The legal job market is looking better lately. Attorneys, legal secretaries, paralegals, and other legal staff have some reason to smile and shine up their resumes. After months of a shrinking job market in the U.S., the legal industry has experienced job gains for a third month in a row.
What the Gains Look Like
In April 2020, the legal profession lost 68,000 jobs. As courts and businesses shuttered, the decline in legal work followed suit. Plaintiffs determined that they had time to file their claims. Shuttered businesses could wait to handle legal and business issues.
All of this came on the heels of a job loss of 41,500 legal jobs stemming from July 2019. May’s job increase was at 6100. June’s increase was at 7300. July’s pace has slowed somewhat at 1900. This number looks a little less rosy than the increases of May and June. Moving into the fall, it is uncertain what the pandemic surge will look like and what areas of the country will be most affected.
Reasons For the Gains in the Time of Covid
Covid 19’s impact on the legal job market continues. As reopening has begun in many areas, firms have begun bringing back furloughed employees. The legal profession has begun adapting to our Covid 19 world. Already digital, the legal profession, as a whole, has moved online.
Technology has been crucial for the continuation of the legal industry during the pandemic. Many had never heard of Zoom at the beginning of 2020. Clients, courts and lawyers have turned to Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. Court hearings are now being held over Zoom. Most lawyers are continuing to work remotely during the pandemic.
Are the Gains Projected into the Future?
Overall, legal jobs are expected to continue to grow at a rate of 6% from 2018 to 2028 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. . As Covid 19 surges continue however, it may be that the legal jobs market will experience growth in fits and starts. Transactional attorney jobs may be more tied to the health of the economy, litigation jobs less so. Thus, the job market for litigators may recover more quickly than for transactional attorneys.
It is likely that law firms with a varied transactional client base will tend to have more job growth than law firms whose transactional client base is aggregated in sectors of the economy badly impacted by the pandemic.
Restaurants, airlines, and other leisure-based businesses are among those most impacted. Law firms with robust areas of practice in less impacted fields such as health care, bankruptcy and business restructuring are more likely to be hiring in the near term. Litigation may actually experience an uptick as firms begin to assess damage and look for others upon which to allocate blame.
Adapting to the New Normal
Continued pandemic surges are likely in the near future. In the new normal, law firms are grappling to find innovative ways to continue to service their clients and their needs. Prior to the pandemic, the legal industry had begun movement toward incorporating more use of digital platforms. The pandemic has solidified that.
Remote working has made it possible for law firms to start bringing staff back into the workforce while cutting some overhead expenses associated with brick and mortar offices. Other law firms are exploring hybrid in-person/remote work scenarios for their staff. Even once restrictions ease, it may be that the legal job, its location, and what it looks and feels like, will be affected for years to come.