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How COVID-19 Will Create Law Job Winners and Losers – The Places to Be (And The Places to Leave)

The COVID-19 virus has shaken the world economy like a war – and indeed it is a war – and the law profession and law job searching will be equally changed by these events.

So far as legal recruitment and law careers are concerned, the full effects of the COVID-19 virus are still far off. It will almost certainly trigger a recession. Law firms are nervously awaiting the outcome of the virus from their clients. No-one knows what the ripple effects may be.

Problems lie ahead for law schools too.  As US law school expert Mike Spivey says, those entering law school in 2020 may be protected from a recession; by their graduation in 2023, the economy might be back on its feet entirely.

“But it is impossible to say with certainty — for rising 2Ls, law firms have already been talking about moving on-campus interviews back to January or later due to hiring freeze projections. And this assumes firms will even want to send partners to campuses — which, depending on the economy or pandemic, they may not,” Spivey says.

Harrison Barnes

When JDJournal spoke with well known legal recruiter Harrison Barnes, (pictured left) founder of BCG Attorney Search, outlined some of the key impacts for the legal industry.

Barnes is sure that law firm collections will slow dramatically, leading to firm layoffs. However there are positives and negatives in the situation.

The 6 key areas of impact for law firms identified by Barnes – and the key factors for lawyers to consider include the following –

1 The Hardest Hit Law Firms

The largest law firms in the major legal markets will be the hardest hit. He enjoins lawyers to keep their options open in terms of alternative employment in smaller markets.

2 The Law Areas to Benefit

The areas of law to benefit most post-COVID will be employment, healthcare, Bankruptcy and Insurance coverage law. He recommends lawyers to position themselves in those areas and to remain flexible to move firms if that is required to ensure ongoing employment.

3 Corporate Transaction Work Will Drop Fast

Fewer deals will be done, less transactional work and therefore less work for the lawyers involved in these areas.

” If I were a corporate attorney without business, I would get close to the partners I with work. I would start looking for firms with work. If I were a partner, I would get close to my clients that are least affected by the coronavirus and try to get work from them. I would also start looking for in-house jobs at companies unaffected by the coronavirus.’ “

4 Tech, Data and IP Work Will Slow

The previously busy tech sector, data privacy, Intellectual property work, including patent and trademark law will slow. Again, Barnes advises lawyers to ‘get close’ with lawyers and/or clients to ensure they are positioned to survive.

5 Litigation Will Take a Hit

The closure of Courts and other offices will seriously affect litigation. It is, says Barnes, in “for a massive shakeup.”

6 The Dear Departed . .

Firms will let go of attorneys who are costing firms money or who they do not necessarily need. Barnes believes junior lawyers or associates should be looking for work in government or in smaller markets.

Whatever the outlook the law job prospects, post-COVID-19, are shaping up for a radically altered legal landscape in 2020 and beyond. The key for law job applicants and associates is to prepare for the changes now.

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