Harvard Law Students, Legal Recruiters among Those Hit by Law Firm Cuts

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As the economic downturn hits big law firms, resulting in layoffs and a few dissolutions, legal job seekers—and the people who help them find jobs—are also feeling the pain.

The effects extend even to Harvard Law School, ranked second-best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Mark Weber, assistant dean for career services at the law school, told the New York Times that law firms are extending fewer employment offers and hiring fewer summer associates for next year.

The legal services industry lost more than 1,000 jobs in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers are reflected in recent news reports of job losses at several law firms.

The article mentions the dissolutions of Thelen and Heller Ehrman and layoffs at firms such as Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Katten Muchin Rosenman, Clifford Chance, McKee Nelson, and Bell Boyd & Lloyd. The story didn’t have the news that broke late yesterday of the layoffs of 70 lawyers and 100 support staffers at White & Case.

The downturn is also hitting legal recruiters, who spoke about the slow job market in interviews with the Times and the Daily Journal (sub. req.). A few said they expected a shakeout with some recruiters leaving the field.

“The last time we saw anything like this, this bad, was in the early ’90s,” New York City recruiter Robin Miller told the Times. “But it’s starting to feel even worse.”

At one time, most recruiters were able to make a good salary through a high volume of associate placements that can be completed in about six weeks, the Daily Journal says. Now they are focusing their time on more lucrative and time-consuming lateral partner placements.

The lateral market is fueled by partners wondering if their firms can withstand the economic downturn, recruiter Bill Vochoska of Santa Monica, Calif., told the Daily Journal. “It makes everyone take a look around.”

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