Law Firm Deferrals Put Future Grads on Notice

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an interesting article about the recent trend of deferred associate jobs at major law firms. Many of the article’s key points echo the thoughts of a previous column on this blog, which lauded the efforts of several current law students who seek to create a union of sorts in order to push back against some of the more onerous changes taking place during the recession. That blog post anticipated that law firms would capitalize on current market conditions in order to cut back salaries, benefits, perks, and quality of life expectations of incoming lawyers. The column in the Inquirer further illustrates that point and suggests that the current changes will indeed have a lasting impact beyond the current economic downturn.

In the column cited above, several credible sources weigh in on the most visible and dramatic recession trend, which is the deferral of start dates for new attorneys. James Leipold, the executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP, the producer of the leading law firm guide) notes that both the breadth and the volume of deferrals dwarfs what occurred during the 2001 recession, while David Skeel, a corporate law professor at Penn Law, envisions the deferral movement paving the way to lower salaries and other cutbacks in the future.

The Inquirer article doesn’t go far beyond salary considerations when analyzing potential permanent changes to the legal landscape, but it seems a safe bet that other perks and quality of life efforts will melt away as well. This is what we posited several weeks ago:

That is why it is a near certainty that law firms will go right back to squeezing every last drop out of their associates. Without fear of a Wall Street exodus and armed with lowered expectations, firms are likely to keep practice groups