The Best Small Cities for Law School Graduates

Update: We recently released our updated 2016 list of Best Places for Law School Graduates.

The job market has been especially tough for law school graduates in recent years. After the Great Recession, law firms laid off large numbers of young lawyers, and hiring ground to a halt – at the same time that law school enrollment was peaking.

However, things are starting to look up. Though employment rates for law graduates hit an all-time low in 2013, jobs numbers have been on the rise ever since, and more and more graduates are finding full-time, long-term work at jobs that require them to pass the bar exam. According to James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement, who spoke during a panel at the NALP 2015 conference this spring:

“For the first time, we can say to students with a straight face: the job market is improving. That’s not a lie.”

So – if the legal job market is improving, where should recent grads head to find work? While many newly-minted law school graduates move to big cities, there are actually a large number of small cities across the U.S. that prove to be great places to pursue a law career. We set out to find the best of them, evaluating cities on a number of criteria, including:

  • Average lawyer salary
  • Housing affordability index (average percentage of income spent on housing)
  • Amenities (including arts, entertainment and recreation)
  • Employment attractiveness rank (a combination of law job density, availability and competition)

We then combined this data to create an overall GoodCall score, which we used to rank the cities. Read on to see data, click through some interactive maps and graphs, and find out which cities made the top of our list!

I. The Top 10 Small Cities for Law School Graduates

10. Cheyenne, WY

GoodCall score: 437.25
Average lawyer salary: $109,540
Housing affordability index:11.01%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units: 1.48
Employment attractiveness rank: 2

9. Fairbanks, AK

GoodCall score: 438.2
Average lawyer salary: $112,930
Housing affordability index: 13.82%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units: 6.31
Employment attractiveness rank: 6

8. Canton, IL

GoodCall score: 442.85
Average lawyer salary: $99,160
Housing affordability index: 9.18%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units: 2.72
Employment attractiveness rank: 18

7. Barre, VT

GoodCall score: 446.8
Average lawyer salary: $106,700
Housing affordability index: 13.00%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units: 15.20
Employment attractiveness rank: 4

6. Shelby, NC

GoodCall score: 449.55
Average lawyer salary: $105,680
Housing affordability index: 8.72%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units: 3.17
Employment attractiveness rank: 46

5. Laconia, NH

GoodCall score: 451.4
Average lawyer salary: $117,850
Housing affordability index: 12.36%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units: 9.39
Employment attractiveness rank: 10

4. Roswell, NM

GoodCall score: 461.85
Average lawyer salary: $119,550
Housing affordability index:7.09%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units: 1.93
Employment attractiveness rank: 43

3. Thomaston, GA

GoodCall score: 463.75
Average lawyer salary: $102,900
Housing affordability index: 8.72%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units: 8.38
Employment attractiveness rank: 57

2. Carlsbad-Artesia, NM

GoodCall score: 474.9
Average lawyer salary: $119,550
Housing affordability index: 7.56%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units:2.91
Employment attractiveness rank: 41

1. Washington, NC

GoodCall score: 487.25
Average lawyer salary: $130,920
Housing affordability index: 7.91%
Amenities per 1,000 housing units: 2.37
Employment attractiveness rank: 20

 



salary

Best Salary

1. Truckee-Grass Valley, CA
2. Susanville, CA
3. Great Falls, MT
4. Ottawa, KS
5. Washington NC

housing

Most Affordable Housing

1. Indianola, MS
2. Clarksdale, MS
3. Greenwood, MS
4. Summerville, GA
5. Cleveland, MS

jobs

Best Jobs

1. Summit Park, UT
2. Cheyenne, WY
3. Butte-Silver Bow, MT
4. Barre, VT
5. Breckenridge, CO

amenities

Best Amenities

1. Jackson, WY-ID
2. Key West, FL
3. Taos, NM
4. Edwards, CO
5. Astoria, OR

 

II. The Data

Below are the top 100 small cities for law graduates, out of a total list of 539:

