Mixed News in BigLaw: Overall Hiring Up But Layoffs Happening

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 01, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When will the recession in the legal job market finally end? It may be now.

Or not.

The National Association for Law Placement noted last week that BigLaw jobs for recent grads has risen 27 percent over the last two years, to more than 3,600 jobs. That's good, but not great. In 2009, there were more than 5,100 jobs and the Class of 2012 was massive. Overall, only 64.4 percent landed jobs requiring bar passage.

One of the reasons for the decline: less school-funded jobs than previous years.

Meanwhile, Weil Gotshal announced earlier this week that they would lay off 60 associates and 110 support staffers and reduce the pay of roughly ten percent of its partners, reports The New York Times. The layoffs amount to a seven percent reduction in associates.

Dan DiPetro, chairman of the law firm group at Citi Private Bank, told the Times that this could be the beginning of a trend for the industry as a whole, as firms are finding a shrinking market for high-end legal services. He referred to the process at "right-sizing."

And the bad news continues. Above the Law reports that Goodwin Proctor will close its San Diego branch, though half of the eighteen lawyers affected were offered positions elsewhere in the firm. Goodwin Proctor also framed the closing as a reallocation of resources to their expanding presence in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley.

And, of course, earlier this month, Epstein Becker shuttered its Atlanta office.

Tie all of those threads of information together, and you get a BigLaw landscape where lots of recent graduate associates are being hired, while lots of older associates, support staff, and offices are being jettisoned. Maybe this is all part of the evolution and fat-trimming of a slow-to-change industry? Or maybe, as some predict, this may be the beginning of another downward trend.

Either way, the uncertainty of the industry has to be unnerving for debt-ridden law students and graduates, all hoping to find a way to pay off their expensive investment in a legal education. Our sympathies also go out to the oft-forgotten support staff, who make law offices run, but are often the first fired when the revenues shrink.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard