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Lawyer Career Satisfaction Remains Remarkably High Three Years after Graduation Despite Pandemic Challenges

The NALP Foundation and NALP have released their joint study, Law School Alumni Employment and Satisfaction for the Class of 2017, their eighth such report.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Reflecting the legal profession's increasing focus on diversity and inclusion, this year’s Law School Alumni Employment and Satisfaction study includes new information about diverse and first-generation graduates, as well as data on educational debt and the impact of COVID-19 and the economic downturn.

Among the key findings:

1) High employment and satisfaction rates: Even with a slight overall reduction in graduates’ employment rate three years out, both the employment rate (96%) and career satisfaction levels (85%) remain remarkably high.

2) High mobility levels: Over two-thirds of alumni have held two or more sequential positions since graduation.

3) Limited impact of COVID-19 and the economic downturn:
- Nearly one-third of graduates reported no noticeable impact on their jobs and careers;
- Over one quarter of graduates reported these issues affected educational loan repayment;
- Less than a quarter experienced a reduction in their amount of work.

4) Outstanding educational debt varied considerably:
- Total educational debt ranged from none to $600,000 at the three-year mark;
- A sizable number of graduates had $100,000 or more in educational debt still outstanding.

5) Decline in overall satisfaction levels with current job:
- 45% rated their overall satisfaction as “extremely satisfied,” down from 53% for the Class of 2016;
- Graduates reported one of the highest levels of “dissatisfaction” to date (10%).

“Our joint annual study delivers unique insights into legal education – and whether it does or does not effectively prepare graduates for practice,” said Fiona Trevelyan Hornblower, President & CEO of the NALP Foundation. “It also provides critical information on their early careers, and will therefore be of keen interest to all those working in legal education and with young lawyers,” said Hornblower.

This year’s study reflects data from 1,750 alumni participants, with 1,444 responses from alumni of 26 U.S. law schools and 306 responses from four Canadian law schools’ graduates. All ABA-accredited law schools were invited to participate, and data was collected over a four-month period from September 9 to December 31, 2020.

The full PDF report for U.S. law schools is available for purchase from the NALP Foundation's online Bookstore. The comparable report for Canadian law school outcomes will be released shortly.

For media inquiries about this year's Law School Alumni Employment and Satisfaction report, please contact Fiona Trevelyan Hornblower, President & CEO of the NALP Foundation, at fhornblower@nalpfoundation org or Jim Leipold, Executive Director of NALP, at

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