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After the JD

Authors: Bryant G. Garth, Robert L. Nelson, Ronit Dinovitzer, Gabriele Plickert, Joyce Sterling

The After the JD (AJD) project is an empirical study of the career outcomes of a cohort of almost 5,000 new lawyers, offering both a nationally representative picture of lawyer career trajectories and an in-depth portrait of the careers of women and racial and ethnic minority lawyers. The AJD study design is longitudinal, following the careers of new lawyers over the first ten years following law school graduation; the first cohort of lawyers was surveyed in 2002, the second in 2007, and the third contact is planned for 2010.

The first wave of the study provided an unprecedented baseline of information: for example, we found that both the distribution of women into various practice settings and their income were already diverging from that for men, and that the careers of ethnic and racial minorities revealed patterns that may reinforce inequalities as well. The second phase of the study, which is currently underway, is surveying members of the AJD cohort when they are about six years into their careers and experiencing many important personal and professional transitions. For example, in the first wave, the majority of respondents were still working in their first jobs and were located predominantly in private firms. Many had not yet married and most did not yet have children. In the second wave, then, we expect to observe more complex patterns as lawyers gain expertise, change jobs, begin to draw more on their social networks, and become more involved with family relationships. The influence of gender, race and ethnicity, in particular, will likely become more pronounced as these lawyers move out of their initial jobs, begin families, and face a more complex – and a more refined – labor market.

This second phase of the project is organized around three main themes: first, to identify patterns of mobility and turnover, and how they are related to expressions of job satisfaction; second, to document patterns of stratification in the profession, including income inequality and the allocation of lawyers into practice settings and areas of law -- along with an examination of the possible sources of these inequalities; and third, to analyze how these issues crosscut with gender, race and ethnicity.  Taken together, the AJD study will not only provide an unprecedented account of how the careers of lawyers are built, but will provide the empirical data necessary for devising policy solutions.