Spokane Journal of Business

Law grads here find jobs despite economy

Employment numbers for Gonzaga grads higher than national average

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Data now available about last year's graduating class at Gonzaga University Law School show that about 94 percent of the grads found jobs within nine months of graduation, says interim Dean George Critchlow.

"This is a good figure given today's market and economic picture," Critchlow says.

Nationally, 88 percent of 2009 law school graduates have found jobs, Critchlow says. That figure, however, only shows only that students have some kind of employment and doesn't necessarily mean they are working in conventional law jobs, he says.

Law firms in Eastern Washington are continuing to hire even though the recession has hurt the market elsewhere, Critchlow says. The Tri-Cities is one area where a substantial number of recent graduates are finding jobs, he says. While many larger law firms have had to downsize because of the recession, smaller, local firms are still hiring, and many students start out in such firms, he says.

Recent graduates starting out at a private firm in the Spokane area can expect to make anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 a year. Those who take jobs with public entities are paid somewhat less, and starting salaries at larger firms in an urban area likely are closer to $70,000 or $80,000 annually, Critchlow says.

"It really depends on the practice and their tradition," he says.

A recent trend for law school graduates is that they now often must take a broader approach to their job hunts than has been the case in the past, Critchlow says. For instance, rather than going directly to a law firm, they might use their law degree in other sectors, such in accounting or the corporate world, he says.

"The economy now requires graduates to be more creative and patient in terms of their expectations in how they are going to use their law degree," Critchlow says.

Last fall, the Gonzaga Law School downsized its average entering class size to 175 new students, from 200 the year before, to implement a more skill-focused curriculum, he says. The move, he adds, was intended to help students enter the work force with more skills, and thus have a better chance of succeeding in a down economy.

Gonzaga's Career Services Office assists graduates by keeping them informed of job opportunities as well as providing a mentorship program. Through the program grads have the opportunity to get to know lawyers in the profession while they are in school and, upon graduation, to network and gain valuable advice and experience from them.

"We try and match up practicing lawyers with graduates in their area. It's useful for the students, and the lawyers love to help get them going," Critchlow says.

Gonzaga's main emphasis in its new curriculum implemented last fall is to give students the skills they need so that when they enter the legal profession, they can be productive sooner for the firms that hire them, reducing their need for training, he says.

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