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Legal Sector Job Gains Slow Amid Worsening Pandemic

Aug. 7, 2020, 3:59 PM

Legal sector Job gains slowed significantly in July as the economy struggled to reemerge amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor Department on Friday reported that firms and other offices added only 1,900 legal industry jobs compared to 7,500 in June.

The seasonally adjusted data reflected the slowdown nationwide where the U.S. added 1.8 million jobs overall last month, also far below June’s gains.

The legal industry, which employs about 1.1 million in Iaw firms and law services, has settled into a remote way of conducting business as the pandemic continues to surge in the U.S. with more than 4.8 million cases and 160,000 deaths.

Nearly half of the largest 100 law firms in the U.S. have made pay cuts, furloughs, or other moves to trim costs in response to pandemic economic fallout, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis.

As Covid-19 cases rise overall, it’s unclear whether measures that many initially posed as temporary will become permanent or if some firms will undertake additional austerity measures.

There is concern that some law firms are still laying off people but drawing less notice by citing reasons other than the economy.

Lawyer employment losses were underscored last month in a Bloomberg analysis that found jobs were down 15% in the first six months of this year, returning lawyer employment to its 2017 level. That reflected a jobs decline in the broader legal industry, where employment fell 9% in the same time period.

The legal industry has been hit hard before, with jobs being slammed in the wake of the Great Recession, but eventually climbed back.

One bright spot is a new survey showing the majority of corporate counsel has no plans to reduce legal spending and plans to continue using outside counsel the same way.

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