Longtime chief of legal jobs tracking group prepares to retire

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REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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  • National Association of Law Placement's Jim Leipold to retire in October 2022
  • He says he's become more focused on publicizing racial disparities in the law since summer of 2020

(Reuters) - Jim Leipold is stepping down after 18 years from his role as leader of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), an organization of law schools and legal employers that tracks industry hiring and salaries.

NALP announced Thursday that Leipold will retire as executive director in October 2022.

The organization is best known for its annual reports on entry-level hiring. It also stages an annual conference centered on lawyer recruiting and helping law students find jobs.

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NALP Board President Traci Mundy Jenkins said in a statement on Leipold's exit that he increased the group's influence in the legal industry. NALP said it will conduct a national search for his replacement.

Leipold said in an interview Friday that he has recently used his position to publicize the diversity concerns he's long held about the legal profession, which he said felt even more urgent in the wake of George Floyd's 2020 murder and protests over systemic racism.

Jim Leipold. Courtesy of the National Association for Law Placement

NALP's law firm diversity data has shown slow increases in the ranks of women and minority attorneys, but the group has made a push in the last year to highlight where the biggest problems persist.

Among the J.D. class of 2020, the rate of Black graduates landing jobs that require bar passage averaged 18 percentage points below that of their white classmates, NALP data show.

“The data story we used to tell about [diversity, equity, and inclusion] was slow, upward trajectory—it’s getting better,” Leipold said. “But the more I lived with that data, I thought, ‘It’s not getting better, particularly for Black lawyers and Black law graduates.’”

In October, NALP published data showing that law graduates who are first in their families to attend college obtain lawyer jobs at a significantly lower rate than classmates with parents who graduated college or are lawyers.

Kellye Testy, president of the Law School Admission Council, said in an interview Friday that she admires Leipold for his work on race and equity issues.

“I think he has been a strong moral leader around equity in the legal profession, and he has been brave in speaking the truth we need to hear,” she said.

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com