduates held 23% of the 35,653 jobs reported to NALP. (More than 5,000 graduates reported no job at all, but for today I'm focusing on the employed.)

Do these graduates want JD Advantage, Other Professional, or Non-Professional jobs? Or are these Plan-B positions? Professors have pontificated at length on this issue, with many noting the versatility of the law degree.

It turns out that NALP offers some empirical insight on this question. In addition to collecting details about the jobs that graduates hold, NALP asks graduates whether they are still seeking other work. Nine months after graduation is a little early to be making a lateral move or seeking a promotion. A JD who is employed nine months after graduation, but still actively looking for a job, probably isn't too pleased with the first job.

By that measure, graduates who hold JD Advantage, Other Professional, and Non-Professional jobs are not very happy with their positions. Here's how many of them were still looking for other jobs--compared to their colleagues who held jobs requiring bar admission:

Percentage of Employed Law Graduates (Class of 2011)
Seeking Another Job Nine Months After Graduation

            Bar Passage Required             16.5 %
            JD Advantage                           46.8 %
            Other Professional                   52.1 %
            Non-Professional                     85.9 %

Graduates holding JD Advantage or Other Professional positions are three times more likely than their law-practicing classmates to be seeking other work. About half the graduates in these two categories are sufficiently dissatisfied with their jobs to be actively job hunting --just nine months after graduation. The graduates in non-professional positions, unsurprisingly, are even more dissatisfied; five out of six of them are hunting for other work.

You may wonder, in fact, why some of the JDs in non-professional jobs are not seeking other work. Are there people who complete three years of law school in order to sell sweaters at the Limited or to work as home health aides? Anything is possible, but the figure probably represents the fact that job-hunting is hard. Some graduates are sufficiently discouraged by the job market, as well as by the disappointing pay-off from their degrees, that they have given up looking for more professional work.

The same factors, of course, also affect graduates in other job categories. Half of the graduates in JD Advantage and Other Professional jobs are not actively seeking other work--but that doesn't mean they're satisfied with their outcomes. Some of them may well be, but others may simply be discouraged.

I wondered, finally, how these 2011 figures compare with earlier years: Have graduates in non-practice positions always looked more actively for work? Or was there a time when some percentage of JDs actively sought employment that did not require bar admission?

I don't have the Jobs and JDs book for every year, but I found two earlier volumes in my law school's library. NALP has changed its job designations over the years: In 1996, it distinguished only among "Legal," "Other Professional," and "Non-Professional" jobs. In 2004, it distinguished among "Bar Passage Required," "JD Preferred," "Other Professional," and "Non-Professional." But the trends are consistent: the further removed a job category is from law practice, the more likely that JDs are looking for other work:

Percentage of Employed Law Graduates
Seeking Another Job Nine Months After Graduation
                                                    1996                                 2004

Legal/Bar Passage Req'd           10.1 %                               8.5 %
JD Preferred                                                                       37.0 %
Other Professional                      38.3 %                           43.4 %
Non-Professional                        55.9 %                            73.5 %

To me, these numbers confirm a common-sense assumption: People who go to law school would like to practice law. Even in 1996, when law school tuition was much lower and graduates could afford to pursue jobs that did not fully use their degrees, graduates in "other professional" positions were four times more likely than graduates in "legal" jobs to be seeking different work. The same was true in 2004 and 2011: graduates in positions that did not require a law license were much more likely to be seeking new work than graduates in jobs that did require a license.

There have always been law school graduates who sought jobs that did not require bar admission, landed those jobs, and happily pursued their careers. But we shouldn't fool ourselves that all graduates in that category are content with their non-law work. The best data available to us suggest that a large percentage of those graduates are not happy as "JD Other" workers.


  1. I don't know, maybe we should assume that everything is okay, that things should go on as they have, and that if we do indeed have to change anything, that the last thing that needs to be changed is law school personnel and how much they make. To me, this makes the most sense.

