Texas law school placement slowly improves

John Attanasio, dean of SMU's Dedman School of Law, talks about the increases in job placements for law school graduates. SMU's Dedman School of Law had the best placement rate - 86 percent - in the state last year for permanent, professional full-time jobs.


When LynAlise Tannery applied for law school in 2008, times were still good for lawyers. Law schools in Texas were saying that 95 percent of their graduates were getting jobs. Six-figure starting salaries for new law graduates were the norm.

By the fall of 2009, Tannery’s first year at the SMU Dedman School of Law, the legal job market had plunged. Big law firms experienced unprecedented layoffs and drastically reduced the number of new lawyers they hired right out of school.

“Most of my group of friends who graduated cum laude and higher didn’t have jobs when we graduated,” said Tannery, who graduated last year. “I have some friends who are still legal interns and are struggling to find that permanent position.”

The job market for new law school graduates in Texas is improving, albeit slowly, according to data released by the American Bar Association.

Texas’ nine law schools report that nearly 79 percent of 2012 graduates found permanent, full-time jobs as lawyers or in other professional positions.

 Two-thirds of the 2,346 law graduates in Texas from 2012 found full-time permanent employment as lawyers. That compares with only 56 percent of law school graduates nationally, according to the ABA.

Even that number may be misleading. Seven percent of those listed as full-time lawyers are in solo practices.

The unemployment rate for 2012 law school graduates in Texas stands at nearly 10 percent, including those no longer seeking a job. In addition, 9 percent of 2012 law graduates are listed as having temporary, part-time or unskilled jobs.

 Dedman School of Law and the University of Texas School of Law had the best placement rates in the state last year for permanent, professional, full-time jobs — 86 percent and 82 percent. Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth had the lowest placement rate at nearly 73 percent....

“All we were doing was getting students through the door and betting that once they got through the door that they would get the job,” said Dedman Dean John Attanasio. “The bet turned out to be right.”

Last August, Tannery interviewed for a job at Thering McCarley, a six-lawyer firm based in Frisco. The 2012 SMU grad used Test Drive to get her foot in the door. The firm was impressed and offered her a full-time position practicing bankruptcy and family law.

“It was such a relief that I didn’t have to worry about job hunting anymore,” said Tannery, who’s 26. “I don’t know if I would have a job if it wasn’t for Test Drive.”

Karen Sargent, Dedman’s executive director of career services, said nearly all graduates who participate in Test Drive have received offers after the two-month trial period....