Pace University recently published an interesting report entitled, “Race To The Finish Line: Legal Education, Jobs, And The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of,” which looked at how the recession impacted the legal jobs market. According to researchers, the Great Recession of 2008 meant that large law firms were cutting back on hiring, rescinding offers, laying off unproductive partners, telling people to travel for a year, and outsourcing legal work. Smaller firms modestly tightened their belts and merely acted conservatively, avoiding expansion as they weathered the storm. New grads from the class of 2008 – present found themselves competing in a volatile market.
The good news for people seeking legal jobs is that the demand for lawyers and legal assistants is starting to grow slightly, along with the economy. The trend toward outsourcing is diminishing and partnerships are becoming more complex. In the past, it was all “up-or-out,” with firms employing primarily partners and associates. Nowadays, you will see more non-equity partners, counselors, staff lawyers and permanent associates. The American Bar Foundation reports that 65 percent of lawyers work private practice legal jobs, with 20 percent situated in large firms. Solo practitioners account for 40 percent of private practice lawyers.
Pace University researchers speculate that more entry-level legal jobs will earn low-end-spectrum salaries (closer to $60,000). That being said, grads who go to work for small firms, not-for-profits and government organizations will make enough money to pay their bills and pay down their massive student loans too. Another trend is that there will be plenty of legal jobs work to go around, as a law degree is very flexible by nature. The fact of the matter is that not all graduates go to work in law firms. There is a legal aspect that affects just about every human being, so there are many grads who work in business, government, education, or NGO settings.