Update on the Legal Economy

Recently, NALP, the association of legal career professionals, reported on the state of the legal economy and the legal employment market.  It should be no surprise that as of early 2010, “the job market remains difficult for law school graduates in nearly every sector.”  However, the brunt of the economic downturn has been borne by the largest law firms in the largest legal markets.  Most significantly, firms tied to the financial industry have been hit hard. In many instances, however, small and mid-sized firms not only maintained their practices, but thrived.

The effects of the slow economy on hiring and compensation vary.  Nationally, it is difficult to determine the number of graduates from the class of 2009 who were deferred.  Of those deferred, the outcome ranges from graduates who have been called back early to those who were deferred indefinitely or had deferred offers rescinded.  Looking ahead to the class of 2010, the forecast is somber.  NALP reports that “the market for 3L law students looking for law firm work was grim in the fall, with only 3% of firms surveyed reporting that they were recruiting 3Ls during the fall of 2009, in contrast to 25% in 2008 and 42% in 2007.”

The market for current 2L students reflects similar trends.  In almost all markets, the number of employers participating in fall recruiting was down.  Fewer offers for summer associate positions were extended in 2009, and many firms decreased the length of their summer programs.   

On a positive note, the stock market continues to rebound, and law students are still finding jobs!  NALP predicts some practice areas “are strong or expected to grown in 2010, including bankruptcy, regulatory work, commercial contracts, and international work generally.”   PDO advises law students who do not have paid employment to gain legal experience through pro bono work or the clinical program.  From the beginning, give very good work product and continue to build your network.  For more tips on how to make the most out of your legal experience, whether it is paid or not, read Anneliese’s article on tips for summer employment in this issue of the Career Brief.