A quick job market reality check.
The start of January always brings hopes that the new year will be a better one — and, this year, it might be. The Fed’s Ben Bernanke suggested a few months ago that the recession is technically over, but even he says stubbornly high rates of unemployment are here to stay for some time.
Though leaders of the largest law firms appear to be striking a more optimistic note for some staff and associates, per Citigroup’s recent report, the first few months are set to bring more angst.
Last week, Wilson Sonsini showed that employers are still looking to cut workers. They aren’t the only firm with downsizing plans. Union Bank’s Justin Miller says that based on conversations with West Coast Am Law 100 and 200 firms, more associates and staff will be getting the pink slip before the spring quarter is over. From what he’s hearing, many firms decided in the last quarter of 2009 they would cut more after the holidays passed. “Many of them are doing it now,” Miller said. (He declined to cite figures or share specific firm names.) Miller predicted the usual slow practice areas will bear the brunt, including corporate and transactional areas.
The good news is, sources don’t expect this year to be the disaster that last year was. Julie Brush, a recruiter in the Silicon Valley office of Solutus Legal Search, said a lot of firms are reviewing their staffing needs now and waiting to see how the first quarter unfolds. While she agrees there will be more layoffs, she also noted that some firms are at a point where they don’t want to over-slash.
“If a law firm has decided to lay off a corporate paralegal or a junior associate, for example, and all of a sudden a big corporate M&A deal comes in — that person is going to be really busy and they’re going to need that resource,” she said. “Things are picking up.”
— Petra Pasternak