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Research: How employable are law graduates?

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Around 5% of all law grads are unemployed 15 months later

The number of people studying law has increased massively in recent years, with the prospects of a job afterwards a key concern for students knowing they’ll be loaded down with debt. So just how employable are law graduates anyway?

To find out, Legal Cheek paid a (virtual) visit to the good people at the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). They surveyed the 770,000 people who graduated from a UK university in 2018 to see what they were up to 15 months later.

The most likely to be in full-time employment were veterinary, medicine/dentistry and architecture grads. Law was 13th out of 19 subject areas.

But obviously that’s not a massive deal: a lot of those law grads will still be studying, be that for a master’s or to become a solicitor or barrister. So it’s not exactly surprising to find that “only” 56% are working full-time a year and a bit after doing their degree.

We can look at it another way: how many are unemployed? That way, we don’t count those that are still studying, gone off travelling or are about to start a job or another course.

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Disappointingly, law looks kinda high on the unemployability ranking: the third highest percentage of unemployed graduates, behind maths and computer science. You can even jiggle the figures around to put law top, if you only look at undergrads doing their first degree who studied full-time (7% unemployed after 15 months, compared to 0% of medics).

The LPC and BPTC may be part of that: survey respondents who took one of those courses immediately after finishing their degree will have emerged from it fairly recently at the time they get the survey. If they don’t have pupillage or a training contract lined up, it’s not a surprise to find them getting better acquainted with Judge Rinder.

If you don’t count the 2018 grads who went straight into another course, law comes out about average for a non-science degree when it comes to unemployment rates.

Overall, you’re still very unlikely to wind up on the dole if you have a law degree under your belt. The figures show that there were 37,000 law grads in 2018, of whom 17,500 responded to the HESA survey. Eight-hundred-and-ninety-five said they were unemployed — around 5%.

The subjects with super low unemployment rates are the likes of veterinary, medicine, dentistry and education.

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11 Comments

US Firm 1PQE

Something is very wrong in the society in which maths and computer science graduates have the highest unemployment rates.

Also interesting how many of the 95% employed law graduates are employed in law (probably a more important statistic).

(13)(0)

anon

“ Also interesting how many of the 95% employed law graduates are employed in law“

Not many, and that’s a good thing. Outside of maybe the top 15-20 unis, law becomes a frighteningly easy degree. The calibre of student drops off quickly.

(19)(18)

Anon

No, a lot of the top unis spoon feed the information and we’ve found that those from Oxbridge do not necessarily outperform those from the lower tiered unis. Some of the rubbish unis students have to practically teach themselves the entire course. Non LLB law courses are easy (and not really law courses) – any LLB course is not easier just because you’re not at a top 15 uni. Ludicrous claim.

(32)(12)

Anon

I know countless students at RG universities who struggled with A-Levels, are not particularly bright, and do not study hard. I’ve seen them bragging about their results on LinkedIn and they have all achieved strong firsts. One girl at Lancaster got 95% in her dissertation… Despite this, none of them have impressive work experience or any TC. Thankfully firms understand how firsts are given out like candy.

(12)(9)

Sonny G

What planet are you from? Whatever you’re smoking, I want it.

(4)(4)

Stop making law accessible to idiots

I would disagree, RG unis are the only ones that actually uphold the standards in law for the most part.

That story from Lancaster may be true, but it’s not a RG university.

With regards to non-RG i is and ex-polys I would whole heartedly agree. I always felt that achieving a first was actually quite hard and required dedicated study. When legal bloggers/influencers brag on LinkedIn about how they’ve “worked so hard to smash these exams” they’ve usually got a strong first from the likes of Leeds Beckett, University of Law, University of Greenwich etc. There’s a reason they’ve got a first and yet end up at a dodgy conveyancing firm up north rather than the City – firms see straight through it and just don’t value the qualification.

(45)(12)

Anon

It is harder to get a first at Oxbridge than say Durham or LSE. It’s also far harder to get a first from Durham or LSE than many other RG universities – Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff, Sheffield, Southampton, Newcastle etc. It’s common sense, many Russell group universities admit average students, and often a higher proportion of these students go on to get firsts. It doesn’t add up. You should look at some of the modules you can do on a Liverpool law degree and the ridiculously high marks some students get. There is a reason why the best firms are dominated by students from the same universities – they’re better. A first from these universities actually means something.

Don’t hate on the ex-poly

I’m curious to know which unis the ex-poly and ULaw bashers obtained their LPC from? I’ve only seen either ULaw, BPP or certain ex-polys offering the course.

I obviously can’t compare to the top universities or RG but I feel my education at an ex-poly was good – it was very practical in terms of legal knowledge and experience at undergrad rather than writing endless essays about the philosophical aspects.

Non-Law Student

All universities (and for that matter, degrees) are not created equal.
The average Oxbridge graduate might be marginally smarter than the average LSE/Imperial graduate who might be marginally smarter than the average Durham/UCL graduate who might be marginally smarter than the average Bristol/Manchester graduate. But between those “tiers”, which vary heavily by subject anyway, the bottom two-thirds of one class and the upper two-thirds of a university slightly below are pretty much comparable. Many are also just unlucky in applications, or just make unusual choices (LSE over Oxford, for example, is not that uncommon).

There is a pretty big difference, however, between even a “good” Russel Group like Bristol or Manchester and Oxbridge. It is probably fair to say that someone getting a normal first at Bristol (not like 80%+) would probably only achieve a 2.1 at Cambridge, even if they are a “better” student than say 25% of Cambridge admits. If you extend that to ex-polys or even lower RG, it is a huge difference, depending on subject and grading curves, of course. Assuming they haven’t just sat around for three years, a low 2.1 Imperial physicist or Oxford historian is going to be far more accomplished, and have far more potential, than a “something”-studies (or even a respectable subject) graduate with a first from Greenwich.

Someone hand me a tissue

*Cries into expensive law degree certificate*

(14)(1)

Oxbridge BA

Allow me to press F on the world’s smallest keyboard

(0)(0)

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