Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Predictions about the legal job market from the NALP

I'll give you a hint - it ain't pretty according to this conference call entitled Nationwide Phone Briefing to Discuss Job Prospects for Attorneys in a Difficult Economy sponsored by the National LGBT Bar Association which included, among others, the Executive Director of the NALP.

Here's an excerpt of the remarks by the NALP representative courtesy of Above the Law:

The class of 2007 had a 92 percent employment rate after graduation, an all-time historical high. Starting salaries also reached a new high.

At NALP, we expect the employment rate for the next several classes to fall into the mid 80-range. But it shouldn't go as low as it did for the class of 1993 (83.4%).

The news isn't all bad. Small and midsize firms that have lower price points are doing quite well in some markets, from Detroit to St. Louis. These firms are actually growing in some cases, because they're seeing credentials from laterals and new associates they didn't see in the past. There is tremendous pressure in corporate America to reduce total legal spend, so work is flowing down to smaller firms and smaller markets.

The legal hiring market in the public interest arena is very difficult. Many public interest groups are funded through IOLTA funds -- escrow funds held for clients that generate interest, with the interest being used to fund civil legal services. Because interest rates have fallen to near zero, the IOLTA funding mechanism has collapsed.

Many public interest groups have had layoffs, furloughs, and pay freezes. Into this mix you add deferred associates, bearing stipends from their firms. Although it's commendable of firms to support public interest, deferred associates are displacing lawyers who trained for three or so years in preparation for a move to public interest. So there has been a fair amount of disruption to the public interest legal market as well.

Is this just a temporary blip? Probably not: "The large law firm model is undergoing a period of structural change as a result of this economy, in a way that suggests that things will not return to normal after this is over." For example, we probably won't see a resumption of the practice of large law firms hiring large classes of summer associates two years out.

Read the rest of the disturbing details here.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

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