The Brutal Law Firm Hiring Landscape

When the financial crisis hit in the fall of 2008, the assumption held by many is that law school would emerge as the safest of havens for college graduates and young professionals. The length (three years, great for riding out a recession), versatility, and perceived job security of a JD all made it an ideal candidate for those students that would normally pursue plum jobs or perhaps an MBA. Many have gone on record predicting a massive increase in applications for the coming 2009-2010 cycle.

In light of what is happening at the elite law firms (so called “BigLaw”) across the country, it may be time to rethink those assumptions.

The New York Times is the latest to break down the carnage, highlighting some of the more shocking examples of BigLaw erosion:

– Skadden is slashing hiring by half

– Milbank and others are cancelling interviews at Yale

– NYU, Northwestern, and Georgetown are all placing on campus interviews at being down between 33% and 50% this year compared with last year

The piece does a nice job of detailing the logjam that exists at big firms right now: basically, all the deferred 2009 graduates will be drifting back to BigLaw firms in the fall of 2010, right when the most compressed class in law school history is graduating.

It’s a difficult time for grads, to be sure, which is why Veritas Prep continues to consult clients on more than just admissions prospects. Now more than ever, students need to be sure of their motives for going to law school and taking out the kind of debt that follows a graduate of an elite program. Furthermore, this would be a good time for prospective law students to fully explore the loan repayment programs at top schools to see if a career in public interest might actually be a safer bet (in addition to often being a more personally rewarding and flexible career path).