Tough times for lawyers

November 9, 2009
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It’s been a tough year for attorneys, especially associates, according to the National Law Journal’s 2009 NLJ 250. In fact, the publication reports that this is the worst year for attorneys as far as how many are practicing since it began counting lawyers at big firms 32 years ago.

Based on NLJ’s research, more than 5,200 attorneys are no longer working at the top 250 firms; associates and “other” attorneys were hit the hardest. The percentage of those attorneys shrank by nearly 9 percent each. Not surprisingly, partner employment remained about the same.

The NLJ estimates a 4 percent drop in attorney headcount as compared to last year. This is only the third time headcount has dropped since the NLJ has been keeping track of attorneys at the top firms and is the biggest drop it’s seen. The publication also believes this may just be the beginning of declining attorney numbers.

Several firms with Indiana ties made the top 250 list, including: Littler Mendelson at 45; Barnes & Thornburg at 87; Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart at 100; Frost Brown Todd at 113; Taft Stettinius & Hollister at 139; Baker & Daniels at 149; and Ice Miller at 169.

Of the big three based in Indiana, Barnes had the best results by jumping up nearly 20 places from last year. The firm even bucked the trend and added seven associates. Baker and Ice both dropped compared to last year. Baker added 12 attorneys, but reduced the number of associates by 24. Ice lost 16 attorneys and reduced its associate numbers by 13.

Are you surprised at how Indiana firms faired? Is this really just the beginning of the downturn for top law firms or will the economy improve in time for next year’s numbers to be better?

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues