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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Wanted: Skilled, energized new lawyers

A couple of news stories lately have raised some questions about what the profession can expect from its new lawyers, and what new lawyers will be available.

Corporate Counsel reported last week that larger law firms are losing 30 to 50 percent of associates after three to four years -- with half to two-thirds of the defections due to associate, not firm, choice. “Where do they go? Smaller firms, more competitive firms in the same city, firms in other cities, in-house, government, teaching, nonlegal jobs,” the report said.

Money and perks are increasing at many of the big firms, but retention isn’t. The article says that associates find the profession disappointing and demoralizing, and recommends “coherent, systematic, up-front law firm investment in young lawyer development programs within the firm, not fancier recruiting restaurants, to develop skilled, energized lawyers who can, and will, provide longer-term value to the firm -- and to the profession.”

But what young lawyers?

A report on law school enrollment by the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar showed that total enrollment by students seeking the J.D. degree increased only slightly during 2007-08, while enrollment of first-year students was nearly flat, compared to the previous year.

Broken out by gender, the ABA report further reveals that total enrollment of male students increased slightly but first-year male enrollment dipped, and total enrollment by females decreased despite a rise in the number of women students in the entering class. Minorities posted slight gains.

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