Virus Smacks Legal Industry With 64,000 Jobs Lost In April

By Kevin Penton
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Law360 (May 8, 2020, 3:47 PM EDT) -- The legal industry shed about 64,000 jobs in April, a 5.5% decrease over March as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic washed over the sector, according to U.S. Department of Labor data released Friday.

The decrease wiped out years of employment gains accumulated in the legal industry, which struck a 10-year high as recently as February, based on the seasonally adjusted numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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The number of legal sector jobs fell from a revised estimate of about 1,161,600 jobs in March to 1,097,600 in April, according to the preliminary data. There were 1,162,600 people employed in the sector in February, which was the most since January 2008, according to the numbers.

The larger category of professional and technical services, which includes the legal industry, has lost a seasonally adjusted 284,000 jobs since April 2019, a nearly 3% decrease for the period. From March to April of this year, the sector lost about 509,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The April job numbers come as furloughs, pay cuts, program suspensions and other financial cutbacks are increasingly becoming the norm in the legal industry amid the novel coronavirus downturn. Other firms have already gone one step further with layoffs.

Firms that announced cuts in April included McDermott Will & Emery LLP, which said it planned to conduct some layoffs, primarily of professional staff. Nixon Peabody LLP said it would lay off 5% of its associates, while Norton Rose Fulbright said it laid off an unspecified number of its attorneys and staff in the U.S. Goodwin Procter LLP said it laid off a "limited number" of non-attorney staff, and Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP said it would lay off an unspecified number of employees.

More recently, Vedder Price PC said in May that it had laid off 4% of its attorneys and professional staff.

--Additional reporting by Emma Cueto and Natalie Rodriguez. Editing by Amy Rowe.

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