We noted recently that 2009 has in fact been a terrible year for lawyers.
Job losses came in record numbers, with the 250 largest firms shrinking by 4%. But a breakdown of The National Law Journal’s numbers shows that the losses were highly concentrated in larger cities and larger firms.
The Empirical Legal Studies blog notes that nearly half the losses came from the 45 New York City-based firms included in the NLJ’s count. Another 20% came from Chicago. In 2008, 24.7% and 14.7% of firm job losses came from New York and Chicago, respectively.
As Indiana University law professor Bill Henderson pointed out in the piece, these huge job losses are a result in the severe decline of corporate transactions as a result of the economic crisis.
New York and Chicago were not the only big cities that saw notable losses — Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia and Atlanta all beat the nationwide 4% loss by more than a percentage point. In contrast, firms outside the top 10 markets saw a 0.6% increase in the number of lawyers.
See the Empirical Legal Studies full analysis of the numbers here.
As always, these sorts of numbers lead to a “what does this all mean?” analysis. It may lend more fervor to the the death of big law/death of big law schools arguments.
We still think that the extreme amount of focus on these top-tier layoffs has exaggerated the projected long-term impact. It will be at least this time next year before we can really see if the biggest firms take permanent hits, or if the work that is “migrating to firms further down the AmLaw/NLJ food chain,” as Henderson said, stays there.
That said, those in the “we don’t care how they do it in New York” markets probably spent way less time worrying about losing their job this year. Interestingly, that no-need-to-worry group included San Francisco, where the percentage of firm jobs lost was only 0.2%.
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