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January’s Modest Legal Sector Job Gains Show Sluggish U.S. Pace

Feb. 5, 2021, 5:46 PM

U.S. legal services employment grew only slightly in January, showing the slow pace of the recovery after the coronavirus pandemic’s surge hammered the economy.

Legal payrolls were up a seasonally adjusted 4,800 people, after a drop of 200 jobs in December, according to the Labor Department figures released Friday. January’s modest gain resembled the increases of 5,000 legal industry jobs in November and 4,800 in October.

Overall legal services industry employment was about 1.13 million in January, down from 1.15 million in the same month last year, the department figures show. Law firms jettisoned a number of staff-related jobs during the pandemic when they decided they didn’t need some office-centered services when attorneys were working from home.

The legal industry continues to be a tale of two markets. While legal services industry employment overall has remained static, major firms are snagging rain-making partners from rivals, hiring former government officials, expanding promising practices and opening new offices.

Arnold & Porter hired five new lawyers across four offices, including Jones Day corporate and finance partner Alex Gendzier in New York, Greenberg Traurig litigation partner Katherine Treistman in Houston and Ballard Spahr attorneys Michele Rowland and John Ruppert in Denver.

Eric Dreiband rejoined Jones Day after a stint as assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The firm also hired Chad Mizelle, who worked at Justice and the White House before serving as acting general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security.

This month, K&L Gates opened a 25-lawyer office in Nashville, aimed at building practice areas in the health care, technology, finance and construction industries. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett said it plans to open an office in Brussels this summer to help companies navigate challenges from Brexit.

The U.S. labor market overall added 49,000 jobs In January, pushing down the unemployment rate to 6.3% from 6.7% as more people left the workforce. The Labor Department revised the economy’s December job losses to 227,000, up from the original number of 140,000.

The U.S. overall lost 9.3 million jobs last year as businesses have had to cut back or close during the pandemic.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson at egolson1@gmail.com
To contact the editor on this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloombergindustry.com;
John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com