Aric Press at the American Lawyer looks at current trends in the legal market, and they're not pretty.
If nothing changes, this fall the same law firms that recently laid off lawyers will start welcoming large groups of new lawyers, whom they will pay too well and for whom they will have too little work. If the layoffs were about saving money in a downturn, the new hires will overwhelm any savings and will signal that the firms regard the economic crisis as little more than a mild detour on the golden brick road.
I wish it were otherwise. But consider the current Conventional Wisdom: At law firms work (and profits) are down, attrition is far below average, law school graduates hired in an optimistic time are about to join firms awash in anxiety, and the conveyor belt that will bring still more eager and talented young lawyers aboard is about to start up again.
This does not seem to be a sustainable situation. If it's not, it will, at a minimum, force law firms to make a harsh choice between the lawyers they already have on staff and the ones they're about to welcome.
What does this mean for law schools? I suspect it will become even more difficult to place students with legal employers. This, in turn, will have a big impact on debt-laden students. One big question is whether it will discourage prospective students from entering law school. After all, piling on the debt doesn't seem like such a good deal if it won't be easy to get a well-paying job. And student loans don't seem as easy to come by now as they were before either. In short, law schools may soon feel more of the crunch that law firms, young lawyers, and graduating students are feeling now.