Not Out of the Woods: December Jobs Report is Disappointing News for Legal Employment

Most months, I do a short blog post on last month’s Bureau of Labor Statistics legal jobs report.  I also usually say that these are not terribly important numbers for prospective and current law school students, since they reflect the recent past and not the future, are subject to upward or downward revision the next month (which sometimes reverses the original report) and are subject to odd monthly fluctuations.  Nevertheless, they’re information that those on the path to as legal career should note regularly, so I do.

BLS reported a net loss of 1,000 legal jobs in December.  On the heels of much better news that greeted readers in December and January, that’s too bad.  Even though December’s loss was comparatively large, I don’t think it should adversely color the better concurrent news too much.  However, what the report reminds us is that legal employment woods are deep and dark compared to what they were a few years ago, and that there are still a lot of obstacles—some predictable, others less so—to overcome.

For those thinking about law school, the report is an important reminder to do a lot of advance thinking and spreadsheet calculations to help you determine if law school is a good option for you.  Irrespective of the state of the legal economy, law school is always an expensive risk—the difference the economy makes is to shrink or magnify the size and depth of the risk band.

For those in law school or deciding between various law school admission and financial aid offers, it’s a similar reminder—from the day you’re accepted into law school until you graduate, you should diligently focus attention on positioning yourself for your best post-graduate career opportunities.  You can’t wait until searches for summer associate or full-time employment are upon you but should be positioning yourself from the moment you’re admitted.  That wasn’t always the case, at least for students of a few top law schools; when I went to law school, such graduates really didn’t need to do much in the way of positioning while in law school.  Opportunities seemed (and often were) plentiful; you could afford to procrastinate, even if you kind of knew you shouldn’t.  My colleagues and I were very lucky and we knew it.  It will be a long time before that kind of luck returns, and what luck has taken away, law students need to make up for in diligence and strategic thinking.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on January 15, 2011.

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