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Legal Industry Hits Decade-High Jobs Spike In November

Emma Cueto LAW360.COM

Legal sector jobs jumped upward in November to a 10-year high of over 1.15 million, surpassing the previous high-water mark from August, according to U.S. Department of Labor data released Friday.

The number of legal sector jobs grew from about 1,149,000 in October to 1,151,900 in November, a growth of 0.25%, based on the seasonally adjusted numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics report for November. It follows a much smaller uptick in October and a backslide in September. 

The 2,900-job bump brings the total number of legal jobs to a 10-year high and represents a growth of more than 10,000 jobs since November 2018.

The larger category of professional and technical services, which includes the legal industry, saw an even faster growth rate, adding 30,600 jobs, an increase of about 0.3%

Legal industry growth also outpaced overall job growth for the month in the U.S., with nonfarm jobs increasing by only 0.17%, adding about 266,000 jobs. The national unemployment rate held steady at about 3.5%.

Michelle Fivel, a partner with the legal recruiter Major Lindsey & Africa, told Law360 she has seen firms be very eager to recruit new legal talent lately, particularly in the areas of finance, capital markets, and mergers and acquisitions. The increases seem to be driven by an increase in deals and transactions, she said.

“Whenever deals are happening, there’s growth,” she explained.

Based on her experience, she said the growth doesn’t appear to be concentrated in top firms. She’s also seen midsize firms and boutiques on the hunt for legal talent.

Fivel added that she has no reason to think the growth will slow any time soon, though she noted incoming associate class sizes have remained small, which limits the overall growth potential.

Despite the most recent strong job numbers, the legal sector still has not returned to the highs seen before the Great Recession. The number of seasonally adjusted legal industry jobs in January 2008 was 1,168,800. Two years later, it was 1,110,200.

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