The Legal Market’s Roller Coaster Ride: An look at the most recent data

It’s rough out there, so buckle up and prepare for a bumpy ride the next few years.  Numbers were just released and only 55% of the law school class of 2011 had full-time long-term jobs requiring a legal degree and that the median salary for those lawyers has dropped to $60,000 from $72,000 for the class of 2009 (though self-reporting of this data leaves some questions about the veracity of this statistic).  Closer analysis of the data indicates that the many of the graduates are landing at smaller firms, rather than firms paying less.  While some large firms are taking advantage of the market’s glut of attorneys and reducing salaries, the decrease in median salary also reflects the increase in non-partnership track positions (which pay less).  Non-partnership positions grew by 6% in the study (making up 15% of the workforce).

So what about the 45% that didn’t land a job?  The data on that cohort is unclear.  Suffice it to say, a large majority of them are in the market looking for a job.

While this data is scary for everyone in the legal profession, you shouldn’t panic, but you need to adapt.  Building a strong network inside the legal profession is advisable for anyone in the legal market – from the new attorney to the veteran.  Keeping your resume current is also a good idea.  You never know when opportunity will knock.  Volunteering or doing whatever it takes to make yourself remarkable is more important than ever.  For a great discussion on how to do that, read Linchpin by Seth Godin.  While not specifically geared towards the legal profession, it’s a quick read and it’s jam-packed with ideas on how to make you marketable by being remarkable.

The good news is that law firms are busy again and indications are that hiring will increase.  Time will tell how quickly the market will rebound.  Until then: adapt, prepare and hang on for the ride.

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