Legal Sector Employment on the Rebound

The legal sector has added 100 jobs this month, and 2,100 since July of this year. As noted in a December 2 article by Claire Zillman in The AmLaw Daily, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ initial November report shows 100 employees have been added, continuing a recent upward trend following October’s increase of 400. While these increases are yet to offset the loss of 1,500 in August and September, with 300 and 1,200 jobs lost respectively, the shift remains encouraging news for lawyers around the country.

In spite of the month to month fluctuation, this news is one of only a few bright spots for the industry based on statistics released by the BLS since this time last year. However, though July did see a major increase of 4,100 jobs, the article notes that overall “the legal sector has suffered a net loss of 1,000 jobs in 2011 and is down 3,100 jobs since November 2010. Thus, the positivity should be measured with a dose of reality that we are still on the rebound.

Regarding national employment, says Zillman: “The nation’s overall unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 8.6 percent last month, its lowest level in two-and-a-half years. The New York Times cited two factors as driving the decline: employers hiring 120,000 people in November and 315,000 abandoning their active job searches.” She goes on to note that the boost in employment comes only four weeks before the expiration of 99-week insurance benefit payments for the unemployed actively seeking work. “The Times reports that millions of people have already exhausted their benefits, and Congress’s failure to renew the extended benefits program will affect as many as 1.2 million in January alone.”

Clearly, employment in the industry and national economy is still in flux, but the recent trends of October/November and dating all the way back to July are positive signs of a much-needed recovery.

With that said, if Cravath and other Big Law firms are not careful, they may well have an Occupy movement on their hands with many unhappy associates. These young lawyers will soon recognize (if not already) that stagnant bonus compensation in the midst of prerecession-like growth is not fair, even as the national economy continues to recover.

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