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November 4, 2011 2:37 PM

Legal Sector Added 400 Jobs in October, Down 3,000 Over Past 12 Months

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

The legal sector added 400 jobs in October according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics's monthly employment report released Friday. The modest rise was not enough to counter two consecutive months of job losses in an up-and-down year that has left the industry with substantially fewer positions than it had in October 2010, the BLS reported.

According to adjusted figures released Friday by the BLS, the legal sector shed 1,200 jobs in September and 300 in August. The last month during which the industry enjoyed positive job growth was July, when the legal sector added 4,100 jobs.

The national economy grew by 80,000 jobs and the national unemployment rate declined from 9.1 percent to 9 percent in October, according to Friday's BLS report. The New York Times reported that the figures fell below most economists' estimates.

Several Am Law firms have taken steps this year to reduce staff in favor of outsourcing work to professional services companies. Last month, O'Melveny & Myers said it would eliminate about 75 staff positions nationwide and send the staffers' work to legal outsourcer Williams Lea (The Recorder, subscription required). Also last month, The Am Law Daily reported that Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has decided to relocate some back-office functions to a professional services center in Nashville in a move that may require cutting jobs.

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When I was in law school, almost 50 years ago, I was taught that the practice of law is a learned profession, not a business or industry. Therefore, I consider it to be disrespectful and demeaning for a business writer or journalist to refer to lawyers and/or the legal profession as the "legal sector", "staff positions", legal jobs, or "professional services companies". Likewise, I resent and dislike the term "back-office functions", whatever that's supposed to mean.
I'm aware that there are members of the fourth estate who enjoy using slang terminology when referring to lawyers and the legal profession, but I'm not interested in anything they say or write.

Arthur F. Raker, J.D.

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