2004 DC state of the legal market
The Washington DC region has rebounded and now exhibits a much better legal job market than 2002 and 2003. Of course, some practice groups are doing much better than others and the firms are still demanding to see candidates with strong academic credentials and solid experience.
The region still enjoys one of the lowest, if not the lowest, unemployment rates of any major region in the United States. But the legal job market has not enjoyed the incredibly low unemployment rate seen in other sectors. In fact, it is said often that the current high unemployment rate has been more severe on white collar workers, such as lawyers.
The last three months have certainly shown an increase in demand for well-credentialed lawyers. In fact, we have had more job orders from law firms and more candidates interviewing during the month of December in 2003 than 2002. January got off to a roaring start, and we believe it will continue for the rest of 2004.
As detailed in our last state of the market report, the creation of a new federal agency, the enactment of the Medicare Bill, and the recent crises in the energy market has caused firms to look for candidates with specialized expertise. But the engine of the legal market recovery has been litigation and securities law practices. We have multiple listings for commercial litigators and those with enforcement and regulatory experience in securities law. Again, most of the firms demand strong academic success and solid experience. There are several firms looking to add insurance coverage litigators as well. IP litigators with electrical engineering background are still sought after.
Because of the unique position of the DC legal market, which is home to various government regulatory agencies, certain practices have begun to see more of a demand for strong candidates, including healthcare, energy and, again, securities law. There also is some interest in employee benefit lawyers. International trade lawyers with experience on representing foreign entities will find their services are also in more demand than in recent past.
Although corporate and M&A associates will still find the market challenging, openings in these areas have started to trickle in. Because there so few jobs in these practice areas, firm can afford to be highly selective and would only entertain hiring someone who has an outstanding resume.
One practice area we have had success in placing people in recently is internet privacy law, which has been a part of the trademark practice in the past. This is a specialized field and only those with actual experience, in addition to academic success, are being considered by firms.
Of course, partners with a significant book of business are always in demand. We have some firms who will consider partners with $500,000 or less in business. Of course, partners with at least $1,000,000 in portable business will find a firm of their choice. In some practice areas that are currently experiencing difficulty attracting work - such as corporate, M&A, capital markets, project finance, and telecommunications - the required book of business is quite modest. Because the trend in the law firm marketplace is consolidation, we would suggest that now is the right time for those partners inclined to move to do so.