  2. In the time of chimpanzees, I was a lemming.

  3. Man law schools really love manipulating stats. 1/4 of our grads don't work as lawyers, JD is versatile. This is 1l writing class lesson number 1: if the facts don't favor you, find a way to argue the positive anyway, let the judge figure out which theory is proper. Too bad in this case the judge is 0l...

    In a way you must be a lawyer in order to avoid the law school scam in a first place.

    1. Whoa there Tex! Don't call it a "scam," unless you want to scare them Powerful Important Folks away from the reformers table!

      From now on, it's the "Law School Deep Problem." That's the phrase 9 out of 10 mainstream centrists prefer. M'kay?

  4. What does "JD Advantage" mean? Does it mean that it is a job worth putting on your resume when applying that you received a JD? In that case, does "Other professional" mean it either makes no difference or actually hurts to list having a JD on your resume when applying? Is that logic correct?

    1. JD advantage means your JD actually helped you get the job, though it is not a bar passage required job. Something like compliance or something else legal-related.

    2. And exactly which jobs would these be?

    3. Like working in a government agency as a non-lawyer. Having a JD still bumps you a pay grade.

    4. It means that you couldn't get a law job, but the law school will pretend that the quarter-million you spent was not wasted.

    5. Not all the time. Plenty of BigLaw alumni are interested in branching out to the business side. If you can get one of these jobs after working for a few years, your JD and work experience will often be helpful Just because you have a JD does not mean you need to stay in law for your whole career.

  5. A JD on the resume is problematic when looking for non legal work.

    It is that simple.

    If and when it gives a job applicant an advantage, I'd like to hear some real life stories.

    People in general do not like lawyers and no corporation wants a JD troublemaker in sales who is going to break up the morale.

    They do not want a JD that is going to question the operations of management either, and start making trouble.

    They do not want a JD that they see as overqualified and who will leave as soon as the next big legal job comes along, or who wants too much salary.

  6. Any way to share the full report with us?

    1. not a copyright lawyer, but...November 6, 2012 at 7:19 PM

      It's a $90 publication sold by NALP.

      I think they'd come up with an objection if Deej tried to post it in full online for sharing.

  7. The only real JD advantage of which I am aware is regulatory compliance, and non-attorney regulation roles (e.g., examiners, market surveillance, development teams), mostly in the financial industry. And there, you have to have a hook to get into the field.

    K-JD with no experience in the compliance field is going to get crushed by anyone who knows what .csv means, or can make a pivot table out of a 600,000 row excel file. And these days there are plenty of talented financial industry professionals that would steak someone through the eyes for a job with benefits.

    1. Other JD Advantage jobsNovember 6, 2012 at 7:26 PM

      I've known quite a few former lawyers who worked in procurement/supply departments in-house. Their experience clearly gave them an edge in both negotiations and in having a good feel for what contract redlines could be accepted without having to run back to legal.

      That said, in all cases where it seemed to be an advantage, these guys were former practicing lawyers. Not straight out of LS.

      I did work with one guy who went K-BA-JD_MBA to an in-house procurement dept. Even though he was an honors grad from a T20 LS, I don't think his "legal training" helped him at all. He lasted about a year and a half and was a very pleasant fellow the whole time, but wasn't very effective at his job.

      The other category where I've seen a lot of former lawyers getting significant advantage from their experience (again, not necessarily their degree) is in environment/energy depts in-house. I know of 2 corps where the E&E VP is a former lawyer.

  8. Two thoughts.

    First, there is no such thing as "JD Advantage." The term is an attempt by NALP & law schools to put lipstick on a pig. There are jobs -- in HR, compliance, real estate, contract administration, insurance -- where a basic knowledge of the law is useful. But the level of knowledge required could easily be acquired in a few undergraduate or graduate courses such as basic business law (such as MBA's take), contract law, employment regulation, real estate law fundamentals (real estate brokers take such a course) etc. A JD is a waste for these jobs.

