A Look Toward the Future: Planning Your Legal Career Today

March 2, 2022

Law school requires an investment of time and money, and your planning needs to begin today so you can maximize and protect your investment. This webinar, aimed at individuals planning to start law school by August 2022, will put you on the right track to get the most of your law school experience and the JD degree — from figuring out what you’d like to do, to learning about the career opportunities in modern practice, to determining how best to achieve your professional goals.


Full Transcript

Voiceover: LSAC LawHub®. Explore. Prepare. Succeed. LawHub Webinar Series. A Look Toward the Future: Planning Your Legal Career Today. Recorded March 2, 2022.


Collin Takita: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the LawHub® Webinar Series. My name is Collin Takita, and I’m the director of prelaw learning here at LSAC. Before we get started with today’s webinar, I would like to share with you all some exciting news. LSAC LawHub, a suite of solutions designed specifically for individuals like you interested in the legal education from prelaw through practice, just gotten more powerful with the addition of the tools from Law School Transparency opens in new browser window, LST. Now, you may have heard of LST, but in case it’s new to you, LST’s innovative tools help aspiring law students make informed decisions about their future, which is all the more important given the substantial investment of time and money to pursue a legal education. Over the next 12 months, we will be working to integrate the LawHub and LST user experience. Making LST’s insights, tools, and resources part of LawHub’s offerings will help even more students like you to be more informed and to improve legal education outcomes.

Now, if you have not already created a LawHub account, please be sure to do so today, and stay tuned for more information about exciting new LawHub offerings just like this one. Now, on to today. So today I’m so excited that you all have joined us, because we have a spectacular program planned. Some of you with us today are likely deciding whether to accept an admission offer and to attend law school this fall, while some of you are possibly still deciding if law school is even a right fit for you. Today, we hope to help you make some of those decisions, to formulate some plans and set some expectations for yourself in terms of what a career in law could actually look like for you.

I’m delighted today to be joined by Dean Karen Britton opens in new browser window. She’s the vice dean for admissions, career and professional development, and student affairs at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Dean Britton has an incredible presentation prepared for you, filled to the brim with information we think could be useful. Now, before I hand things over to Dean Britton, I wanted to let everyone know that she will be answering questions as part of a Q&A period during the second half of this program. So if you have questions, we encourage you to submit them via the Q&A throughout the presentation. We will do our best to respond to as many questions as possible. So with that, Dean Britton, it’s all yours. Go ahead and take it away.


Dean Karen Britton: Hello, everyone, good morning, good afternoon, from wherever you are. I’m really pleased to get a chance to spend time with you today. My whole career has really been formed around helping students understand the relationship between the admission decision and the career decision. So I’m thrilled to have been asked to talk about this today. And my mantra, I guess, is that the best enrollment decisions are made when a candidate like you relies on solid information from the schools and has a strong sense of self-awareness. So I contend that you’re going to want to choose your law school with your career in mind. So let’s talk a little bit about how your knowledge about jobs and careers will inform your enrollment decision. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about the data that you are already facing, do you wonder why on Earth we’re now asking you to look at more data and take on even more information? But we’re going to make it easy for you today to find out and show you what you need and where to find it. There is ample consumer information that’s right on point for what you need. And it’s really easy to find. But it can be a little bit hard to sift through just the noise of information that’s available in the national media and find out what really matters to you. So let’s talk about the topics, or let’s look first at the topics we’re going to cover today. What did I say earlier? The best enrollment decisions are made when a candidate relies on solid information about schools and has a strong sense of self.

But let’s talk out how knowledge of jobs and careers is going to inform your enrollment decision. There are more common factors than you might immediately recognize. Most applicants are going to develop a short list of the schools that they are considering based on research into factors such as these. So look at each item here for just a second. Cost, of course you want to consider the cost of the law school and cost of living and the relationship between debt and your future earnings. Knowing a little bit about future earnings is an important variable there. Location, as we’ll discuss later, location plays an incredibly important role in determining which law school makes sense for you. There may be many law schools that make sense for you, but some may just have an edge over others.

