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All signs point to the contrary, but 75 per cent of law firm leaders surveyed by The American Lawyer think the legal job market is about to get a whole lot better.AmLaw surveyed 113 law firm partners for its 10th annual Law Firm Leaders survey and found that a majority are optimistic about their firm’s future and “are ready to put the recession behind them and embrace a cheerful narrative—if only the world economy will play along.”
“My sense is that a boom wants to happen, which makes me optimistic,” Proskauer Rose chair Joseph Leccese told AmLaw.
But, as proven by the collapse of once-monster law firm Dewey & LeBouef, holding on to a positive attitude doesn’t always guarantee results.
Vault surveyed associates about transparency at their respective firms early in 2012, a few months before Dewey went bankrupt. And while Dewey associates slammed their superiors for a lack of transparency, respondents also predicted a rosy future for the firm.
“The firm is busy, its prestige and rank are increasing, and people do not appear concerned about their jobs,” one associate responded. Another young lawyer said “associates are happy to be staffed on challenging projects.”
The firm of course crashed and burned just a few months later in a massive bankruptcy case.
Dewey’s fate coupled with the current state of affairs in the legal industry means we’re a bit sceptical about embracing the positive view highlighted by AmLaw.
In November, we reported law firms were taking drastic measures just to keep their heads above water, such as using short-term debt to stay operational late in the year.
The bad news for law firms might be deterring would-be lawyers from pursuing that path.
In October, the number of future law students taking the bar exam hit its lowest levels since 1999.