Monday, April 13, 2009

Five legal job trends emerging from current recession that might become permanent is predicting that five trends to emerge from the present legal job market might become permanent after the current woes are behind us- and some of them are not good news for law grads.

Here are the predictions:

1.  Law schools need to get more serious about training students to actually practice law.    

There['s going to be] enormous pressure on law schools to place their graduates in paying jobs. The recession has dramatically impacted their ability to do so, as even the best and brightest are finding it difficult to land jobs, especially at customary high-salary levels in some of the country's most prestigious firms.

Their inability to find such jobs has more than a trickle-down effect -- it may be a flood -- on students in the middle and bottom of the class. Some of these students may now be competing against top-tier students for slots with midsize and small firms and other organizations, which rarely happened in the past.

The pressure will be on law schools to better prepare their students to more quickly hit the ground running after graduation. While this may mean offering more clinical and practicum types of programs, they likely will have to go much further. All those schools that have eschewed offering business of law type of courses as being too unseemly (for example, on business development and the economics of practice), may have to alter that philosophy -- and quickly. It will be incumbent on them to show that $150,000 or more that is spent on an education will (assuming a student does well) actually result in that student finding a good paying job after graduation.

2.  The temporary strategy firms are using to save costs by delaying starts may become permanent.

Firms are feeling the heat from clients who object to essentially paying for the on-the-job training, especially at high rates, for lawyers who, albeit quite bright and talented, generally lack experience that justifies those fees.

That factor, when combined with the cost savings of not paying high first-year salaries (which is only exacerbated by the reality that most associates don't break even for their firms until their third or fourth year) is likely to lead firms to rethink [traditional Fall start dates] even after the economy eventually bounces back.

3.  Salaries will decline.

In the past, there always were firms that broke from the pack to raise salaries to help them land the best and brightest. Even if that happens in the future, which I think will be far less often, I expect fewer firms to follow the so-called leaders. As a result, I anticipate you may still see some outliers, but many more firms will likely keep salaries dampened because of their reluctance to match those high fliers.

4.  Small and midsize firms are where the action will be.

This will present an unprecedented opportunity for smaller and midsize firms to hire first-year lawyers who otherwise may have been out of their reach. The opportunity to work in solid firms, where one can receive a good paycheck (albeit not at the lofty levels of the past), receive good training, get excellent work and presumably practice in a nice environment, could be quite compelling.

5.  The Decline of Western Civilization (or at least the cushy summer associate program).

The costs of a summer program, particularly today, and presumably in the future, as attention to expenses will remain, weigh heavily in favor of ending or significantly scaling back these programs. Most firms pay summer associates a prorated weekly pay that is equivalent to what first-year lawyers earn. As those first-year salaries are under attack, how can a firm justify paying that same scale for clerks whose time is even less likely to ever be collected from more watchful clients?

Hat tip to

I am the scholarship dude.


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