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Legal Sector’s Job Gains Stall as Big Law Firms Lay Off Staff

Sept. 4, 2020, 2:33 PM

The modest uptick in legal employment over the summer has stalled, reflecting struggles by the sector with continued pandemic fallout as some big firms this month announce layoffs.

Law firms and other offices added no jobs by mid-August, the Labor Department reported Friday. Although momentum had slowed in the two months before that, legal sector job gains were still recorded.

Non-farm payrolls for the broader economy increased by 1.37 million in August, the Labor Department said in reporting seasonally adjusted data.

The legal industry employs about 1.1 million in law firms and other offices. It imposed austerity measures in response to the economic impact of the virus last spring, including furloughs and compensation cuts.

While some Big Law firms are planning or beginning to roll back salary and other reductions, others are making temporary job cuts permanent.

Firms that have recently confirmed layoffs include Nixon Peabody, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Baker McKenzie, and Davis Wright Tremaine.

BLS is continuing to take an optimistic approach to long-term legal industry job growth, especially in nonlawyer jobs, but it remains to be seen whether expected gains will materialize.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson in Washington at egolson1@gmail.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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