The Firms

June 3, 2011 2:06 PM

May Brings More Legal Employment Losses

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

The turbulent legal job market took another sharp turn last month as employment in the sector declined by 1,000 positions, according to statistics released Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There was a glimmer of hope in April, when the legal sector initially seemed to have added 1,500 jobs. But adjusted statistics from BLS now show a decrease for April--the revised number is 700 jobs lost for that month (BLS routinely revises numbers from recent months based on additional reports and recalculated seasonal adjustment factors). With that news, the legal industry has experienced four straight months of losses. The legal sector currently stands at 2,700 jobs less than this time last year. (Click here for our March coverage and here for the February jobs report.)

That downward trek has run parallel with a moderate recovery in the overall economy, which stalled out a bit in May. BLS reports that the U.S. added only 54,000 jobs last month, after an increase of 232,000 positions April (the figures are revised from the original report). That sent the unemployment rate from 9 percent to 9.1. The New York Times notes that May's overall job growth was about one-third of what most economists were expecting.

In a separate (and, in our view, somewhat related) article, The Times highlights one area that lawyers have turned to to find work: outsourcing firms. These businesses, which in recent years were moving U.S. legal jobs to low-cost countries, now boast openings in the U.S. for out-of-work lawyers, the Times reports. Some of the jobs, such as ones for preparing and analyzing export control documents and military contracts, are easier to fill and accomplish in the U.S., the article notes, given domestic laws or logistics.

While the positions pay less than the salaries at big law firms, there appears to be a lot of opportunity for growth. The Times says the legal outsourcing industry made $400 million last year. That figure is expected to rise to $2.4 billion by 2012, according to The Datamonitor Group, cited in the article.

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