Reputation. Of course you’re going to be concerned about the reputation of the law school, but particularly as that reputation limits or enhances access to the employers that you seek to attract. Professional outcomes. You are going to want to analyze information about jobs and Bar passage. So be aware, too, that the employers you seek to influence are also aware of these factors. Then finally, but just as importantly, personal connections. The connections you are going to make in law school are going to follow you the rest of your life. They’re going to help you launch your career, and they will absolutely be critical in your first job search. Let’s look at some of the terminology that you’ll need to understand as you analyze the data that you will see from law schools. It’s not quite like a foreign language, but it’s important to understand what you see. You are probably monitoring the law school admission market very carefully. You probably know how competitive it is. And you know how competitive you might be to certain schools that appeal to you. Well, the same process is going on in the career world.

This slide shows you some of the questions that those of us who scrutinize the legal job market are also asking. So I include this slide really just for your general knowledge and your context, to make you aware of some of the talking points that those of us who deal in law careers are interested in as well and will be monitoring over the course of the time you will be in law school.

Just like all the planets in the law school admission universe seem to revolve around LSAC, in the law school careers world, you’re going to rely on data that is analyzed by NALP, the National Association for Law Placement opens in new browser window, and also data that are reported to the American Bar Association. I sort of liken NALP to the NCAA of legal recruitment. All North American law schools and the largest 1,500 or so legal employers in North America are members, and schools and employers collaborate on best practices and trends in legal recruitment. So you will be relying on several sources of reliable data. Much of that will be produced by NALP. Really specifically, NALP produces an annual report of graduate employment that is called Jobs & JDs. NALP has produced this document for more than 45 years. So it’s a tremendous longitudinal resource, and it provides every year pretty much a census of law graduate employment activity. And I’m going to use NALP data, Jobs & JDs data, for the class of ’20 today.

Now, the American Bar Association opens in new browser window also publishes a summary that is posted on each law school’s website. Websites such as Law School Transparency are also going to provide tools that you might want to use. So one question you may have, as Collin said, are you applying to law school at a good time, given the job market?

Now, this slide shows, the orange line is the number of jobs taken by law graduates nationwide each year since 2007. And the blue line shows the number of graduates of all law schools nationwide in that same year. So these data suggest that 2020 is not quite as good as, say, 2010, when most of you were probably 10 years old or so, but that the job market nationwide is tipping up relative to the number of students graduating and seeking those jobs. So a healthy job market will show a solid ratio between the number of grads and the number of jobs that they accepted. And that is generally the case in 2020, which is the last class for which national employment data are shown.

So ideally, for those of you who love graphs like this, both lines should be high, and there should be little space between the points on the axis for each year, because that situation reflects a solid ratio between graduates seeking jobs and the jobs available. And obviously, the more jobs, the happier we all are. Just to give you a sense of how the world of counting noses happens for law schools, law schools nationwide are right now capturing data about their class of 2021 graduates, and we will all report to NALP and to the ABA on March 15. So when you’re writing down action steps you can take, it will certainly be fair game for you to ask law schools how their graduates fared, their class of 2021 graduates, even before those outcomes are reported in the fall. So the previous slide shows law graduates.

Now, let’s take a look at 1L enrollment. You’re all seeking to be a 1L if you enroll in law school this fall. So as you can see on the slide, 1L enrollment peaked in 2010 and then dropped until 2013, during the recession years. So, as you might imagine, people who were looking to attend law school were also monitoring the job market. So it only makes sense that as jobs declined, so did interest in law school. The 2021 entering class is not on this chart; what’s charted here are graduation years. But if this chart was extended, it would show that the 2021 entering class nationwide was up significantly from the 38,202 that you see here to 42,718 1Ls, and these are LSAC data. And this is the largest group since 2012. You may be wondering, is there a national employment rate for law graduates? So NALP computes that. And that rate for the last 20 years is charted here. So as you can see, the job market for law graduates dipped significantly during the recessionary years several years ago. You can also see that it has rebounded pretty strongly. I’ll have to say that all of us in the industry kind of held their breath to see what the class of 2020 outcomes would be because of COVID. But we were all universally relieved when the national employment rate came close to the stronger pre-recession rate.

