By Sarah Martinson for Law360
The legal sector added 4,300 jobs for the second consecutive month in September, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Friday, as the industry continues to rebound from economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recovery of the U.S. economy as a whole continued to decline in September, adding only 194,000 jobs, down from 235,000 jobs in August and 1 million jobs in July, according to the report. Overall, unemployment declined 0.4 percentage point to 4.8%.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said in a Friday statement that the American unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since the start of the pandemic and that 4.8 million jobs have been added since President Joe Biden took office.
“We have to make sure these gains are sustainable and built on more workers returning to good jobs,” Walsh said.
“Employer vaccine requirements are working to bring case numbers down, help more people get back to work and stay healthy, and strengthen our economy,” he noted.
The industry has been heavily recruiting for new talent, with overall headcount at the 400 largest firms at the lowest it’s been since 2015. In July, data provider Leopard Solutions reported that the legal industry had more than 10,000 open positions, more than three times the 3,000 jobs in July 2020.
The legal sector has slowly added more jobs month over month. The industry added 2,500 jobs in June, 2,900 jobs in July and 4,300 positions in August and September, according to the DOL.
Legal experts have told Law360 Pulse that firms have been expanding their talent searches to new locations by offering remote options and are trying to lure back in-house counsel with flexible work arrangements and more compensation.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many BigLaw firms cut staffs and attorney salaries, bracing for an economic downturn. By the fall of 2020, many of those firms were financially unscathed by the pandemic, so they restored salaries and rehired staff members who had been laid off earlier in the year.
Over the summer, many firms raised starting salaries for associates in an effort to stay competitive at a time of high demand for young talent. Dozens of firms matchedDavis Polk & Wardwell LLP’s pay scale, starting at $205,000 for attorneys who started in 2020 to $350,000 for attorneys who started in 2014.