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January 6, 2012 12:25 PM

Legal Sector Shed 1,800 Jobs in December

Posted by Claire Zillman

The legal industry ended 2011 on a sour note, losing 1,800 jobs in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' preliminary employment report released Friday.

The December losses obliterated the sector's modest gains of the previous two months: 400 jobs in October and another 400 in November, according to the seasonally adjusted figures included in the latest BLS report. (The BLS initially reported an uptick of only 100 legal jobs in November.) Since December 2010, the legal sector has cut about 2,700 jobs, the BLS report says.

The losses also put the legal industry at odds with the broader economy, which, according to the BLS report, added 200,000 jobs in December to bring the nation's unemployment rate to a nearly three-year low of 8.6 percent. All told, the BLS reports, the economy gained 1.6 million jobs in 2011 after adding 940,000 in 2010.

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There seems to be a growing trend for law firms and corporate and government law departments to hire more short term contract attorneys and paralegals, because routine legal work can be done less expensively this way, thereby increasing law firm profits and/or reducing clients' legal fees. The legal profession can expect to lose even more positions for lawyers in the future as they are replaced by paralegal specialists. We need to reduce our law school enrollments by at least 50% so that new lawyers will be able to find employment after they graduate. The ABA should withdraw accreditation for lower ranked law colleges and require the better law schools to reduce enrollments.

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