One of the ways in which each law school will present data to you will be in this sort of graphic presentation of how their graduates fell along this continuum of the entry-level job market. So I wanted to sort of show you how the entire class of 2020 nationwide looked as far as how graduates were distributed among the types of job or the job status they could have. As you can see, the vast amount of law graduates, the blue wedge, show that the majority of graduates held jobs for which Bar passage is required. So you’ll start to see this terminology: Bar passage required, JD Advantage. But the blue wedge here, this is a good proxy for graduates taking jobs actually practicing law.

Now, the second-largest number, which is in orange, is jobs for which a law degree, a JD, was an advantage, but that licensure as an attorney was not required to take that job. These are always law-related jobs, and actually, many people who go through law school don’t necessarily strive to be licensed. They are actually looking for a job for which a JD is an advantage. You’re going to see smaller groups of graduates who found other professional and non-professional jobs. You’re going to see a small, thankfully, number of graduates nationwide were unemployed and still seeking a job after 10 months of their graduation. This is still a very reasonable rate, given the years of looking at these data. Now, let’s take a quick look at this chart as if it only included graduates who had jobs. So this entire circle are graduates with jobs. So you can see that, gosh, the vast majority of them, of the jobs that were out there were Bar passage required, and the next group was JD advantage. So this clearly shows that for those law graduates with jobs, most of them are indeed using their law degrees. The legal industry has also generally agreed that these categories of employers best described entry-level law graduate jobs. And law schools are going to report their graduates in these categories, according to this typology.

So this also represents an opportunity for you to educate yourself and think about what you believe your first post-graduate job might be. Which category might it fall in? Where do your interests lie? Now, you do not have to know this for sure, but it will help you, as you enter law school, to have some sense of which of these employer types you’re going to be most interested in exploring. You will remember from the slide we just showed you that the blue wedge, again the biggest, was private practice. Close to 60% of law graduates in the class of 2020 took jobs with law firms, which is what “private practice” means. But it’s important to realize how those graduates distributed themselves by the size of the law firm that they joined. And you may say, well, why does that matter? And I think you’ll see in just a minute. But I mean, the question may be, were all of the graduates taking those big law jobs that I hear about in the national media?

Well, as this slide shows, about a third of the private practice jobs taken were in big law, and about a third were on the opposite end of the continuum, the very smallest law firms in the United States. So if you look at this slide a little differently, the blue portion suggests that half of graduates who took a job in a law firm were at a firm of 50 attorneys or fewer, while almost another half were in the larger firms. And you may say, again, not 100% sure how I use this information. Well, we will get to that in just a second. When you are making your enrollment decision, you are undoubtedly wanting to limit your debt but also realize that you may have to pay more to go to a law school that might, for many reasons, provide a solid value to you.

But if you are looking at private practice as your first stop after graduation, it may be helpful to compare these data to the prior slide. And you will see that the larger the law firm, the higher the salaries tend to be. This is a general rule, but this has proven to be the case that in general, if you want to work in a law firm and start out making six figures, making $100,000, that you really need to be in a law firm of at least a hundred lawyers. And this is, again, a bit of an overgeneralization, but the data have borne this out. And this could be lawyers in multiple offices across a particular firm, but there is a solid relationship between the size of the firm and the size of the salary that a starting attorney will earn. It’s also incredibly important to realize it probably costs more to live in a city that supports a law firm, or many law firms, of 500 lawyers or more. So you certainly need to take into consideration many other factors, other than just starting salary, if you’re looking at a law-firm job.

This is a mildly confusing slide, but I include it simply because I think it’s important to have this general sense. If you take all of the jobs, all of the salaries that were reported by law graduates nationwide in the class of 2020, you would see this distribution. You would see that a lot of jobs fall between the $50,000 and the $80,000 range. Then you’re going to see a diminution of salaries along the continuum until you reach the big law starting salaries. And if you think about the slide, a few slides back, that showed two peaks in the distribution of the size of firm, you’ll see that this correlates well. So you do have to realize that your salary when you graduate will fall somewhere along this continuum, but these data can be very helpful to understand that there is sort of a two-prong distribution of salaries with a big peak at the big law level. But again, that only goes to a small number of graduates. So you know how to decipher some of the information about the schools that interest you.