Rank City (MSA) GoodCall Score Population Average Lawyer Salary Housing Affordability Index Amenities per 1,000 Housing Units Employment Attractiveness Rank
1 Washington NC 487.25 47,585 $130,920 7.91% 2.37 20
2 Carlsbad-Artesia NM 474.9 56,395 $119,550 7.56% 2.91 41
3 Thomaston GA 463.75 26,256 $102,900 8.72% 8.38 57
4 Roswell NM 461.85 65,878 $119,550 7.09% 1.93 43
5 Laconia NH 451.4 60,305 $117,850 12.36% 9.39 10
6 Shelby NC 449.55 97,076 $105,680 8.72% 3.17 46
7 Barre VT 446.8 58,998 $106,700 13.00% 15.20 4
8 Canton IL 442.85 36,007 $99,160 9.18% 2.72 18
9 Fairbanks AK 438.2 99,357 $112,930 13.82% 6.31 6
10 Cheyenne WY 437.25 96,389 $109,540 11.01% 1.48 2
11 Lincoln IL 433.25 29,746 $99,160 9.32% 2.02 19
12 Carson City NV 426.95 54,522 $100,060 12.63% 9.63 8
13 Ocean City NJ 425.35 95,344 $103,860 14.98% 15.49 12
14 Manitowoc WI 424.75 80,160 $97,710 10.94% 5.71 39
15 Auburn NY 423.6 78,823 $99,980 10.88% 3.03 35
16 Gaffney SC 421.3 56,024 $100,470 7.64% 1.71 59
17 New Castle PA 417.45 88,771 $94,690 10.34% 4.79 43
18 Summit Park UT 413.1 39,105 $126,720 13.42% 0.00 1
19 Sonora CA 401.9 53,831 $114,950 11.39% 0.00 47
20 Miami OK 399.95 32,105 $85,270 9.19% 4.36 7
21 Raymondville TX 394.25 21,903 $83,560 7.71% 5.39 17
22 Walla Walla WA 390.45 63,829 $95,960 11.57% 1.99 25
23 Arkadelphia AR 382.45 22,576 $83,760 9.62% 5.18 26
24 Laurinburg NC 378.15 35,576 $87,010 10.35% 5.09 51
25 Plattsburgh NY 374.1 81,632 $90,130 12.36% 4.12 24
26 Gloversville NY 373.65 54,105 $90,130 11.71% 3.49 27
27 New Castle IN 370.9 48,995 $90,920 10.20% 1.10 52
28 Hays KS 370.4 29,013 $87,480 11.60% 4.17 30
29 Great Falls MT 360.7 82,344 $139,260 7.21% 4.98 71
30 Frankfort IN 360.35 32,776 $90,920 11.13% 2.23 53
31 Dodge City KS 359.05 34,795 $87,480 11.06% 2.24 31
32 Morehead City NC 355.45 68,811 $130,920 8.72% 8.14 151
33 Spearfish SD 355.1 24,657 $122,720 8.39% 16.67 190
34 Clarksdale MS 352.6 24,807 $123,140 6.05% 5.64 176
35 Atchison KS 349.1 16,513 $87,480 10.39% 0.00 33
36 Amsterdam NY 346.35 49,779 $90,130 12.11% 0.00 22
37 Enid OK 343.5 63,091 $109,510 8.29% 9.30 143
38 Portales NM 341.5 19,536 $119,550 7.22% 6.19 328
39 Sevierville TN 338.95 95,110 $83,870 11.88% 12.40 56
40 Malvern AR 338.95 33,368 $83,760 9.30% 0.00 29
41 Ponca City OK 337.05 45,478 $109,510 7.58% 5.04 143
42 Greenville MS 336.8 48,958 $123,140 6.80% 3.15 176
43 Kill Devil Hills NC 335 39,219 $130,920 10.84% 14.61 151
44 Gallup NM 332.9 74,098 $74,150 8.23% 6.06 40
45 Roanoke Rapids NC 331 73,433 $130,920 6.94% 2.18 151
46 Indianola MS 329.55 27,496 $123,140 5.89% 2.40 176
47 Hobbs NM 326.25 69,999 $119,550 7.45% 3.47 328
48 Arcadia FL 326.05 35,012 $83,590 10.45% 0.00 14
49 Cleveland MS 325.55 33,768 $123,140 6.64% 2.13 176
50 Pocatello ID 324.9 83,347 $107,990 9.42% 4.33 69
51 Rochelle IL 321.35 52,085 $85,070 14.49% 2.96 16
52 Ellensburg WA 320.6 42,522 $123,630 10.15% 7.03 480
53 Dayton TN 320.05 32,641 $83,870 9.75% 0.00 54
54 McMinnville TN 319.9 39,969 $104,280 7.38% 4.03 250
55 Centralia IL 319.5 38,571 $113,450 7.96% 3.73 366
56 Cornelia GA 318.2 43,752 $118,950 8.38% 4.87 520
57 Alamogordo NM 316.7 65,082 $119,550 7.46% 2.46 328
58 Elizabeth City NC 316.1 63,584 $130,920 9.80% 2.25 151
59 Summerville GA 315.8 24,939 $118,950 6.29% 3.61 520
60 Cedartown GA 315.5 41,133 $118,950 8.39% 4.40 520
61 Manhattan KS 314.7 98,091 $110,770 10.71% 5.49 136
62 Ottawa KS 314.65 25,611 $131,610 8.61% 0.00 64
63 Moses Lake WA 314.65 93,147 $123,630 8.19% 2.78 480
64 Stillwater OK 313.4 80,264 $109,510 9.25% 2.95 143
65 Evanston WY 313.05 20,904 $107,300 9.85% 4.16 158
66 Truckee-Grass Valley CA 312.7 98,893 $143,880 11.04% 4.64 271
67 Pine Bluff AR 311 94,716 $76,570 10.85% 3.65 32
68 Quincy IL-MO 310.35 77,126 $99,160 9.13% 5.13 113
69 Macomb IL 310 31,880 $99,160 9.12% 5.08 113
70 Greenwood MS 308.45 41,676 $123,140 6.24% 0.00 176
71 Grenada MS 307.4 21,666 $123,140 7.00% 0.00 176
72 Clovis NM 306.7 50,969 $119,550 7.95% 1.57 328
73 Charleston-Mattoon IL 305.2 64,153 $113,450 8.14% 2.34 366
74 Selma AL 304.35 41,711 $73,800 11.15% 5.54 23
75 Corvallis OR 304.35 86,316 $111,000 11.47% 8.83 237
76 Rockingham NC 303.9 45,733 $105,680 7.76% 2.56 310
77 Taylorville IL 303.65 33,892 $99,160 9.09% 3.89 113
78 Ketchikan AK 302.25 13,787 $117,440 12.53% 8.63 66
79 Susanville CA 302.15 31,749 $143,880 8.74% 0.00 271
80 Dublin GA 301.15 57,552 $102,900 7.83% 4.24 514
81 Calhoun GA 300.35 56,047 $118,950 8.31% 2.50 520
82 Seneca SC 299.1 75,192 $100,470 9.18% 6.62 493
83 Breckenridge CO 299.05 29,404 $85,130 19.83% 0.00 4
84 Durant OK 297.65 44,486 $93,990 8.73% 5.19 105
85 Montrose CO 297.3 40,873 $102,840 11.27% 6.41 78
86 Columbus IN 296.75 80,217 $106,170 10.49% 5.98 439
87 Sunbury PA 295.8 93,944 $102,220 8.98% 4.56 466
88 Galesburg IL 295.8 52,069 $99,160 8.83% 2.78 113
89 Jacksonville IL 295.4 40,133 $99,160 9.48% 3.49 113
90 Woodward OK 295.3 21,529 $109,510 7.79% 0.00 143
91 Juneau AK 295 32,406 $117,440 13.83% 11.82 66
92 Las Vegas NM 295 28,239 $74,150 11.00% 3.54 37
93 Guymon OK 294.85 21,853 $109,510 7.91% 0.00 143
94 Crossville TN 294 57,985 $104,280 7.78% 0.85 250
95 Butte-Silver Bow MT 292.2 34,680 $73,200 11.93% 4.56 2
96 Española NM 291.2 39,777 $74,150 10.52% 2.69 38
97 Pahrump NV 290.8 42,282 $102,110 10.50% 5.01 258
98 McAlester OK 290.5 44,626 $93,990 8.70% 3.83 105
99 Othello WA 289.85 19,179 $123,630 8.06% 0.00 480
100 Bradford PA 289.4 42,554 $98,690 8.57% 4.18 383

