Choosing a Law School Using ABA Data & Stats

Old CalculatorAfter they’re admitted, so many law school applicants have a hard time choosing one law school to attend. It seems that the more choices an applicant has, the harder it is to make a decision.

Anyone who works with me knows that I always recommend visiting schools to help you make up your mind. But in addition to that, I recommend using data and statistics.

Before you choose your law school, you should find out the following.

  1. What kinds of jobs are recent graduates getting? Ones that require a J.D. and bar passage or ones that do not?
  2. What kinds of sectors and organizations are recent graduates working in? Private sector? Small, medium or large firms? Government? Public Interest? Business & Industry? Clerkships?
  3. Does this match up with where you want to work?
  4. What are the top 3 states where recent graduates work? Do you want to work there?

These are all key questions to ask. And thankfully, the answers are right at your fingertips in the American Bar Association (ABA) Employment Summary Reports.

Here’s how to get started on evaluating your law schools.

First, click on the ABA link above.

Second, on the right-hand side, use the drop-down menu to pick the law school you’re considering. As an example, let’s choose Boston College. Also, pick the most recent class (year); in this case, 2013. Then click on the “Generate Report” button.

Third, here’s the good part! Look at the top where it says, Employed – Bar Passage Required. Follow that line to see how many graduates secured jobs where passing the bar was required. Notice how many jobs were full time and long term.

Next, take the number at the end of that line; in this case, 174, and divide it by the total number of graduates (see the bottom of that first table). In this case, it’s 253.

174 divided by 253 is .6877. Or 68.8%.

Thus, 68.8% of 2013 Boston College Law graduates secured a job that required a J.D. and bar passage.

According to the National Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP), in 2013, only 57% of law school graduates were employed in a job that required bar passage. So, Boston College having almost 70% is actually quite good.

Repeat these steps for each law school that you’re thinking about attending.

How are their numbers? Do they give you relief or do they cause anxiety?

A few more areas to note…

Pay attention to the second table labeled, Law School/University Funded Positions. It’s fine if a law school hires a few graduates, but when that number starts creeping above 5-6 people, you have to wonder, are they trying to pad their numbers?

Also pay attention to the next to last line in the first table: Employment Status Unknown. The number should be 0 or close to 0. In other words, you want a law school that cares enough about its alumni to keep in close communication with them.

And, if you want all employment data for all law schools for a particular year in a spreadsheet, click on the bottom right side of the site to Download Complete Employment Data.

Use the ABA’s employment summary reports to your advantage!

By thoroughly examining the statistics and data for each school, you can more thoughtfully pick a law school that’s going to help you achieve your ultimate goal: a job as a lawyer.

Have questions about choosing law schools? Questions about deciphering ABA’s law school data? I’d love to hear from you! I’m here to help. Post your questions below and I’ll respond.

Old calculator photo by George Hodan.