Houston Bucks National Trend On Law School Grad Employment

The latest report from the American Bar Association finds, on average, just over half of new law school graduates are have found full-time work in law within a year of earning their degrees. But the picture appears brighter for students at the two law schools Houston.

According to the ABA, 56 percent of the class of 2012 have found full-time jobs that require passing the bar.  That's a national average.

Students graduating from law schools in Houston seem to be having an easier time landing stable work within the first year of earning their degrees.

"Our most recent statistics indicate that about 72% of the graduating class has employment for which bar passage is required."

Bruce McGovern is a professor and Associate Dean at South Texas College of Law. That school has one of the lowest underemployment rates of any law school ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

McGovern says what's often left out of the national commentary is that the employment market for lawyers is local and regional — and the Houston market is strong.

"There are so many opportunities for an attorney. Either in a traditional legal practice, or in other fields that are somehow related where a legal degree is an advantage, such as human resources, working in the oil and gas industry, or working as a contract specialist with some of the large corporations."

That's a point echoed by Richard Alderman. He's the interim dean at the University of Houston Law School — where 66% of the class of 2012 got a job requiring bar passage within nine months of graduation.  That number is well above the national average. Yet Dean Aldermann says job placement rates for his school are even higher if you include jobs that don't require passing the bar.

"Many of our students will become compliance officers, or work in the compliance departments of oil firms.  It is a fairly high-paying job that's very prestigious. They will be considered underemployed. I think the JD helped them get the job."

Both UH and South Texas say as many as 80 to 90 percent of their graduates stay put in Houston.  But the two schools have noticed the decreased demand for attorneys in recent years.  In response, they've shrunk the size of their classes. 

Also, the schools tell students that they can improve their odds of landing a job by taking a position that serves a disadvantaged or overlooked population, or, move to a rural area that might not have as many attorneys.

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