Legal Industry, Still in Flux, Added 4,700 Jobs in September

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 06, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

They're up, they're down, and they're up again. The Department of Labor's latest monthly report shows that the legal industry gained 4,700 jobs in September, a large increase following August's loss.

But even those late-summer numbers are looking better in autumnal light. The DoL also revised August's numbers, saying only 900 jobs were lost that month, rather than 2,000.

Any Good News Is Great News

Job-seeking lawyers don't need to start popping champagne bottles, but they can still appreciate the good news. While the increase in hiring doesn't signal the return of a booming legal industry, it's a needed break from a series of labor reports showing the legal industry remaining stagnant or shrinking. September's numbers mean that there are now 7,300 more legal services jobs than at the end of September last year.

If lawyers can celebrate the labor report, they'll largely be celebrating alone. The September jobs report was largely disappointing, described as both "grim" and "terrible" by The New York Times. While the economy as a whole gained 142,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.1 percent, that's the lowest growth rate of the year.

Maybe all the new legal jobs are in public benefits and bankruptcy practices?

Growth, When It Happens, Isn't Even

Like a patchy beard, jobs growth isn't spread out evenly across the face of the country. Instead, some areas boom while others bottom out. The labor report doesn't give localized results, but a recent survey by the ABA showed how the nation's population of lawyers has been shifting drastically by state over the past ten years.

Much of the nation's legal growth has been in unexpected areas, the survey showed. Florida and Utah both increased their lawyer populations massively over the past decade, by 53.3 and 46.1 percent respectively. Both North Carolina and Arizona saw growth of over 30 percent, though Scottsdale is hardly an international legal hub.

Some of the biggest legal markets also showed consistent growth. New York, home to 172,630 lawyers, grew by 21.1 percent over the past ten years, while California, home to 165,592 attorneys, experienced 19.1 percent growth. Washington, D.C., where one out of every 12 District residents in an esquire, grew by 22.3 percent.

Newly hired attorneys and those already working also have some additional good news. According to Robert Half Legal's 2016 Salary Guide, lawyers can expect their income to increase by between 2.2 and 4.7 percent next year.

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