 

III. Advice from the Experts

While the job climate is starting to improve for recent law grads, it’s still a major challenge to find a job after law school. We set out to find out the best advice for law grads from top law schools around the country. The most common piece of advice? Network. But there’s a lot more to it as well. Click on an expert to see their answer to the following question:

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

 

Vincent Versaglia (1)
Derek Van Volkenburgh (1)
Rebecca Brown (1)
Add subtitle text (7)
Vickie Brown (2)
Michael J. Ende, Esq.
Heather Hayes
LuEllen Conti (1)
Julie Remer, Esq.
Melissa M. Berry, Esq.
dana morris

IV. Methodology

GoodCall analyzed more than 530 cities nationwide and come up with an overall ranking, based on average lawyer salary, job competition, housing affordability, and amenities. We limited our analysis to micro- and metropolitan areas with populations under 100,000.

  • The average lawyer salary was taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics tool and represents the annual mean wage for lawyers (Occupation Code 23-1011) in 2013. This represents 40% of our overall score.
  • The employment attractiveness rank is based on a combination of law job density, which was taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and law job availability and competition (resumes per available law job), which were taken from Indeed.com. This metric, which shows how attractive an area is for job seekers, represents 35% of our overall score.
  • The housing affordability index was taken from the U.S. Census American Fact Finder. This is the average percentage of income spent on housing, and represents 15% of our overall score.
  • The amenities score was calculated using data from the U.S. Census American Fact Finder. This is the number of amenities per 1,000 households. It includes arts, entertainment and recreation, and represents 10% of our overall score.

Paul Southerland

Email | Twitter | LinkedIn

Paul is a High Point University graduate with a B.S. in Business and a B.A. in Strategic Communication. GoodCall's resident numbers guy, Paul is a digital marketing expert who has been working in data analysis for more than 3 years. Paul contributes to GoodCall News with original data and reports.

Latest posts by Paul Southerland (see all)

Comments(9)

  1. Aric says

    I’m reading a common theme in the “Advice from the experts” section–‘utilize your networks!’

  2. Kelsey Vere says

    I’d love to know what the top places for lawyers to live in Canada would be. There’s a lot of debate around lawyers working in large cities vs. small towns.

Post a comment