May numbers up, but unemployment still a concern for law firms
June 8, 2020
According to the law blog Law360, May saw a growth of 0.3%, or 3,200 jobs, in May. The data was compiled from a combination of U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, both issued on June 5.
While the bump marks a potential trend toward a return to “normal,” the overall numbers of employment in the legal field remain abysmal compared to the pre-COVID-19 numbers the field held onto in March 2020. Between March and April, the legal field shed at least 66,000 positions in a dramatic response to the pandemic.
The drop in April coincides with the move for many law firms to abandon their brick and mortar offices and beginning to work remotely, or work from home. This time period also saw the closing of courts for all but essential cases, and phased plans in many states where other non-essential businesses were shuttered.
However, the end of May also saw several states beginning to open up again. This was partly reflected in May’s unemployment numbers that surprised many economists. The nation-wide unemployment rate of May dropped unexpectedly to 13.3%, well below the 14.7% posted in April.
Many economists believe that that government’s PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) factored into this relative good news by coinciding with states’ moves to open up businesses (and courts) to varying degrees.
However, what is unclear is how law firms will ultimately react to this small upward trend. Many firms are experiencing a backlog of work dating back to March, and as courts reopen they will continue to need to focus on not just processing matters, but also billing and collecting on this work. This may signal a need for additional paralegal, legal assistant, and summer associate employment as attorneys return their focus to legal matters instead of business operations.
That being said, many offices continue to be closed, and the “new normal” of working from home and meeting with clients via video conferencing (like Zoom) will likely remain a reality for many law firms. Whether or not this reliance on digital law practices marks a need to downsize staff will likely determine what June numbers reveal.
In the meantime, Smokeball remains committed to law firms working efficiently regardless of where they operate from with our remote legal software. We also continue to provide free licenses of Smokeball to users hiring summer associates this year. Want to learn more about our law app with case management software? Let’s get started.
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