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For law school graduates, job outlook is still bleak

Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 09:06

This deep anxiety appears not to be a momentary blip. In a survey of managing partners and chairmen at 238 U.S.-based law firms conducted in March and April, Altman Weil, a Newtown Square, Pa.-based legal-consulting firm, reported that those firm leaders overwhelmingly said the profession faced long-term financial pressures, and that firms would adjust, in part, by outsourcing work and hiring fewer inexperienced lawyers.

About 55 percent of respondents said they expected that smaller classes of first-year lawyers had become a permanent trend; in 2009, just over 10 percent said they anticipated hiring fewer new law school graduates. There were similarly large increases in respondents who said they expected that outsourcing of legal work, hiring of more contract lawyers, and lower law-firm profits all were part of the new normal.

"The prerecession associate-hiring binge is over, replaced by much more cautious and conservative hiring policies," Altman Weil said.

With such a grim employment market, it likely helped that Chiaramonte, who plans a career in public-interest law, kept a positive outlook. When he started his job search, he didn't focus on the odds, and he was willing to go anywhere.

"I felt I would go wherever the job was," he said. "I was pretty lucky, and this job came around."

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