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Nine New York Law School graduates sued their alma mater last month claiming they were mislead by the school’s information on career prospects.

A New York Supreme Court judge later dismissed the suit, and added that this was an example of a common misconception about the value of a law degree in the job market.

Rather than a golden ticket to a comfortable career, a law degree may no longer help some students land jobs upon graduation. According to the National Association for Legal Career Professionals, the employment rate for 2010 law school graduates, the latest figures available, was 87.6 percent — a 14-year low.


The 2011 NALP report added that law school graduates enter “a job market with many underlying structural weaknesses,” and that “starting salaries for [the class of 2011] will be shown to be down when data becomes available.”

However, while graduates nationwide may be having a tougher time finding a legal job, students from top-ranked schools like Penn Law School may have less reason to be concerned.

“Even in today’s tough job market Penn Law graduates continue to be successful starting their careers at leading law firms,” Heather Frattone, associate dean for Career Planning & Professionalism at Penn Law, wrote in an email.

In both the Penn Law graduating classes of 2010 and 2011, 96 percent of students had found employment nine months after graduation. Penn Law ranked seventh in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking, along with University of Virginia and University of California Berkeley.


The average 2011 Penn law starting salary was $145,000, however, a 9-percent decrease from figures for 2010.

Frattone offered a number of explanations to explain why Penn Law students continue to succeed in spite of difficulties.

“As compared to our peer schools, Penn Law graduates are very successful because of their cross-disciplinary legal training, professional skills and preparedness to hit the ground running,” Frattone said.

Parker Rider-Longmaid, a second-year Penn Law student, said Penn Law students aren’t necessarily more capable than those at many other law schools. “Penn Law is also a brand. It’s marketing,” said Rider-Longmaid, an executive editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

First-year law student Dafan Zhang pointed to another factor that separates Penn from the crowd.

“Our alumni network is very strong, graduates want to come back and recruit here,” he said.

In spite of Penn students’ successes, however, Frattone acknowledged that legal jobs may have become harder to obtain.

“It is now and will likely continue to be a challenging job market, so we encourage students to take a holistic view of their time here,” she wrote.

Rider-Longmaid felt that many Penn Law students will be less affected by the difficulties in the national job market than students at other schools.

“It may be a more competitive job market now, but you can bet the people who are the most competitive — those at excellent schools such as Penn Law — will still do well,” he said, adding that during On-Campus Recruiting, many get offers from big law firms.

But he said Penn Law students, for the most part, are not complacent, because they know the competitiveness of the job market.

Zhang felt that the employment situation was particularly bad two or three years ago but has since improved.

“The market was overreacting to the economic downturn, firms were implementing correction measures to stop the binge on hiring that was going on,” he said.

Third-year law student Chris Geyer cautioned against going to law school just to secure a well-paying job.

“There’s a lot of misinformation provided by law schools,” he said. “You have to wonder whether posted starting salary figures are believable.”

Rider-Longmaid added that going to law school just to get a job or for lack of a better plan straight from college is risky. “You have to really want to do law for law’s sake. You have to really want to be a lawyer,” he said.

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