The news is much better for law students and attorneys in 2021, according to The 2021 State of the Legal Market Report by BCG Attorney Search. The report states that the job outlook for the legal field is better than many people thought. The report also reviews some of the trends in the legal job market for 2021.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted the Legal Field
The legal field lost 68,000 jobs in April 2020. However, with 5,000 new jobs added in November 2020, the legal job market appears to be on a slow by steady recovery.
Legal jobs in March 2020 totaled 1,160,300. In April 2020, the total of legal jobs fell to 1,092,300. The legal job market has not recovered entirely, but we are only about 32,200 jobs short of the pre-COVID pandemic employment.
The American Lawyer reported that 2021 would be a mix of hiring and layoffs. While that is not the best news that unemployed lawyers and law students could receive, the slow growth is a reason for hope.
The BLS places the job outlook for lawyers at four percent from 2019 through 2029. That is about as fast as average job growth for all occupations.
COVID-19 slowed hiring in 2020. Law firms had to stop and assess the situation. However, after the initial shock wave rippled through the legal field, law firms resumed hiring again. It will merely take time to recover from the initial knee-jerk reaction last March that resulted in the loss of 68,000 jobs.
How Has the Pandemic Impacted Certain Legal Fields?
Some legal fields will continue to hire new employees and grow in 2021.
Examples of legal fields that you might want to explore if you are searching for a job include:
Many businesses were nearly destroyed during mandatory lockdowns. There could be a need for restructuring during 2021 as businesses begin to look forward to the relaxation of pandemic restrictions.
A Chapter 11 case may be too expensive and time-consuming for small business owners. However, Chapter 11 Subchapter V makes filing bankruptcy a better option for many small businesses. The streamlined Chapter 11 case is designed to give small businesses the ability to reorganize and move forward.
Sadly, lockdowns highlighted problems in marriages. Domestic violence incidents increased. The need for family law attorneys may increase in 2021 in all areas of family law, including custody, divorce, property division, and domestic support.
Personal Injury Law
Car accidents, medical malpractice, and other claims of personal injury continued through the pandemic. Now, personal injury law firms may see an increase in cases involving claims related to the coronavirus.
Estates & Trusts
The demand for estate and trust lawyers may be related to people putting their affairs in order because of fears they could die from COVID-19. Probate attorneys may see an increase in clients as families begin to probate the estates of loved ones who died from the virus.
There is promising growth in other areas of law. Law students and attorneys who may not have considered applying for positions in large law firms may want to do so in 2021. Large law firms may begin to add other practice areas to their services. Hiring additional lawyers and expanding services in key areas of growth could be a lucrative opportunity.
Attorneys may want to consider moving to practice areas that are growing. The opportunity for better pay and benefits could make the transition a positive step in career growth.
Other Trends in the Legal Field for 2020
In addition to job opportunities, there are some general trends related to employment that changed from 2020.
For example, most law firms want attorneys at their desks in the office. COVID-19 changed this dynamic. Many law firms realized that they could continue to operate efficiently and effectively with virtual employees. Many law firms realized that virtual employees decreased overhead, which increased profits.
The same is true about virtual interviews. Most law firms would never hire an attorney based on a virtual interview. COVID-19 changed how we apply and interview for jobs.
Attorneys should consider applying for jobs in as many markets as they desire. Virtual interviews and virtual employees make it possible to work for law firms outside of your market. Law firms are more open now to hiring employees from other geographic areas because they understand that branching out results in access to higher numbers of qualified candidates.
Opportunistic hiring increased in 2020. Generally, law firms only hire employees when absolutely necessary during a receiving. However, some law firms engaged in opportunistic hiring instead of letting a “rainmaker” or highly-qualified candidate get away.
Law firms laid off support staff in 2020 because lawyers worked from home and did not need the support staff. However, some law firms have realized that their attorneys are now doing more administrative work due to the layoffs. Law firms may begin rehiring support staff in 2021 to ensure that their attorneys focus on billable hours instead of administrative work.
We must remember that not all types of businesses slowed down. Some companies thrived during the pandemic. Those are the sectors that attorneys and law firms may want to focus on during 2021. If they do not practice in those areas, they may want to consider doing so to take advantage of the growth.
As we continue into 2021, it may be beneficial to take time each quarter to evaluate the current trends in the legal job market. Noticing shifting trends before others can give you an advantage over the competition.