Now, how are you going to use this information when you decide where to apply? Next slide. The single most important piece of information you should take away from today’s webinar is that you have to do extensive research, but you should rely only on the most current and reliable data. This is not the sort of decision that should rely on old information. Use the best information, the most reliable, the most current, and the good news is that’s readily available data. Here’s some industry definitions that I think you’re going to need to know in order to interpret the data that each school can present to you. And this terminology is going to follow all the way through law school. Now, most of the variability is in job status. In other words, graduates are either going to be employed or they are not going to be employed after graduation. You’ll be able to see that clearly. And then you’re going to be able to see the nature of the job that the graduates of that school accepted. And of course, you’re going to want to look for a high percentage of graduates who have jobs that either fall into the Bar passage required or JD advantage jobs if you see yourself in a school that yields lawyers in traditional job modes. Now, the job settings. We’ve already explained that as well.

These are the five general settings that you are going to see most data portray. Again, you don’t have to make the decision as to where your job might be, but it is important to realize these are standard terms that should flow through all the data that you see. Location. I have alluded to the fact that location is an important variable in your consideration, and this is why. And NALP data have born this out for, gosh, probably 40 of the last 45 years that these data have been collected. But most law graduates take the first job after graduation in the region of the country in which they attended law school. Vast majority. Now, many of them could also go back to home, wherever home is. That is also something that isn’t measured in these data but I think absolutely bears truth in practice. But keep in mind, so by looking at these data, you should probably consider some schools in the region of the country in which you believe you are at least interested in establishing your career. Almost that many, but not quite, 65% of law graduates nationwide accept their first job in the region of the country. I mean in the state, the exact state where they attended law school, and this makes sense because of the relationship piece, the connection piece, the chance to work in the summers, the chance to develop relationships easily with alumni.

So I think that makes good sense. And we won’t talk about this much today. But, I mean, big cities do account for a large percentage of the jobs. That does not mean you have to want to work in a big city, but you may need to realize that you have to, if you want to live in a particular part of the country or a particular city or a particular rural area, pays to be aware of what kinds of jobs are available there. And in just a minute, we’ll talk about how states can differ very dramatically in the number of and type of positions that are available.

I had promised you just a short list of the very best objective sources of information. And the good news about this is, every law school is required, by the American Bar Association, our accrediting agency, to have the ABA Standard 509 Report opens in new browser window, which contains valuable information, but the ABA Employment Summary for Graduates available within one click of each website. So your homework for today is to go to the website of the school that is sort of leading, I guess, in lead position for your favor and look up the Standard 509 Report and the ABA Employment Summary for Graduates. And there you will find a breakdown of class of 2020 graduates for that school. And you will realize how easy this research actually is. You’re also going to want to, and this is a little bit more sophisticated, but you’re a sophisticated audience, so let’s talk about this a little bit.

These questions are where you, and only you, can start connecting the dots to choose a law school that will position you for the type of job that interests you most in the area of the country where you want to live. So just think about these topics. And if you are open about what type of work you want to do, there may be more schools that will meet your needs, but if you are going to limit yourself to just a particular type of job and further limit yourself in a particular area or city, then I would recommend that you have to be more open to the types of jobs that are available there in that area. And then you’ll want to overlay the salary data so that you can understand the relationship between the debt you might undertake. So for that reason, I thought, after having shown you all that detailed information about private practice, we should look at the other highly desirable areas in which you are likely to take a job if you do not work in private practice: working for a business, working in government, working as a judicial clerk, or working in public interest; we know that many law graduates now want to work in a public interest setting.

This slide, I think, does a pretty good job of showing you the percentage of 2020 graduates who took a job in each of these sectors. What the median salary was that was reported by those graduates. And then a salary range. So this shows you that 90% of the salaries reported fell between the values that you see there. And obviously location, size of the market, will have a lot to do with this range. You’ll see some of these ranges that if you follow this year after year, you’re not going to see much variance. Judicial clerks, for example, which are one- or two-year postgraduate jobs, typically federal or state jobs, you’re not going to see that much growth in those salaries, but those are desirable jobs because they’re like a trampoline. They help you advance into your next position.

