Legal Employment Market Loses Lots of Jobs in November but Year-over-Year Change is Negligible

November saw a fairly sharp decline of 1100 jobs in November, following a smaller decline in October, offsetting gains in September and netting a small decline of 100 legal sector jobs compared with November 2009.

I pay attention to the monthly numbers but I’ve said on several occasions that too much should not be read into them.  The yearly numbers bear that out—essentially, the legal employment market has not found its way through the recession yet, and it’s certainly not alone in its uncertain path.  The daily blizzard of economic numbers is confusing, contradictory and inconsistent.  Big rally in bond prices followed by sharp dropoff at just the time—the introduction of QE2—that one might not expect it.  Retail sales were strong after Thanksgiving but not strong enough to make much of a difference in the overall employment, average hours worked, or productivity pictures.  And so on.

When I gave Advise-In’s medium-term prognosis for the legal employment picture early in the summer, I indicated that I thought the most likely scenario was, on a net jobs basis, not much of a change in the current year or the next year or two.  At least through 2010, that analysis appears to be, unfortunately, correct.  The earliest we’re likely to see a market change that will matter for law school graduates—assuming the overall economy improves, which remains a problematic assumption—is for the 2013 class (for whom the summer of 2012 will be crucial).  The earliest, not the latest.  I think it’s more likely than not that the class of 2014 will fare better than the class of 2013, holding broader economic variables constant.

And yet—law school applications have risen each of the last two years, despite a market that continues to be among the worst in recent memory and a debt load for law school students that is daunting.

Law school is a great option for some people, but it’s not the best choice for everyone, even in good times.  More important, it may be a good option for some in better times but not now.  Timing may not be everything but it’s not nothing, either.  We’ve talked a lot about the type of analysis and calculations that people considering law school should do to see if law school makes vocational and financial sense for them now.  The new employment numbers just underscore that prospective law students and their advisors should be especially painstaking in their analyses—this market hasn’t changed and isn’t likely to grow significantly next year.  In the foreseeable future, it simply won’t be what it was, say from 2005-2007.  Were I thinking about law school now, I would not be cautiously optimistic—I’d just be cautious.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on December 9, 2010.

One Response to “Legal Employment Market Loses Lots of Jobs in November but Year-over-Year Change is Negligible”

  1. […] And there are other predictions of trouble on the horizon.  For example, there is the hard news of two consecutive months of contraction in the legal employment market.  And Wells Fargo’s Jeffrey Grossman foresees further declines in […]

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