What does economics have to to do with finding a legal job? Everything! In determining where you want to practice, perhaps the most important factors are supply and demand. Does the local legal market need another attorney? Are any firms in the area hiring? If so, in what practice areas? Is there saturation or have there been recent legal layoffs? How is the local economy faring in general? These are all important factors you must consider before you commit to any legal market. And according to a study by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc., nearly every jurisdiction except for Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Washington, D.C. has an oversupply of lawyers right now. What does this mean for you? It means that to find a legal job in an area that does not have great demand for attorneys, you will probably need to work harder, it will take longer, and your starting salary may be less. It also means that more than ever, you need to work one-on-one with a career counselor from your first year forward to ensure that you are ahead of the pack in your job search efforts. Contact Career Services for a counseling appointment in our office or via phone.
Category Archives: Salary and Employment Trends
Research recently reported by NALP indicates that aggregate starting private practice salaries fell an astonishing 20% for the 2010 class. “This downward shift in starting salaries is not, for the most part, because individual legal employers were paying new graduates less than they paid them in the past,” NALP Executive Director James Leipold explained in a recent press release. Rather, he attribures the fall to the fact that graduates found fewer jobs with large, high-paying law firms and many more found jobs with the smallest law firms. Based on this statistic, you would be better served to focus your job search efforts on small firms with 1 to 10 lawyers rather than medium to large firms since small firms are the ones hiring. Moreover, although they generally pay less than larger firms, small firms sometimes offer a better work-life balance. If you are determined to ultimately work in a large firm environment, you can start in a small firm, gain critical experience and develop a reputation for expertise in your practice area, which will make you marketable as a lateral hire for a large firm.
Each year, salary and employment trends of recent law graduates are analyzed in Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Law Graduates. Through NALP, we recently received a peek at the 2010 statistics, which reveal that a slight majority of employed graduates obtained their first job at a law firm. Also, jobs in small firms outnumbered those in firms of more than 100 lawyers for the first time since 1997. In addition, the percentage of law students hanging their own shingle for a solo practice increased. What does this information mean for you? It continues to be a very competitive market, but law firms are still the legal employer of choice for recent graduates. For the best result, focus your efforts on small firms. Schedule an individual appointment with a Career Services Counselor to review your application materials and to plan your job search strategy to maximize your marketability.
The full report of Jobs & JDs will be available in August, and we will have a copy in our office. So stop by in the Fall to learn more detailed information on the types of employment and salaries obtained by law school graduates in 2010, including the following:
- what types of jobs graduates found and where they found them;
- what members of the Class were earning;
- how earnings varied with geographic location and job type;
- what sizes of law firms employed the most graduates;
- which states offered the most job opportunities; and
- how women and minorities in the Class fared.
In the meantime, you can read the full text of the Selected Findings released by NALP, which provides a detailed summary of the statistics.
According to a recent “Roundtable on the Future of Lawyer Hiring, Development and Advancement” hosted by NALP, law firms are in broad agreement that they would like to see new lawyers with more exposure to business training. As explained by Robert E. Williams, Partner and Chief Talent Officer at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, “[a]ll the lawyers here are familiar with the legal case method, where you read a fact pattern and then think of the applicable law. In the business case method, you read a fact pattern and then think of what you should do…I think that’s really invigorating to someone who’s been steeped in the legal case method for quite a long time, and it will bring them into closer alignment with the way their clients think.” (“Finding the New Normal,” NALP Bulletin, Vol. 23, No. 6, June 2011) If you have a business degree or a background in a business related field, emphasize the skills you learned in that regard on your resume and in interviews. When asked what distinguishes you from other candidates, point out how your practical business experience translates into being a better attorney who understands the practical day-to-day implications of legal conclusions. Afterall, a law firm is a business!
What are recent law school graduates in private practice earning? Are there more opportunities with small firms or large firms? What cities and states offer the most employment opportunities? These questions can all be answered by consulting “Jobs and JD’s: Employment and Salaries of New Law School Graduates,” which is published by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). This publication is a valuable resource and planning tool and is the only report of its kind. “Jobs and JD’s” is available in the Career Services Department and in the library. If you have never utilized this resource, you may want to schedule an appointment with a counselor to discuss how the information you learn impacts your job search. To schedule a counseling session, call the Career Services Department at (904) 680-7744 or click here.