Some of these jobs are going to be where your heart lies. Others are going to be wanting to perhaps experiment and not be quite sure exactly where their heart positions them. It sort of helps to know where the jobs are. Just the sheer availability of jobs. This shows you for the class of 2020, the actual number of jobs that were reported by the states. And I just randomly selected these states as a distribution. So if a state has few jobs to offer and many students going to law school in that state, that can be useful information. You can understand the more competitive nature. But if a state has few jobs and also very few law schools, that can help you understand the competitive nature there as well. But if it’s a state that has a small number of jobs, you can imagine that it might be more important to develop relationships while you’re in law school to be one of the chosen few for a job in that state.

Why would it matter to you when law graduates or when third-year law students get their jobs? Why am I even talking about that today? Well, it matters because this is a factor in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, which tends to suggest more prestige to job settings that are jobs that are taken before graduation. But it’s important to realize that not all employers hire before graduation, even though U.S. News places a higher value on the reporting of those who do. So if you are not aiming for a job in big law or a federal judicial clerkship, chances are you are going to be looking for your first job during your 3L year, but you will be just like graduates all across the nation. Employers in different sectors hire using different methods and at different times. So it’s important to realize, to some extent, what is normative, particularly when an important ranking tends to put more value on one when that may not relate to your goals at all. So, finally, how and when do you gather information from the law schools that are on your short list? So the easy answer is before the seat deposit deadline, before you make an enrollment commitment to that school.

So I’ve already shown you how easy it is to do consumer research on your own, but you may want to kick it up a notch. You might want to ask questions such as this at admitted-student events that you might attend this month or in your conversations, as you are trying to get to know the staff and faculty at the schools that interest you most. So I suggest these questions only as one of several that you might consider to just get a little more in-depth information that could help guide your decision.

I just give you here the source for the data that has been discussed so far, and you may say, I’m not sure I want to read a 300-page report on all of this. Well, the good news is there’s a free website here at www.nalp.org opens in new browser window. There is a section on press releases and trend data in employment that can give you a summary of great information for free. And also your prelaw advisor at your undergraduate school, if you’re still in touch with them, conceivably will have a copy of this report too. But the good news is, the law schools that appeal to you are going to be really impressed if you ask questions that show your knowledge and understanding of these concepts, and they will not be at all offended; they’ll actually be very pleased that you have taken enough interest in them to get to know them a little bit better.

So that’s the end of my slides. OK. So now we’re all back together, and I am happy to take questions. I know that was a lot of data thrown at you very, very quickly. So I don’t know whether LSAC is going to make copies of the slides available or not, but ...


Collin: Great. Yeah. Great point, Karen. So we will be making the recording available to all registrants after the fact. So they’ll have the opportunity to review your slides, because that was a lot of information and it was fantastic information. So we have been getting a lot of questions through the Q&A and I want to encourage everyone who’s still in the program with us today to continue to put your questions in while I ask Dean Britton some of the ones that have come through so far. So Dean Britton, I think one of the good ones that came up here, and I think this is probably in response to a lot of the graphics that you’ve been putting up there, is do you predict any significant changes in the employment landscape in the next three to five years, say, when the people in this program are likely to be graduating from law school?


Dean Britton: That is a great question. And from what we have been able to determine, because hiring has rebounded so rapidly, the big variable that we cannot predict is how many individuals who are perhaps at the, in the twilight stages of their career might find that this is a good time to go ahead and retire for any number of reasons. Particularly if jobs shift to a lot of online, remote, using technology more, that could suggest that some people determine that this is a good time to go ahead and cease their careers, which will offer opportunities for new attorneys to come in and really enjoy some of these new job opportunities to deliver legal services in new ways. So no, those of us who try to follow this are just so pleased that the job market has rebounded, but we do realize that there could be changes just based on the delivery of legal services and use of technology.


Collin: Great. It’s almost as if you saw the next question that came in through the Q&A, because someone was wondering, how do these firms, these employers, actually go about planning for hiring? Do they wait for their associates to retire? Do they wait for big changes in the job market in general? Or how do they typically go about hiring?


