80% of grads of new law schools land jobsDespite concerns about whether the new Western-style law school system would work, its first graduates have hit the marketplace and eight out of 10 have found jobs.
Korea and Sungkyunkwan universities had the highest employment rates of 99 percent. Kyung Hee University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and Seoul National University also saw at least 95 percent of their graduates get jobs. From Jeju University, 90 percent of the graduates found jobs, the only non-Seoul law school to rank in the top seven.
In February, 1,930 students graduated from new programs at 25 law schools. They are the first in a system that replaces the former nationwide bar exam, which was open to everyone. After passing the old bar, students would go into the two-year Judicial Research and Training Institute. That system is being phased out.
In 2009, the government allowed the opening of 25 U.S.-style law schools. Only students who complete three years of schooling are eligible to take the new bar exam.
Earlier this year, there was concern that there were only enough jobs for about a third of the new law school graduates, but 82.9 percent were employed as of August, according to reports from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology that the JoongAng Ilbo procured from Representative Yoo Ki-hong of the Democratic United Party.
The report included data from 21 of the 25 accredited law schools nationwide, or 1,441 law school graduates. Four schools - Konkuk, Ajou, Yeungnam and Ewha Womans universities - did not disclose data to the Education Ministry.
Only half of the graduates from Chungbuk National University found jobs, the lowest rate, and less than 70 percent of the graduates from Hanyang, Chung-Ang and Kyungpook National universities found jobs.
The Education Ministry said the number may have changed in the past month. Hanyang University said 20 more of its students got jobs since the report was made.
Around half of the 1,178 graduates who got jobs are working in law firms, and 200 were employed in private corporations.
Around 7 percent of the graduates, or 82 students, took jobs as law clerks, aspiring to be judges.
The new law schools also produced 42 of 67 new prosecutors this year.
Before, anyone who graduated from high school could take the bar exam, and those who passed were guaranteed two years of training at the Judicial Research and Training Institute.
A relatively high number of students - 87.8 percent - passed the new bar exam. All of the law students from Kyung Hee and Ajou passed the test.
There is still criticism that too many people passed the bar exam. And students in schools in Seoul fared better in finding jobs. From Seoul schools, 89.2 percent of the students found jobs compared to 76.7 percent for students outside Seoul.
Off all the students in Seoul, 93.8 percent passed the bar, 10 percent more than outside Seoul.
The Education Ministry said that of the 2,020 law students that studied this year, 1,424, or 70 percent, completed undergraduate studies in Seoul. Of those, 47 percent were graduates of the top three schools: Seoul National, Korea and Yonsei universities.
Representative Yoo said it was a pity that law schools, which were intended to diversify the legal field and produce more specialists, have actually seen very similar types of students who studied law in the past.
“Law schools need to try harder to develop professionals with expertise in various fields,” Yoo added.
By Yoon Seok-man, Sung Si-yoon [firstname.lastname@example.org]