Legal sector jobs decline a small amount in February

The latest round of labor statistics show a small decrease after uptick in January
By Kylie Reynolds
Daily Journal Staff Writer
The legal sector saw a slight drop in jobs last month, the latest change in what’s been a rollercoaster year for aindustry positions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the U.S. legal sector lost 300 jobs in February. That comes after an uptick in January – with about 2,000 positions added – provided some respite from a three-month decline from October through December.

But the decrease is a “negligible amount” on the grand scheme of legal jobs, said Sandy Lechtick, president of Los Angeles-based legal search firm Esquire Inc. The sector lost a reported 800 jobs in December, while November brought a loss of about 1,500 positions.

“That’s one or two associates per firm,” Lechtick said of February’s numbers. “With the hundreds of law firms out there, that’s a pretty small number.”

The drop may just be a reflection that business this year isn’t picking up quite as fast as some law firm leaders expected, he said. In turn, firms are focusing more on hiring lateral partners with strong books of business than bolstering their associate ranks, which could contribute to some of the declining numbers, he added.

The total number of legal jobs in February was 1,136,300, according to the report’s preliminary and seasonally adjusted figures. The numbers may rise in the coming months, as Lechtick said his clients are “guardedly optimistic” about the year and expect work to pick up in the second half of 2014.

National job figures were more promising: The country added 175,000 workers last month, according to the labor report. While still below the average monthly gain during the past year, the jump was almost double that of December’s tepid growth.

The same cannot be said for the state, however. In January, California lost 700 legal positions, according to preliminary numbers by the state’s Employment Development Department, the most recent data available. That’s compared to the reported 31,600 jobs lost across industries in California.

kylie_reynolds@dailyjournal.com

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