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September 4, 2009 12:59 PM

Legal Sector Loses 100 Jobs in August

Posted by Ross Todd

While the U.S. economy shed another 216,000 jobs in August, the legal sector lost only 100 jobs during the month, according to statistics released Friday by the the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers are seasonally adjusted. When not seasonally adjusted, the legal sector lost 11,000 jobs--presumably because of the flow of summer associates back to law schools across the country. (Click here for The Employment Situation: August 2009.)

While the pace of job losses in the legal market slowed in August, we've seen a steady stream of reported reductions at Kirkland & Ellis, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Quarles & Brady, and Cooley Godward Kronish. Most striking to us here at The Am Law Daily are the increasingly fuzzy numbers--or no numbers--we've been getting from law firms when asked about job cuts. Earlier this week, when we reached out to Sonnenschein, following up on a report of layoffs on Above The Law, the most we got was confirmation of some cuts, with no number detailed. Our colleagues at Texas Lawyer have been similarly challenged in trying to pinpoint the exact number of lawyers let go at Baker Botts--at one point earlier this week, reporters from the paper took to counting up the number of lawyers on the firm's Web site and comparing the number to an earlier count last week.

Is it just us, readers, or does it seem like the more we've documented this over the past year, the hazier the picture has gotten?

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I believe the "100 jobs lost" equals (job creation - job loss). Some sectors, say BigLaw, could have massive lay-offs while others, say Small Law, could have massive hiring.

I'm not saying that's what happened, only that total sector employment does not tell us much about the sector this blog focuses on, namely BigLaw.

I am a recruiter, and I know for fact that several firms have had reductions in Associate staff, yet deny it ever occured. So yes, the numbers are questionable at best.

Additionally, I find it to be extremely unprofessional to handle reductions in this way. As it creates a negative picture of the former employee, who was let go for no fault of their own, to be thrown to the wolves in order to maintain the facade of economic viability.

But as they say, what goes around comes around, and it will be interesting to see how successful these firms are in recruiting laterals once economic conditions normalize. I will be watching!!

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