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Legal Sector Jobs Keep Disappearing, Down 5,000 from 2014

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 11, 2015 11:57 AM

Remember those stories about the up-tick in legal hiring? You know, the ones that made it seem like maybe, just maybe, the legal market was springing back from its 2007 implosion. Well, there's some bad news.

Revised numbers by the Bureau of Labor show that the legal job sector lost 2,000 jobs in August, erasing gains from spring hiring and leaving the almost 5,000 less legal jobs than a year ago. What's an (aspiring) greedy associate to do?

The Ever Shrinking Legal Industry

The summer of 2015 looked like it might be a good one for the legal industry. Hiring inched up in April. BigLaw profits were improving. June brought reports that J.D.s from the class of 2014 were finally finding jobs and out-performing their 2013 peers. Above the Law recently reported that entry-level hiring was on the uptick, beginning to "crawl out of the abyss."

Whoops.

Turns out, the situation might not be as rosy as some reports indicated. New numbers by the Bureau of Labor showed that, indeed, August is the cruelest month. While the economy as a whole saw modest growth last month, the legal industry lost 2,000 jobs. Estimates from June were also revised down by a few hundred jobs. The numbers estimate that 1,117,600 people were employed in the legal industry last month. That's 4,800 less jobs than August of 2014.

What's a Lawyer to Do?

If you're looking for work, there's no need to panic (or worse, go back for an LLM). Even if lawyers are struggling for jobs, a law degree is worth something. A Harvard Law School study from 2013 found that a J.D. brought lawyers about $1 million extra over their career when compared to other educated professionals. And a million dollars is slightly more than what you'll spend trying to pay off those loans, so it's a net benefit.

One of the good things about being a lawyer is that you don't need to wait to be hired. You've got a skill and it doesn't take a lot of overhead to hang your own shingle and put it to use. Solo and small firm incubator programs can help you, too. These programs, usually run by bar associations or law schools, give new lawyers resources, mentoring, and sometimes office space to help them start up their own practices. They could be the difference between a career practicing law or a year living unemployed in your parents' basement.

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