    Second, these statistics explain why employers are reluctant to hire JD's in non-lawyer jobs. They are not stupid. They know perfectly well their new hires will be looking to find a real lawyer job even before they begin work.


  9. @ 1:12, Most of the 2011 NALP information is available in one or more of the reports listed at http://www.nalp.org/classof2011 (although some of those numbers differ slightly from the ones published in the book--not sure why). The "still seeking" stats cited here, however, appear only in the book--one reason it took me so long to stumble over the info. Unfortunately, there's no way to link to the book online. I'm continuing to scour that book for other interesting tidbits but, so far, this seems like the most important info that's not in the more public reports.

  10. I graduated in 1996 from Catholic Law school in DC. I actually was able to use the career services office to secure a position as a paralegal no less. My co-worker, and I am not kidding graduated from George Washington Law School with a JD and a Master's in Public Health the same year I did. Now, after getting a Master's degree in Organizational Development, I have one of those JD advantage jobs. I do labor and employee relations for the federal government. The legal background is a plus, but as I pay my private student loan which has fluctuated from 8.5 percent to now the 3.5 percent category, I did not need to go to law school to secure this job.

  11. Excellent analysis, DJM. I graduated in 2010. One of the things I noticed amongst classmates who graduated in the last 3 years or so was that about 50% went on to jobs in retail or in jobs that made $10 an hour or less. Another 20% went on to work for free in unpaid legal positions. The remaining 30% either secured legal positions or went solo.

    Here are some of the positions of my classmates secured after graduation. I wish I were exaggerating, but I am not:

    1) A grad who passed the bar over a year ago, working for less than $10 an hour in a service-oriented position at the law school.
    2) Another grad who passed the bar - working delivering pizzas because he can't get a legal job and didn't earn enough from 'hanging up his own shingle.'
    3) Another grad who passed the bar - has been unemployed for over a year, is living with her parents, and volunteering doing pro bono work.
    4) Another grad who passed 2 bars over a year ago - was offered a $10 an hour paralegal position.
    5) Another grad who passed the bar - works at a non-legal, temporary job. She can't make her house payment.
    6) Another grad who passed the bar - working in a service-oriented position for less than $10 an hour at the law school.
    7) A grad who hasn't yet passed the bar - working as a security guard for $7.50 an hour.
    8) Another grad who hasn't yet passed the bar - working in retail for less than $10 an hour.

    A legal education today is just not worth it. Unless the law schools do something about the cost of tuition (not going to happen) or something to assist students in getting hired in jobs that will justify the investment (also not going to happen as long as there is denial that the problem exists), law school is just not worth the investment. Future students, consider yourselves warned and educated. I wasn't.

    1. This is the labor market at work. Demand for legal talent is low, so the price for legal talent falls, sometimes very low.

  12. Actually, there is a very simple old analogy for this whole JD diploma Mill Phemon:

    It is called: "Vanity Press" and only in the law school context it is massively fueled by the student lending system.

    Cut off the money and no more vanity press or pipe dreams for authors and wannabe lawyers.

    Am I in the neighborhood of comparison or analogizing anyway?

    1. Until very, very recently (say 2008), the schools so dominated the presentation of information (which they were extensively and shamelessly lying about) that 95% of applicants had *zero* idea of just what a game of Russian Roulette they were buying into.

      I'm pretty sure that vanity press buyers/authors know they are gambling on an absurd longshot.

      And they aren't spending 3 years and tens of thousands of borrowed dollars to do so.

      Pre-2008, almost no applicants knew they were taking a 50% risk of walking into a lifetime financial grave (as it has been memorably put elsewhere).

  13. Oh, god how I wish I could return my JD. I am one of those people who failed the bar three times and had to give up for my mental health. No, I didn't go off the deep end like JD Painter. I'm now employed for the government and am servicing my loans. I graduated in 2006.

