Last week, the National Law Journal reported that the BigLaw attorney ranks dropped by 2,900 in 2010. So how can a loss of almost 3,000 have any positive spin? Compare the loss to the number of lawyers who exited BigLaw firms in 2009: 6,600—more than double the 2010 figure. According to the National Law Journal, “In the 34 years the NLJ has been surveying large firms to gather headcount numbers, there have never been multiyear declines of this magnitude.”
The ABA Journal notes that while firms like Thompson & Knight, Yoss (now dissolved) and Howrey LLP (now dissolved) lost over 20 percent of their attorneys in 2010, some firms did the opposite. Quinn Emanuel and Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, for example, both grew their attorney rosters by 15 percent in 2010.
So things are far from great, but they’re getting a little bit better, and at some firms—where the number of attorneys is growing—they’re arguably good. While it is unclear what percentage of the losses are from layoffs (as opposed to free-will resignations), I'm guessing a good chunk of the numbers include booted associates, which means we may still be in thousands territory when it comes to BigLaw dismissals.
What is your take on these statistics? Do they make you feel more optimistic about BigLaw job prospects in 2011, or are we in for more lawyer-shed this year? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
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