Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Monday, April 06, 2009

US Job Market for Lawyers Collapses

Recently it has been reported that the law firms in the USA are being badly affected by the global credit crisis. There have been reports in the US of the larger law firms making sudden redundancies, but the reports in the various logs and articles in the US legal news indicate that the actual reality is much worse. Apparently there are teams of lawyers being laid off, firms closing down right across the USA and very little work coming in to keep the remaining firms open and trading.

The situation is fairly similar in the UK, except probably not as bad as that.

In the last few weeks we have seen a large number of candidates register due to recent redundancies, but I have to say that most of the candidates I have seen coming through have been fairly high earning mid-level solicitors, and probably the sort that could be replaced by a firm with somebody more junior, and with a bit of investment, time and training could probably generate similar fee levels to a more senior solicitor on a higher salary.

This probably sounds very callous, but it is usually the harsh reality of fee-earning, and also generating a profit from legal services.

It will certainly be a similar scenario to when some of the bigger players outside of the profession get their hands on some of the market. Paralegals and junior lawyers will see their salaries increase when they join the big players, but then discover after a while that they are surplus to requirements.

This will be something that carries on for quite some time maybe in the legal profession, and I do not envisage the redundancies stopping until the market picks up. I cannot see the market picking up though until well after the summer as there will not be the usual spate of recruitment in May that there usually is.

However, one of the problems with this recession is that quite a lot of the actual scenario is down to people talking themselves into a recession and deciding not to do certain things. We have seen a number of firms in recent times tell us they have vacancies and when we find very good candidates for reasonable amounts of money and send them for an interview, the firm decides to put the vacancy on hold, having spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to recruit and then deciding they just don’t want to anymore when they are halfway through. This unusually has nothing to do with the recession, but more to do with firms looking at the newspapers and thinking that they are exposing themselves to too much risk by considering recruitment at this time.

As soon as this changes, I think the market will pick up again.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director at Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 0207 1274343.

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