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Law graduates face tough exam, few jobs

By Zhao Wen (Shanghai Daily)

08:33, June 14, 2013

It's a great moment for graduates when they sign their first job offer.

But for Zhou Le, a Shanghai law student who recently signed with a law firm, the moment was bittersweet since the conditional offer will be withdrawn if she fails the national judicial exam.

The exam, which has a pass rate as low as 20 percent, has become a great hurdle for law school graduates hoping for that first job.

The judicial exam began accepting applications last week. Law students who want to become judges, prosecutors or lawyers must pass it.

"Law students have to face a lot of uncertainties," said Huang Qiaorong, deputy director of the student affairs department of East China University of Political Science and Law.

"If they fail the exam, they might begin to look for another job or spend another year to prepare for the exam," Huang said.

The challenge is worth it to many graduates who want to be a public servant in a judicial office and have a stable, respected and well-paid job.

But the field is growing crowded.

Employment rate lower

Law schools in China have seen the lowest employment rate among graduates for five consecutive years, according to the latest national graduate employment report released last Sunday.

The report, released by MyCOS Data, a Beijing-based consulting firm specialized in China's higher education, revealed that the employment rate of law school graduates was 87.2 percent within half a year of graduation in 2012, 3.7 percentage points lower than the overall rate.

The report noted that this is the fifth year that majors under the law category were at the bottom of the employment rank since the firm began releasing such reports in 2009.

"The result is not surprising," said Dr Sun Xiaoxia, dean of Fudan University Law School.

Sun said China is experiencing a population explosion of law school graduates as almost every university has law or law-related majors.

The population will remain high in the next few years due to the rapid expansion, Sun added.

Currently, there are some 630 law schools in China. Every year, an estimated 100,000 law school graduates will walk into the crowded job market.

"As the number of graduates soars, the competition will only get fiercer and the job market will be more terrible," Sun said.

During the 1980s and 1990s, law school graduates were sought by governments and companies.

More than 80 percent of those graduates entered judicial offices such as police departments, prosecutors' offices, courts or prisons then. Others became lawyers or legal assistants at companies and also earned good salaries, Huang said.

After more law schools were opened, the number of law graduates suddenly jumped and the competition stiffened.

"Almost half of my classmates have registered for the public service exam and the judicial exam," Zhou said.

"Except for passing the exams, law school students don't have any advantage over others," Zhou said.

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