The Decline of Lawyers and Legal Support Jobs (At Least in the U.S.)

Yesterday the New York Times published a piece on the booming legal outsourcing industry in India. The article outlined how entry-level legal careers are growing in India, allowing companies in the U.S. to offshore work that could be expected of a junior lawyer — “document review, due diligence, contract management, and more,” according to the article.

While not a large-scale trend, this story has application for knowledge workers in all markets of the U.S. And it prompted us to take a quick look at Analyst to see how lawyers and legal support professions have performed nationally in recent years.

Below is a slideshow of U.S. county-level maps taken from EMSI’s GIS tool that display job growth or decline each year from 2002-2010 for four occupations:

  • Lawyers;
  • Law clerks;
  • Paralegals and legal assistants; and
  • Legal support workers.

Scroll through the maps to see the year-to-year trends. Shades of green imply job growth; red means job losses occurred in that year.

Nationally, legal occupations grew at a good pace, with 2004-05 being an exception. Of note are the losses around the Bay Area until 2007, the losses in Florida that begin in 2006, and the massive national downturn starting in 2008. Since then, lawyers and the legal support occupations have lost nearly 43,000 jobs nationally, a 3% decline.

Occupation 2008 Jobs 2010 Jobs Change % Change Current Hourly Earnings
Total 1,299,927 1,256,982 -42,945 -3% $37.45
Legal support workers, all other 65,823 65,106 -717 -1% $22.38
Law clerks 59,020 57,469 -1,551 -3% $18.48
Paralegals and legal assistants 261,457 256,124 -5,333 -2% $23.22
Lawyers 913,627 878,282 -35,345 -4% $43.96

As shown in the table above, lawyers accounted for all but 8,000 of those lost jobs over the last two years. In fact, the number of lawyers in the U.S. is only slightly higher than in 2006 (our current 2010 estimate is 878,282) after 5% growth from 2002-05.

For more on the movement of paralegal work to India, see this article. And here’s a similar story (by the same NYT author, Heather Timmons) on the movement of jobs from the financial sector in the US to India, written almost 2 years ago.

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