Legal sector dips for second month in a row

By Andrew McIntyre
Daily Journal Staff Writer

The U.S. legal sector saw an employment dip for the second month in a row, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department. Nationwide, the legal sector lost 800 jobs in December. In November it shed almost 1,500 jobs. Leah Hoffman, Palo Alto branch manager for legal placement agency Robert Half Legal, said though hiring slowed at the close of 2013, this year already shows signs of growth in the legal market. “2014 is going to be outrageously busy,” she said. “A lot of places have just finalized their budgets, and based on what I have heard from clients, there’s going to be a lot of hiring coming into the first of the year.” Many firms have been using the new year to make in-house promotions. Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP and Norton Rose Fulbright LLP are among the firms in California that elevated several associates to partner status within the first few weeks of January. The nationwide legal sector experienced ups and downs throughout 2013, with gains and losses averaging about 1,000 per month. Sandford “Sandy” Lechtick, founder of legal search firm Esquire Inc., said though his company has a full portfolio, business is not coming back as fast as people anticipated. “A number of our clients seem to be very active and definitely have robust growth objectives,” he said. “The business environment is coming back but still has a ways to go.”

The state legal sector lost 200 jobs in November, according the most recent available data from California’s Employment Development Department. The sector had gained about 1,000 jobs in October. Slumps in legal hiring can also occur because law firms are not hiring as many associates as they used to, Lechtick said. Hoffman said that the holidays – such as Christmas and New Years Day, which both fell in the middle of the week – had an impact on hiring in December. She anticipates there will be more growth in the legal sector starting in February. “I don’t think this year will be as bumpy as last year,” Hoffman said. “People are regaining their confidence and pulling the trigger more on their hires.”Intellectual property remains a hot growth area in Silicon Valley, while digital media and labor and employment tend to show the most expansion in Southern California, analysts said.

Corporate work continues to be a hot area all around. Also in demand are attorneys and legal staff who have international skills. The job market overall dwindled as 2013 drew to a close, according to the Labor Department. According to the report, the economy added only 74,000 jobs, well below analysts’ expectations. The gain was significantly lower than the previous three months, when the economy added about 200,000 jobs per month. Still, the nationwide unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent that month, the lowest since November 2008. The Labor Department also revised the jobs report from the two previous months. October’s job creation numbers remained unchanged but November’s gain was adjusted from 203,000 to 241,000.

alexandra_schwappach@dailyjournal.com

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