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NALP Says No Return to 2006 Jobs Level for Legal Industry

A talk by NALP executive director Jim Leipold did not bring good news for the entry-level legal job market, according to The National Law Journal.

Leipold said that the market has not recovered from the massive hit it encountered during the recession. He also said that the market is not likely to return to its strong days of the middle 2000s anytime soon.

The talk occurred at the organization’s annual conference in Seattle. The industry dropped 60,000 jobs from 2008 to 2009 and just 15,000 of them have returned to the market. Leipold said that in 2009, some 9 percent of U.S. law firm associates were laid off.

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“We’re not going back to 2006 anytime soon,” Leipold said.

Leipold said that law firm services demand have been flat for years now. “We’re seeing more differentiation in the financial outcomes of law firms. Some firms did really well last year, and some firms are struggling with negative numbers. We’ll see some real winners and losers.”

Leipold noted that a larger number of law school graduates are working in business, which means that their employers are not legal services providers per se. He also said that more graduates are also finding employment that lists a juris doctor as an advantage, not a requirement for employment.

Salaries for law graduates have dropped since 2008 for their first year on the job. In 2013, there were just an average of 13 summer associates at firms with 700 or more attorneys. This is a significant drop from 30 in 2007.

“I think the class of 2011 will historically come to be seen as the bottom of the market,” he said.

On Wednesday, the ABA released data that shows 57 percent of the 2013 class found fulltime, long-term employment that required bar passage. This is a slight uptick from 56.2 percent for the class of 2012.

“We’re not in a steady recovery,” Leipold said. “It’s more like two steps forward and one step back.”

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