Government stats reveal drop in US legal jobs

The US legal services industry has suffered the first significant year-on-year drop in employment in a decade.

The most recent report from the US Bureau of Labour and Data Statistics, published today (Friday 7 November) shows that employment in the sector was down by 1.25 per cent in October 2008 compared with the same month last year.

The statistic follows significant legal market layoffs during 2008 which have included the dissolution of two US firms, Heller Ehrman in September and Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner last month.

US legal commentator, Bruce MacEwen, said the findings were significant because they demonstrated that the wave of restructuring and litigation needed to offset the lack of transactional work has not happened yet.

“It is one thing for a firm’s revenues to be down but for people to be losing their jobs is quite another and very concerning,” MacEwen added. “It’s a real challenge for managing partners to achieve a balance between being prudent about costs and maintaining capacity.”

The only other fall in US legal services jobs since 1998 came in 2005, when the total number of jobs fell by 0.25 per cent.