Dean Britton: Well, they look at their own productivity. They look at their own client needs. They look at their own — they are analyzing data about what their clients are actually asking for, whether they are perhaps using integrated teams of lawyers who could include some younger lawyers at a lower billing rate, or whether their clients tend to like to hang on to relationships that have perhaps been very longstanding. And, as you all can imagine, the smaller the law firm, the smaller the city, the more likely those relationships are to be longstanding, and in a larger law firm, in a larger market, not that people are fungible commodities; they’re not. But they could expect to see more variability in the talent that compose their client teams. Does that help, Collin?


Collin: I think it does. It really does. And in fact, it leads me into another question about relationships and the importance of relationship building. So could you talk a little bit about the importance of building relationships with potential employers, not only during law school, but at this early stage as well, maybe before you’ve been accepted into law school?


Dean Britton: Yeah, I think let’s just start right there. I was talking to an admitted student the other day who was very much interested in knowing a little bit more about jobs that lawyers take in, I think it was, agricultural law. I hope the person isn’t on this call, but when we were meeting, I went through and researched some law firms for her that does this particular type of law. And it really helped her do some research to learn more about the types of law firms, the types of practice that might really relate to her undergraduate needs. So if you happen to feel like your area of interest might be slightly esoteric and you’re not 100% sure how your interest in food and drug law might, or food and drugs might play out in the legal job market, start Googling law firms in the markets that appeal to you most, and start to read job descriptions for lawyers who do what you think you might be interested in doing.

Now, you could always take the information, email them and say, “I’m really interested in a career that I believe might mirror your own. I’m thinking about going to law school. I have an important decision pending. I noticed that you are a graduate of XYZ law school, and that’s one of the schools I’m considering. Would you have even 15 minutes to talk with me?” And that might appeal to their, first of all, their pride in what they do, their interest in someone who is coming along who might be interested in that career path, and their loyalty as an alumnus. That gets to some of the things that you might do before you enroll. But one of the things you might want to ask the law school that you choose is, how do they develop relationships that are other than just at the interview stage? Do they have lawyers coming in and speaking? Do they have alumni that come in and serve as mentors? What does the law school do for you to help ease those relationships, to help facilitate those relationships? Schools are going to be very proud and happy to talk about what they do in that area. Then you, as a student, have to be willing to engage.

You really can’t be just a passive recipient of that information. Once your law school starts to offer you opportunities to network, some people are scared of that networking word, but you really have to be willing to jump in and start to be a relationship developer.


Collin: That’s tremendous advice. And I think it’s great advice. I mean, the more information you can accumulate, the better, the more conversations you can have with people, the better, right? It helps in all facets of things. And you mentioned some of the stuff you could do now with researching potential fields of law and areas of interest. So I’m curious if — there’s a few questions that have come up about this topic. The one which I think is quite interesting is, how common is it to say, right now, what type of law you want to get into, you pick that as your career? How common is it to actually go through and fulfill that?


Dean Britton: Well, that’s really an excellent question. I think that most students come in with some sense of where their skills and interests lie, even if it is something as broad-brush as civil versus criminal, public versus private. I think you almost have to come in with some theory that you are testing about where you feel like you might be best suited, because if nothing else, people are going to ask you all the time: So, why are you here? What are you thinking about? What do you believe interests you? So you need to have a short elevator speech that at least encapsulates what you know about yourself at this point in time. But I think that a lot of students use the first year as sort of a testing ground. They are both taking fundamental classes and then also they are interacting with mentors. And I think they will — most people come out of the first year of law school with some sense of what is piquing their interest. But, again, some people in the third year are still figuring it out. So it doesn’t dawn on everybody at the same time, but you can be assured whatever law school you choose, the career services staff, who are going to be your career counseling partners, are going to press you, are going to use self-assessments, are going to urge you to try to start articulating this, because otherwise, how are you going to have conversation with a potential employer who says, “So, Collin, why is it you’re interested in my firm?” And if you don’t have a good answer, your interest may come to a screeching halt at that point. So it’s important to sort of start devising a game plan and then testing it in the first year.


Collin: That’s great. That’s fantastic. And then the other question along those lines was, if someone is interested in a particular discipline or area of law that doesn’t, at least according to the data that you showed, have a high earning potential, is it worth pursuing?