    I often wonder what becomes of other bar failers like myself. I hardly see anyone willing to admit they fall into my class, even anonymously on the interwebs. But I know there's a lot of us out there who will feel forever shamed, humiliated, and eternally bitter. Especially those of us who have the loans.

    The first three or four years out were especially rough. After failing the third time, in 2008, I had a nervous breakdown and was contemplating suicide by jumping off of the golden gate bridge or touching the third rail of a BART train.

    JD advantage? No. Not for me at least.

    1. Don't be too hard on yourself. Look at John F. Kennedy Jr. How many times did he take the bar exam before passing? Don't think he tortured himself over it.

    2. I do wonder if the average law firm administrator/professor contemplates the number of suicides they are responsible for having set in motion.

      *Employed* lawyers, as a profession, have much higher than normal suicide rates - type A personalities, pressure to succeed, debt, etc.

      How much worse is it for the 50% of the law students who can't even manage to launch a paying career?

      Thank god law professors are such a politically liberal bunch on the whole - that makes up for the mass murder of careers...and more than a few *people*.

    3. The ABA should at least raise standards so that the sorts of people who are likely not to pass the bar exam even after several tries won't be admitted to law school.

      As it is, people with LSAT scores as low as 130 are reportedly being admitted to ABA-accredited law schools.

    4. Just wanted to to @3:51 and say I am sorry to hear about your tough times. Glad you pulled through it. I can only imagine the stress of failing that wretched exam. Sincerely glad that you saw your way through these tough times. Tragically, I am sure some don't.

  14. And cut off the money and no more vulgar JD diploma mills and all that work for them.

    It will happen. This year or next year or when the entire US indebted economy suffers a huge setback as it seems on the brink of now.

  15. @3:51PM

    Well, all I can say is that you borrowed money like I did and thinking we were special in some way for being able to get the loan.

    There was nothing in the promissory note about suicide, although all indications to a candid world by now are clearly in favor of suicide as the only way out of American student loan debt as opposed to an entire life of deep indebted shame.

    That is, after American fair dealing in the form of bankruptcy consumer human rights protections have been criminally and outrageously wiped away, and are now a basic effront to basic worldwide humanity, and with the full approval and sanction of the American Bar Association?

    All satire BTW. All satire :)

  16. 3:51 here.

    To follow up on my previous post, it might be interesting to see Lawprof or DJM do some research about people who take loans, graduate, and never pass the bar. How many people fall into this category? Do they repay their loans? Do they try for admission in other states?

    I suspect my cohort is a lot larger than most people realize. Most of us are just too ashamed to admit our failures, so we go along with the spin that we have a "JD advantage."

    1. A quick and dirty analysis might compare licensed attys per the ABA:


      (1.25 million currently licensed per the ABA)


      the number of law grads from the past 40 years (again via the ABA)


      (1.49 million).

      So there are nearly 250,000 law school grads from the last 40 years who are not currently licensed as attys.

      So about 1/6th of all law grads from the past 40 years never passed the bar or for whatever reason, no longer see the value in maintaining bar membership.

      Again, the Russian Roulette analogy seems appropriate (1 filled chamber in 6...or 3 in 6 for today's grads).

  17. I'd be interested to learn what someone with 100,000 of student loan does to payback a loan from $10 per hour. What happens when the loans come calling?

    1. The system is set up so that between various deferrals, the day of true reckoning can usually be put off for 2 to 3 years - after *that*, and the collection calls, etc. start in serious earnest.

      But blood cannot be taken from a stone.

      The *government* has many more tools for their own self-serving fraud when it comes to student loan defaults - they can (and have) obscured/obliterated the true level of defaulted loans for many, many years.

      (When you have the legal authority to forge the currency and thereby silently confiscate the private savings of the entire nation...*your* day of reckoning can be a very long - but not infinite - time in coming).

      The primary Fed scam in this regard?

      Providing external reporting of defaults only for graduating cohorts 1, 2, or 3 years out from graduation.

