BigLaw New Associate Hiring Increased This Year
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Summary: Despite a flat 2016 entry level legal job market, Big Law firms have hired more associates than before.

Firms with 500 lawyers or more have increased their first-year associate hiring by six percent, according to Texas Lawyer. The publication said that this increase is a “rare bright spot in an otherwise ho-hum 2016 entry level legal job market.”


Outside of the Big Law world, however, law school graduates had a more difficult time finding work. According to research from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), law school funded jobs, public interest sector jobs, jobs in education, and solo practitioner work declined after 2008. Government jobs, however, have remained steady and are generally viewed as unaffected by the state of the economy.

NALP said that the largest law firms hired 4,238 graduates from the class of 2016. From the class of 2015, the number was 4,007.

“Large law firm hiring has increased fairly steadily since 2011, adding nearly 1,400 jobs in five years,” said NALP Executive director James Leipold.

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Thomas Leatherbury of Vinson & Elkins in Dallas told Texas Lawyer that demand for entry-level attorneys is still strong amongst large law firms and that the firms are competing for the best of the best.

“I think it’s becoming much more competitive among the large firms,” Leatherbury said. “You have large firms entering more markets. We see that particularly in Houston. There is more competition for the top graduates.”

Despite this year’s increase, however, NALP believes that the large law firm hiring surge will soon be coming to an end.

“We would expect large firm hiring for the Class of 2017 to show additional gains, and we will likely see a leveling out in that sector for the Class of 2018,” Leipold said. “It is unlikely that large firm hiring will ever match the high reached by the Classes of 2007 and 2008 when more than 5,000 jobs at the largest firms were reported for two years in a row.”

NALP’s recently published findings also said that the employment rate for new graduates has risen, but this is not because there are more jobs. Instead, it is because there are fewer graduates.

“For the third year in a row the employment rate is shaped by a smaller number of jobs and a smaller graduating class size, with graduates benefitting from slightly less competition for the jobs that exist. The employment rate has risen because the falloff in the size of the graduating class has been larger than the falloff in the number of jobs secured,” said Leipold.

“While the percentage of law school graduates who are unemployed and still seeking work ten months after graduation has come down by two and a half percentage points to 8.7% over the last three years, it continues to be more than twice as high as the unemployment rate measured nine months after graduation in the period prior to the recession, and this, more than anything, remains an important marker of the current job market for new law school graduates,” Leipold continued.

What do you think of the rise in BigLaw associate hiring? Let us know in the comments below.


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