With a very large number of law students graduating each year, and a limited number of entry-level lawyer positions, it is difficult for a new graduate to get work as a lawyer, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) 2016 Occupation Outlook for Lawyers says.
"Many recent graduates are getting jobs in other industries instead. Although average income is very high for lawyers, it is skewed by a few high earners, and not representative of the income new graduates are likely to get."
The Outlook says there were 1,390 students completing a Bachelor of Laws degree in 2014, down 5.4% from 1,470 in 2013.
It estimates the average cost of $24,200 over four years to obtain an LLB, with a further $6,100 over half a year for the Professional Legal Studies Course.
The Outlook says the average income for legal professionals in 2015 was $97,500 "but this is skewed by very high incomes at the top of the industry".
It quotes the New Zealand Law Society Momentum Legal Salary Survey 2012 for average income of $45,090 in the first two years after admission.
The more up-to-date New Zealand Law Society Hays Legal Salary Guide 2015 puts the average salary after two years at $62,000 for large firms, $53,000 for medium firms and $52,000 for small firms.
The Outlook says the number of online job vacancies for judicial and other legal professionals grew by 6.6% from September 2014 to September 2015.
"In addition, the number of online job vacancies for solicitors grew by 46.7% over this period (but from a very small base). This compares with an overall increase of 1.9% for all vacancies over the same period."