Employment Outcomes for Privacy Law Certificate Earners at Santa Clara Law (Cross-Post)

[initially published in the IAPP Privacy Advisor, Sept. 25, 2018]

In 2014, the Santa Clara University School of Law adopted a first-in-the-nation Privacy Law Certificate for JD students. We have taken steps to make the certificate’s requirements particularly rigorous. Students must take five privacy-related courses, complete an externship/internship in the privacy field, obtain an IAPP certification and publish a paper on privacy law.

Four classes — 21 students in total — have graduated since the certificate was enacted. These students have entered a boom market for privacy professionals, so not surprisingly, certificate alumni have been popular. Here’s a look at some of those employment outcomes.

Market context

The demand for privacy law expertise seems insatiable, especially due to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which has soaked up a huge amount of professional time. Although (in theory) companies have finished their GDPR compliance, post-GDPR work is still going strong. Evolving U.S. laws and norms have also contributed to the market demand—and if the California Consumer Privacy Act takes effect in its current form, a second GDPR-like boom will follow as companies scramble to comply with it.

Because of these ongoing demands, basically every company and law firm has an open requisition for a professional with 5+ years of privacy law expertise. However, the inventory of professionals with those qualifications is exceedingly bare. This has pushed employer demand in two directions. First, employers have repurposed experienced lawyers without a privacy background; but they may not be passionate about privacy, and there’s a steep learning curve on privacy law. Second, employers have hired candidates with less professional experience but demonstrated commitment to and knowledge about privacy law. This latter option has benefited the Privacy Law Certificate alumni.

Certificate alumni employment outcomes

This table summarizes the employment outcomes for the 21 certificate alumni, including 2 alumni from 2018 who haven’t placed yet.



Mobility: Of the 11 alumni who graduated from 2015-2017, only two are still at their first job.

JD-advantage jobs are good jobs: Many law school graduates are wary of professional jobs that prefer but don’t require a legal degree (sometimes called “JD-advantage jobs”). However, in the privacy field, many professional jobs are JD-advantage, and many of the field’s leaders, including the chief privacy officers of leading companies, do not have a law degree. Thus, in the privacy field, JD-advantage jobs are often equally attractive as JD-required jobs. Our graduates’ experiences have borne that out.

Switching between JD-advantage and JD-required jobs: Graduates freely switch between JD-advantage and JD-required jobs. In particular, some graduates have obtained JD-required jobs after starting in JD-advantage jobs, demonstrating that starting in a JD-advantage job isn’t a permanent election.

Fast placement: Eight of the ten 2018 graduates had full-time employment within three months of graduation.

In-house upon graduation: A common belief is that law school graduates must work a few years, typically at a law firm, before they can switch to in-house lawyer jobs. This has not been our experience. Twelve out of the 21 graduates, including six of the 10 graduates in 2018, have started at in-house counsel positions (and two others started in JD-advantage jobs in-house). There are a number of good reasons for this, including the general growth of entry-level in-house counsel jobs. However, the primary driver has been that students placed in externships or internships at companies have proven their value to their employers. Our students working part-time during school become too valuable for their employers to let go.

As privacy laws increase in number and complexity, privacy professionals are facing ever-greater challenges. Santa Clara Law’s Privacy Law Certificate was designed to produce alumni with the level of sophistication and expertise required to meet these challenges. We also expect these alumni will emerge as key leaders in the next generation of privacy professionals.

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UPDATE: Shortly after I submitted this article to the IAPP, the two unplaced 2018 grads both got job offers, one in a law firm and the other in a JD-advantage job. So within 4 months of graduation, we had a 100% placement rate for the Class of 2018 Privacy Law Certificate earners. Needless to say, we are immensely proud of all of them.