Graduates from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law class of 2021 have set the highest employment rates in school history.
At graduation, 77 percent of the class of 2021 were employed in full-time, long-term jobs that either require a law license or for which having a JD offers an advantage, 15 percentage points higher than the class of 2020.
An additional school milestone was set ten months after graduation with 88.1 percent of graduates employed in long-term jobs that required bar passage or JD-advantage positions, an increase from the previous year and five percent higher than the national average. In addition, four JD graduates, 3.2 percent of the class, were seeking further advanced degrees.
The percentage of students who entered private practice represented almost half of the graduating class with 43.4 percent of graduates securing such positions. Judicial clerkships remained notably high with 27.4 percent of graduates entering this field, compared to 9.6 percent nationally. Graduates entering the work field in public interest positions other than judicial clerkships were on par with the national average with 8 percent, compared to 7.7 percent nationally.
“One difference in the Class of 2021 employment outcomes is that we saw more students secure employment sooner than in previous years,” said Career Development Office (CDO) Senior Director Shannon Walker.
As first-year law students, the class of 2021 was the first to take part in University of Arizona Law’s Preparing to Practice course. The mandatory course developed by CDO has a strong focus on professional development and helps students understand the hiring process. That year, CDO also began a new initiative to advise students based on area of interest rather than class level, a strategy that, in part, helped the class of 2021 achieve record-breaking employment outcomes.
“This has allowed students to remain with the same career adviser throughout their law school career, resulting in stronger relationships and a better understanding of career goals and how to achieve them,” added Walker. “Lastly, the members of our office have truly worked hard to bring more job opportunities to University of Arizona Law students through increased employer engagement, expanded interview offerings, and collaboration with other College of Law offices.”
Legal Market Recovering from Pandemic Impact
Employment rates for the class of 2021 reflect the legal market’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic with law firm hiring increasing by over 12 percent when compared to last year, and government hiring also increasing by 5.5 percent, as hiring freezes ended.
The embrace of technology during the pandemic helped broaden student employment opportunities as the location of an employer did not matter as much as it did pre-pandemic and virtual interviews becoming the norm.
“Employers are now very used to interviewing virtually and some prefer it—we are seeing this right now in our fall On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) programs, which have an option to interview in person, but many employers are still opting to interview virtually,” says Walker.
Advice for Class of 2021 and Beyond
Samantha Walker (‘21), a Deputy County Attorney with the Pima County Attorney's Office, says she kept a running list of questions for CDO and would find herself there for constant guidance, sometimes on a weekly basis during her last few months as a University of Arizona Law student.
“I was navigating the professional sphere for the first time and really didn't have a clue on how to approach many issues and conversations,” said Samantha Walker. “The CDO, especially Lisa Queen, was always ready to talk and just having that available to me made navigating getting a job much easier.”
Daniel Tilleman (‘21) advises students to go early and often to CDO.
“I was at the CDO a lot my first year because most of the jobs I worked prior to law school were jobs I obtained through networking. In fact, I don't think I had ever gotten a job that I applied for using a resume, so my application materials were very weak. I didn't know what a good resume looked like, and I don't think I had ever written a cover letter for a job. I was terrified,” said Tilleman. “The feedback they gave me was excellent, and the one-on-one reviews of my materials gave me the confidence I so desperately needed that first year.”
Tellingly, internship placement for first year students during the summer of 2021 was 99 percent.
Tilleman, who is currently clerking for Justice James P. Beene of the Arizona Supreme Court, says the lunchtime events that CDO holds are helpful with in-depth information and students should plan to attend.
“My advice is to spend as much time as possible in the CDO,” says Shannon Walker. “Our career advisers are experts on what they do and have immense knowledge of legal career paths, employers, and specific interview processes. They know how to navigate tricky situations such as negotiating a salary but can also help you write a thank you email after an interview. Perhaps more importantly, they truly care about the work they do and love working with our students.”