Law Jobs Will Be Scarce Until 2012, Expert Says

The legal job market is showing signs of a thaw, but there are years to go before law students are privy to more opportunity.

A recent NALP study found the class of 2009 had an 88.3 percent employment rate, an elevated statistic due in part to temporary jobs and school job programs that offer grants and other stipends for work. The classes of 2010 and 2011 may see a lower rate because firms look to hire years in advance, [executive director of the National Association for Law Placement Jim] Leipold says.

Law students interview for large law firm summer programs in August just before their second year of school. This is a make-or-break time, Leipold says, because scoring a summer position is often still a fast-track to a job after graduation Law school graduates without previous ties to a firm face an even tougher employment market, as only 3 percent of firms in 2009 reported recruiting third-year students who had not been summer associates, down from 25 percent in 2008, according to the NALP report.

University of Virginia School of Law dean Paul Mahoney told U.S. News that 2010 was "the most difficult year" for students he had seen in 20 years.

The market may be loosening more rapidly for experienced lawyers. More than 30 percent of firms in a telephone survey said they were hiring.

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