Nearly 20 percent of students who graduated from New York's 15 law schools in 2010 were employed by firms with 50 or fewer attorneys nine months after graduation, new data released by the American Bar Association shows. The majority of those small firm employers had between two and 10 lawyers.
The data also reveals that 19 percent of 2010 graduates from law schools in New York were hired by firms with 501 or more lawyers.
Top-rated schools like Columbia Law School, New York University School of Law and Cornell Law School each sent about 50 percent to 60 percent of their 2010 class to firms with more than 501 attorneys.
The ABA recently released statistics on employment rates and job placement for the class of 2010 nationwide. The release follows public and government pressure to improve law school transparency.
Six law schools in New York sent more than a quarter of their 2010 graduates to small firms.
At Touro Law Center, 42 percent of the school's 185 graduates in 2010 were employed by firms with fewer than 50 attorneys, with 87 percent of those students working at firms with between two and 10 lawyers.
"A lot of students are from Nassau, Suffolk, Brooklyn and Queens," said Touro Law dean Lawrence Raful. "People are interested in staying in their neighborhoods and helping people in their neighborhoods with local issues."
Raful also noted that small firms provide more opportunities for recent graduates to get hands-on experience, going to court or working on separation agreements and incorporations, making the firms "appealing" to students.
Albany Law School sent 35 percent of its 250-member graduating class to law firms with fewer than 50 attorneys, with 22 percent of the 2010 class employed by firms with between two and 10 lawyers.
Small law firms employ 34 percent of the 2010 graduating classes at the University at Buffalo Law School (265 graduates) and the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University (352 graduates). The smallest firms, with between two and 10 attorneys, employed 23 percent of 2010 Hofstra Law graduates and 22 percent of graduates from Buffalo.
New York Law School sent 26 percent of its 481-member 2010 class to firms with fewer than 50 attorneys, with 82 percent of those students working in offices with fewer than 10 attorneys. Similarly, 28 percent of 2010 graduates from St. John's University School of Law went to small firms, with 78 percent of those students employed by firms with fewer than 10 lawyers.
"These are employers that don't have the luxury of large training programs or staffing cases with multiple attorneys," said Larry Cunningham, associate dean for student services at St. John's. "One of our strengths is our commitment to producing graduates able to practice law from day one."
About 16 percent of graduates from St. John's also are employed in short- and long-term positions in the business and industry sectors. Noting that St. John's graduates are working as in-house counsel as well as in the financial services and investment fields, Cunningham said he believes more law schools will see students entering these sectors as "students think more broadly in what they can do with a law degree."
New York Law School sent the most 2010 graduates of any law school in the state to the business and industry sectors -- 23 percent of its class. Similarly, 22 percent of the 189-member class of 2010 at Syracuse University College of Law found work in those fields. Overall, 13 percent of graduates from law schools in New York state found short- and long-term employment in the business and industry sectors.
Brooklyn Law School and Albany Law School, meanwhile, sent the greatest percentage of 2010 graduates to government positions of any New York state law school, with 16 percent of each class employed in short- or long-term government jobs. Brooklyn graduated 463 students in 2010, while 250 received law degrees from Albany that year.
"As the only law school within about 100 miles of New York state's Capital Region, Albany Law has more internship opportunities than it can fill with the courts, state agencies, the Legislature, the executive branch, and the local firms, which often lead to full-time jobs," said David Singer, a spokesman for the school. He added that more than 800 of the law school's alumni work in government positions.
Statewide, 11 percent of 2010 graduates were employed in short- or long-term government positions following graduation.
Only 8 percent of all graduates from law schools in New York state were employed by midsized firms, with between 51 and 500 attorneys, nine months following graduation. Cornell sent the most graduates this route -- about 17 percent of its 192-member 2010 class -- with the majority going to firms with between 251 and 500 lawyers.
CUNY School of Law maintained its reputation as a public interest school, sending a third of its 126-member 2010 class into short- and long-term positions in that field, the most in the state. About 7 percent of law school graduates from New York schools went into public interest work within nine months of graduation.
The number of graduates from New York law schools employed by midsized firms and in the business, government and public interest fields was consistent with national trends. Graduates from law schools in New York, however, were more likely to be employed by firms with more than 501 attorneys, as only 9 percent of 2010 graduates nationally were working in this environment, according to the data.
Nationwide, 26 percent of 2010 law school graduates were employed by firms with fewer than 50 lawyers.