Dean Britton: Oh, well, I think that it is, absolutely. I mean, what the world needs in terms of lawyers does not align with that chart I showed you, I can assure you. It’s just, some people have more of a, not that this is bad, more of a profit motivation. Some people feel like, I really not only want to work in a high-paying job, but I need to be, and that’s where I will be most fulfilled. Other people, it is just simply not what they see themselves doing, nor do they see themselves living in a city that would support that kind of work. So, no, you should be aware of the differences in what earnings can be, simply so that you can limit your debt and position yourself in the pipeline of some of these types of public sector jobs in particular, because sometimes, rather perversely, the jobs that sometimes pay the least are also among the hardest to get, simply because, and that’s just simply the way it is. There could be more people seeking a public interest job than there are jobs available. And sometimes students, in a way, have to sort of sacrifice and say, I’m going to take a different job, even though that isn’t where my heart will be, but it might be building up to the job of my dreams in the near future. So this is — all the data we’ve talked about today is first job after graduation. So you can still keep your eye on the ball and realize that you’ll have ample opportunity to make a change, but you should be thoughtful about your career progression.


Collin: Fantastic, absolutely. If you had to pick, of the graphs and figures that you used today, what’s the one that you think that students should go back to and reconsider most closely as they continue to think about their –—


Dean Britton: Oh, that’s so good. I’m going to shuffle through my little pieces of paper here. Probably, well, I think the one on location is so self-evident that that’s probably already, no. I think probably the one that talks about the, or the two that talk about the availability of law firm jobs and the differences in the salary, simply because that’s something that affects so many law graduates. I mean, over half of law graduates nationwide are going to take a job in a law firm. Sort of helps piece together the whole location and salary piece. If you can sort of already know if you are interested in working in a rural community, maybe doing some pro bono work on the side, are you going to be able to take that kind of job on the amount that you might earn? So I would think it’s probably the slide or two that talk about size of firm and earning potential, again, first-year earnings.


Collin: Right. Great. And you mentioned in your answer there about the availability of jobs and particularly those specific jobs, but there was actually a great question which came in about, as there’s kind of fluctuations in class sizes, enrollment and class sizes, how does that translate to the competition on the employment side of things?


Dean Britton: Well, that’s a really great question. And I don’t come from a school where there’s any fluctuation at all. So I guess your best bet would be, that’s a fabulous question to ask of the schools that you are most interested in. When you saw that they had a huge first-year class next year, and you’re going to be the class that trails them in the wake of a very much larger class than usual. What is their career services office going to do to continue to cultivate relationships with employers that might be sated by the fabulous class that went right before you? So I think that’s a very nuanced and great question to ask of those schools that have seen that kind of variance. That’s a great question.


Collin: That’s great. Yeah, there have been some fantastic questions which have come in. So I appreciate everyone in the chat so far and I do encourage you to continue. Another one along those lines, then, is, and this is just a great general question. And that is, what is the most important question you think you could ask, in terms of employment prospects, that you could ask of a law school you’re considering for admission?


Dean Britton: What kind of personal support are you going to give me? My job needs may be pretty mainstream for your school, or they may be very unique. Say I tend to be one of your unique students; how are you going to support my unique interests? And an even more important question is, this is a tough one, but: If I don’t end up in the top 10% of my class, say I end up with grades that are perhaps disappointing to me, but I’m still going to graduate, what kind of support are you going to give me if I’m not in the top 20% of my class?


Collin: Yeah, that’s a great, and it’s a tricky conversation to have, too, right?


Dean Britton: It is. Because you don’t want to presume that you won’t be. But I think one of the sort of sick, twisted elements of all this is every one of you on this call are coming in, probably, with just extraordinary grades and scores, but you will not necessarily see those same numbers, that same description of your grade point average that you have come to know, particularly as we have seen so much inflation in undergraduate grade point average. I’m seeing more people now with a grade point average over a 4.0 than I thought existed. You are probably not going to see numbers like that in your first year. And employers are going to need to look past your numbers in order to look for qualities that they seek. So how is your law school going to support you?


