US legal jobs decline for the first time in six months

(Reuters) – The US legal services sector lost 600 jobs in March, new Labor Department figures showed on Friday, marking the first monthly employment decline for the industry since September.

Legal sector jobs totaled 1,180,900 last month, according to preliminary seasonally adjusted data released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The count includes lawyers, paralegals and other legal professionals.

Across US industries, the economy continued to add jobs in March, pushing the unemployment rate down to 3.5%. The continued tightness of the labor market could lead to the Federal Reserve hiking interest rates again next month.

Legal employment has declined by 7,000 jobs since reaching an historic high in July, Labor Department statistics show. US law firms bulked up in 2021 and 2022 to take advantage of an unusually high client demand for advice on corporate deals and other legal work.

After dropping in August and September, the number of jobs in the US legal sector has stayed relatively flat or increased slightly month-over-month.

During the same period several large US law firms, including Cooley, Goodwin Procter, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and Shearman & Sterling, had laid off lawyers and staff in the face of a cooler M&A environment and faltering demand.

This week Silicon Valley-founded law firm Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian said it was trimming 10% of its US attorneys, paralegals and staff.

Chicago-founded Kirkland & Ellis also cut an unspecified number of attorney jobs this week, although a spokesperson for the firm described the move as “performance-based” and not layoffs.

Firms including Davis Wright Tremaine and Perkins Coie have also let go of business professionals.

Jeffrey Lowe of legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, told Reuters this week that he expects to see more law firm layoffs heading into the second quarter of the year.

Read More:

US job growth strong in March; unemployment rate falls to 3.5%

Law firm layoffs spread as cooling economy keeps clients wary

Law firms share the pain as global M&A deals dry up

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David Thomas

Thomson Reuters

David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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