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What To Watch: Economic Recovery and Attorney Hiring

03/07/2010

Over the past 18 months, newspaper and internet based employment ads for attorneys, paralegals and legal secretaries across the United States have been significantly reduced.  The number of pages displaying new positions has been cut to the bone.
 
In 2010, however, it is not unreasonable to gauge legal sector advertising and the hiring of counsel as an early indicator of future economic activity. As the financial sector improves, so should the hiring of legal workers who specialize in transactional, real estate and commercial law.
 
When law firms across the nation open new offices and restore, perhaps even increase, the number of positions to serve anticipated business needs and deals, you can be sure there is a solid sign we may be back to better days. Many projects begin to take their form in the offices of attorneys who work on the financing and contractual background of substantial deals that are the DNA of approaching robust economic activity.  Proof of recovery can be seen in a healthy and growing legal workforce.
 
To be sure, it is not the litigators that are likely to see more jobs. The telling increase will be with the behind-the-scenes people who assemble the legal blueprints for corporate clients, such as transactional counsel, international lawyers, securities attorneys, governmental lawyers and tax counsel. They are likely to be the first in a chain of new hires, with the ripple effect spreading to the construction industry, the information technology sector and other portions of the economy.
 
According to Law.com on March 5, ” Only 100 jobs were lost in the legal sector in February, the second month in a row that has seen a substantial drop-off in job losses. According to seasonally adjusted [Bureau of Labor Statistics] data, the legal sector lost 1,100 jobs in January compared to 2,100 in December, 2,900 in November, and 5,800 in October. Since February of last year, the sector has shed 37,100 positions.” 
 
We may, in March or April, 2010, find an ever-so-slight increase in legal jobs, including attorneys, law office administrators, secretaries and paralegals. If so, watch those newspaper and internet employment ads very carefully. More ads may portend signs of economic recovery that will materialize further into 2010. The “Lawyer Index” is certainly worth watching.
 
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