      Not coincidentally about the same period of time that standard loan deferrals can be invoked - utterly distorting the reported loan default statistics.

      "Lifetime" or "cumulative" loan default percentages have historically been almost impossible for the public to get hold of - that may be changing.

      Here is what must be understood - the US government and legal education system are utterly, utterly rotted through with corruption - and have been for decades.

      As with most massive government programs, the alleged "providers"/"public servants" have captured and subsequently exploit the system for their own financial benefit - under the canopy of loudly professed personal virtue and sacrifice (the mythic "underpaid" public sector worker, etc.)

      As the Prof more or less said in the WAPO piece - The Legal Education System is Solely Run for the Benefit of the Legal Education System.

      (My personal opinion is that the exact same is true for public education as a whole - it is a sink of decayed political corruption wearing the mask of selfless virtue).

    2. Wow! Well said!! I've never heard it put so clearly. It's a shame so few people understand and believe what you wrote.

      The day of reckoning is on the horizon but I suspect it is too far away for masses to even suspect it is coming.

  18. Maybe some unpaid jobs (these days glorified as "internships") and marginally paid jobs give a preference to people with a JD. "Mop our floors and write our wills as needed."

  19. Watching the election returns come in . . . still early, but looks like I won't be hiring an associate after all. May fire a couple out of pique.

    1. Or you could follow law professors into partnership at Davis Polk? I hear that is how fits of pique usually affect lawyers.

    2. Ah, if only. I am just a small town boy. No Davis Polk p'ship available to me now (though I am a T6 grad). More like shutting down the shop. Say goodbye private sector Amerika. I'm not only not hiring an associate as I promised to do if Romney won. I will probably need to fire one or two. Most likely, I will just end the whole thing and retire to the beach. So long, Amerika.

    3. Speaking of beaches...it is interesting when you look at county-by-county Prez election results...a lot of very Dem-heavy counties lie on the water (oceans and Great Lakes).


      Comparatively scarce real estate jacks up housing prices, skewing the Gini/income distribution index - so, lots of rich and lots of poor, no middle class (= Dem domination).

      The only other counties that are anywhere near as heavily Dem are those containing *college towns* (all that student loan ripoff money) and state capitols (home of the political class tax feeders).

      What does this have to do with beaches?

      A huge fraction of the world is made up of coastlines...you are better off finding a beach in another country...that is my plan.

    4. Bye Small Town Boy. You didn't really think that Romney was going to win did you? I mean there was a lot of hysteria saying he would, but the good polls never showed him ahead.

    5. Also - if you want to live in South Korea, they have plenty of coast, and you might be able to get a job teaching English.

      You could even try to take some of the people you are going to fire with you!

    6. Too many of you round eyes here now, messing up our areas. Stay at home, we don't want you.

  20. I am in Compliance (class of 2011) and am still looking for JD required work. Listen 0l's - the jobs are not there. If i could talk to my idealistic self in 2007 studying for LSAT i would slap myself for thinking a JD was good......its a huge liability and expense....

  21. If the loans can't be paid back, they won't. As my mama always told me, you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip.

    Taxpayers will end up eating the loss from defaults and IBR. Neither Republicans nor Democrats will do anything about the income transfer from young/poor (law students) to older/rich (law profs and deans/admins), because of the shibboleth that further education is always a good thing, and that everyone should have access to it.

    We'll just approach the financial cliff a little more quickly because of this.

  22. Obama re-elected. Dont expect any meaningful student loan reform

    1. Not an Obama supporter...but he has made *some* noises about reform - which indicates that the Administration is aware that they are being heavily, heavily gamed by the Student Loan Lobby/Schools.

      The more likely intestinal blockage will be the Dem Senate - Obama is term limited out but scratch a Senator and you will find a Caesar in the making - and they need/want the Student Loan kickback money (along with every other government program kickback money).

      But there is a *chance* of reform - the pending trillion dollar threshold in student loans will get a fair amount of press.