Collin: And on that note, a great question came in about what perspective employers look for in their candidates after, so, recent graduates, for example. So in your experience, what do typical firms look for in terms of their prospective employees? Is it the numbers? Is it the reputation that was already formed? Is it the school ranking? What types of things do employers look at?


Dean Britton: Well, I think that employers develop relationships, too. So they are going to have already pre-selected a group of schools that they are going to favor either because they have a lot of alumni or they just have solid relationships with them. But I think that employers, and I was on the employer side, large law firm side for 10 years before I got into this line of work. And just as schools purport, and I believe truly are, holistic in their evaluation of candidates for admission, so are employers. I think looking for that right mix of personality, personal style, being at ease in conversation, someone who is just likable, they’re going to be looking for those interpersonal skills and characteristics, but they absolutely want to hire smart lawyers who have shown that they can do well in sophisticated coursework, but they also are going to want to hire people who can relate to their clients’ needs and demands.

So I think that you’re going to see different mixes of what employers are looking for based on their particular mix of practice. Sometimes it’s just the technical expertise. Some employers are going to want someone who has a particular background or technical training to work in a particular practice area. So there are a lot of different ways, Collin, I could go with that question, but I think it’s as unique as the employer.

But the good news is, for those of you on the call, if you think you are interested in a particular line of work, I’ll go back to the admitted candidate and the agricultural law question: You can always start to read about law firms or legal employers or public sector employers or not-for-profit agencies. You can go ahead now and start reading about them. Look at some bios of some lawyers, look at the background of the people who have gone to work in those areas, made a career there, start to see what you can sort of see about career pathways.


Collin: So it looks like we have time for about one more question, and then I want to make sure I give you an opportunity for some final thoughts before we close things up for today. So the last question is, in general, is there any one factor which you would identify as being the most important when deciding to apply or attend a law school?


Dean Britton: For the decision to apply to and attend law school. Gosh, any one factor ... perseverance and resilience, self-knowledge, self-awareness, clarity of thought, clarity of focus, clarity of writing and communication. And I think that’s five or six, but I think that if there’s any one factor that I’m looking for, it’s self-awareness, self-knowledge and the ability to persist, because law school is a daunting endeavor, as is a law career. So people would have the right stuff.


Collin: It certainly is daunting. And it’s certainly something which is achievable, I think, for a lot of people.


Dean Britton: Absolutely.


Collin: So, I appreciate your —


Dean Britton: Everyone on this call


Collin: [laughing] Absolutely. So Dean Britton, thank you very much for your time. I wanted to give you the opportunity to give any last thoughts to the people who have joined us today and have stuck with us this long.


Dean Britton: Well, I would just encourage you to ask questions of the schools. Don’t be shy. They expect it, they welcome it. And I think that you absolutely deserve to be the informed consumer of this information that you can prepare yourself to be. So I think it’s just, don’t be reluctant to ask the hard questions.


Collin: That’s great, awesome. Thank you very much, Dean Britton.


Dean Britton: You’re more than welcome.


Collin: I really appreciate your time. You did a fantastic job today, and I think you gave a lot of really great information to the people who joined us today. So thank you.


Dean Britton: You’re more than welcome. Good luck, everyone.


Collin: And I want to thank everyone else as well. Everyone who has joined us today for this program, we have done our best to answer as many of your questions as possible during the Q&A, but we do understand it wasn’t possible to respond to everyone. So if you have additional questions, please feel free to email us at ambassadors@LSAC.org. In addition, we are adding to the schedule of LawHub webinars. So depending on where you are in your law school application journey, I would like to encourage you to join us later this month, on the 23rd, for example, for a webinar focused on the final decision you need to make on where to apply and helping you through that decision. As well, I’d like to invite you to join us on the 31st for a webinar on prelaw professionalism in the virtual world. That’ll be a great one as well. If you don’t already have a LawHub account, be sure to set one up today.

Look out for learning opportunities every single month from LawHub, stay connected with LSAC on social media, and stay tuned for updates about webinars coming your way in April, May, and beyond, as well as more information about LST, Admission Unmasked and Law School Unmasked programs coming this summer. We look forward to seeing you all again soon. Thank you and have a wonderful day.


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