Big Law career guide: how firms are navigating the new normal and which practice areas are faring the best

The legal industry has seen its fair share of disruption from the coronavirus pandemic: Many law school graduates were — and still are — stuck in a state of limbo, while top law firms have seen pay cuts, layoffs, and furloughs. 

Still, there have been some bright spots. Restructuring lawyers have seen a surge in activity as clients looks to navigate the crisis, and firms with strong labor and employment practices are getting a boost as clients navigate cutting jobs and workplace safety issues. 

And the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in July that the legal industry added 1,900 jobs since the past month, continuing an upward trend that may be indicative of the industry's growth and recovery.

We've been tracking hot practice areas, how revenues are shaping up for Big Law firms, and start dates for 2020 associate classes. Here's everything we know. 

Career prospects

  • 9 practice areas that can help young attorneys recession-proof their careers, according to top lawyers and recruiters
  • Big Law may have dodged a catastrophe in 2020, but the next 6 months are critical. Law firm leaders predict how the rest of the year will play out.
  • We talked to 6 legal recruiters about the top hiring trends at major law firms if you're thinking of making a move in the middle of the recession

Delayed start dates for first-year associates

  • We're tracking which top law firms are delaying their first-year associate classes. Here's what you need to know about new start dates, pay, and benefits so far.
  • Top law firms are delaying their first-year associate classes. Here are 3 ways law school graduates can stay on top of their game in the meantime.

Summer associate programs

  • No Yankees games, schmoozing, or steak dinners. Here's what summer associates at Big Law firms can expect this summer.
  • Law firms are starting to cancel summer associate classes entirely as they scramble to cut costs
  • Top law firms are delaying start dates for summer associates — here's everything we know so far

Compensation and headcount

  • Law firms cut pay by as much as 50% at the height of the pandemic. Now at least 6 are bumping comp back up.
  • Law firms are pulling the trigger on pay cuts and layoffs — and they're already rethinking tech, office space, and recruiting for the long term
  • Major law firms are weighing pay cuts for partners against unseemly staff layoffs as billings plunge

How law students are grappling with uncertainty 

  • Students are weighing the pros and cons of virtual law school. Here's why some are deferring, and what that means for job prospects.
  • New York's bar exam is cancelled. Here's why calls are mounting for the test to be canned completely.
  • The coronavirus just delayed the country's No. 1 bar exam, and that could be a huge setback for law students seeking jobs at smaller New York firms
  • The coronavirus is disrupting law students' path to $200,000 full-time gigs

Winners and losers

  • Labor and employment attorneys are seeing a surge in business, and big firms are setting up coronavirus task forces to help clients navigate layoffs and workplace safety
  • 10 lawyers who navigated the biggest bankruptcies in history are set for a boom in business as the coronavirus fuels a restructuring surge
  • Activist investors are scooping up 'ridiculously cheap' shares during the coronavirus crisis, setting off a war of words involving top law firms and Wall Street titans like Carl Icahn
  • Big Law M&A work is evaporating as coronavirus spreads, but some firms are about to make bank. Here are the winners and losers.

If you have any additional information for us, contact this reporter at [email protected], DM on Twitter @caseyreports, or Signal message at 646 376 6017.


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