      As will the upcoming required debt extension.

      And the fiscal cliff.

    2. Obama has pressed for student loan reform but only for the for-profit schools which are even more of a rip-off (hard though that is to believe) than most law schools.

      This is where a more bipartisan Republican party could have done some good - by recognising the problem with the for-profit schools, but pointing out that it goes further into the private and to a degree public colleges and graduate schools and that the rules being applied to for-profit schools should also apply to the"non-profit" sector. Similarly the Republicans could push to make excessive IBR claims for graduates of any school an underwriting issue limiting that schools ability to write student loans.

      My sympathies are Democratic, but you have to recognise that academia as a group, and law school academia in particular, is very heavily democrat, very influential in the Democratic party and provides in general a nice handy refuge for out of office Democratic politicians. As an interest group academics are "well got" with the Democrats which means that it would take Republicans to push hard for change. But the Republicans push for insanity - rather than the sort of changes that could be achieved and would have a solid impact.

      And yes, I do recognise that decreased state funding for education is arguably an issue - though realistically state funding has not constrained the ridiculous largess of many state systems towards many academics (particularly law professors) - remember academic is similarly "well got" with state governments.

      Long-term the US needs a better educated workforce (with less law graduates), but to get there it has to deal with the college costs issue while also improving k-12 education. Fixing the student loan system is part of getting costs under control.

  23. Speaking of grads who never pass the bar...19 of my classmates (out of 175) are not admitted in any state n2 1/2 years after graduation.

  24. 4 More Years - I'm in tears.November 6, 2012 at 8:41 PM


  25. Hmm, Ohio is interestingNovember 6, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    I've been refreshing CNN's numbers. With now reporting 77% in, Ohio actually shows Romney ahead of Obama 2,259,173 to 2,256,785.

    Is it really that close?

  26. Perhaps law school employment surveys should also include job satisfaction components.

    1. Why?

      They can't even get basic data of who has a job and how much they make. To collect subjective data would be even tougher.

      Besides, people a biglaw have very low job satisfaction, but they aren't looking for other work the first two years unless they've been fired.

  27. @3:51

    What becomes of other individuals who are unable to pass the bar? Why, probably the same thing that happens to those who pass the bar today - whether you passed the bar or not, there aren't enough legal jobs so the outcome may be more similar than you think.

    You shouldn't be so hard on yourself. I passed the bar on the first try and guess what? I made $13,000 last year in a part-time, non-legal job and right now, I am unemployed. Bar passage did absolutely nothing for my career options so it seems that your life and my life are similar in that respect: your life wouldn't have been much different regardless of your bar outcome.

    There is an interesting tendency for those who did not pass the bar to wonder what their lives would have been like had they passed. When you look at my life and the lives of my friends who did pass the bar, so few of us were actually able to find legal work that our lives are little different from your own, except that maybe we have had less success than you have in the jobs' department.

    When we lack something, it is normal to believe that the very lack of that something is the source of all existing problems. Observing my employment outcome - the employment outcome of someone who passed the bar on the first time - should make it clear that passing the bar does little to enhance one's prospects. It's just the economy we live in, sigh.

  28. I think a hiring manager just wants someone to do the work that he needs to have done. I doubt if he would know or care in the least if you had passed the bar or not. The trick might be getting past the personnel department to the hiring person.

  29. What the NALP should request (and release) is a more detailed breakdown of "Other." Imagine if schools had to disclose that 20% of their graduates were working in "Retail," or "Food Service."

    1. Instead, the law schools say "Business", leaving people to suspect upper management rather than dispensing coffee.

  30. There's no way out. The mere fact that the law school monopoly rent machine exists proves that your government desires it. One's life is worth more than the financial abuse, fraud, oppression, greed, and intentional destruction of those who benefit, but there's no way out. They'll make every day a living hell if you fall into their path. Suicide is the only way out. Suicide is freedom. Freedom is always good.


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