The talk these days is all about recession. This year, the year after, whenever …… the possibility has everybody concerned. The Feds are trying to get the economy under control to fend off that result, but that is not giving comfort to a lot of people.
Lawyers are no different than the rest of the people. Lawyers also are concerned, especially lawyers at the bottom of the pyramid, who lack a lot of experience and might be considered expendable by management. And there is little comfort in the experience of the last recession when law firms laid off so many newbie lawyers during 2007, 2008 and 2009. Shedding capacity in this way also affected those in law school at the time, who were about to become part of the excess. I recall counseling law students in 2008 and 2009 to get a side job and take an extra year in law school to avoid graduation during a dreadful job market. It turned out to be good advice.
But coming up with good advice as we face another possible or even probable recession of some magnitude is not easy. I have had my eye out for indicators of how it will play out for young lawyers, and finally I have found something to pass on to you from a recent Above The Law article. That article draws on comments made to the American Lawyer by a Big Law business development officer, who drew on the experience of the past recession in predicting behaviors by Big Law in the immediate future.
His prediction is that law firms, especially large law firms, will be very reluctant to repeat lay-off policies from the 2008 recession because those policies left them with leveraging shortages and a “bubble in their associate ranks that was hard to close.” Rather, he predicts that natural attrition will address enough of the reduced demand to avoid a staffing “catastophe in the future.”
But it was the rest of his prediction that really got my attention. He also claims that some firms are considering opening up equity partnerships to attract and retain talent during these uncertain times.
Now, that is news worthy.