The general economy vs. the law job economy

Larry Ribstein —  7 March 2011

LawBlog seems surprised that while jobs are picking up generally, the law industry is still losing jobs. 

No surprise to me: as I discuss here and here, the problems with legal jobs are structural, not cyclical.  The financial crisis precipitated a demand-side rethinking of legal services that was long overdue.  By the time the rethinking was over, corporate clients realized they didn’t have to pay premium prices to blue chip firms.  The result is greater utilization and productivity.  Fewer workers needed.

The next phase for the legal industry will be when regulatory barriers fall enough to enable even more non-lawyers to do formerly lawyer-only jobs. This may to some extent reshuffle law jobs down the pay ladder rather than reducing the total jobs.  Indeed, overall employment in this industry may increase.

Larry Ribstein

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Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law

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