According to the newest data from NALP, the employment situation for the class of 2011 is even worse than 2010. With only 85.6% employed anywhere these are the worst numbers in nearly 20 years. The number of graduates dropped to less than half, 49.5%, something that has not happened since 1975.
Only 16.2% of graduates in private practice (or 8% of all graduates) found jobs at firms with 501 or more attorneys, down from the already depressed rate of 20.5% for the class of 2010. 42.9% of graduates are now at firms with 2-10 attorneys. The number of graduates in solo practices is also up, from 3.3% in 2008 to 6.0%. (The number of effective solos may be higher, with some grads in 2-10 attorney firms actually just partnering with other 2011 grads.)
Of graduates for whom an employment status was known, only 65.4% obtained jobs where bar passage is required, and many of these jobs are either part time or temporary.
12.1% of 2011 graduates are unemployed, much higher than the national unemployment rate. This number does not include the additional 3% who are pursuing another degree (and likely just trying to delay entering the work force for another year). 25% of graduates who are employed are seeking work elsewhere, a sign that they've taken jobs out of desperation rather than desire.
The only good news out of NALP is that summer associate recruiting is up, a possible sign that 2011 is the bottom. Even if it is though, there's a big difference between no longer digging a hole and actually climbing out of it.