I nearly forgot that not only did the ABA unleash the class of 2012’s employment results on Friday, March 29, but also the BLS updated its Occupational Employment Statistics data for wage and salary lawyers as of May 2012.
Bust out the party kazoos!
The goodish news: Employers hired 11,000 lawyers total and the legal sector only 1,500 since 2011. Paralegals did a lot better with 15,000 new jobs total and 15,000 in the legal sector. (Some sectors may’ve added/lost some jobs.)
The badish news: The median real hourly wage and 10th percentile wage for both occupations fell by about 1.5-2 percent nationwide. The bands in the following chart represent the 10th to 90th percentile of hourly wages for workers, but for lawyers the upper limit is so high ($90 in 2012) that it goes off the scale.
As has been the case for a few years, the top 25 percent of paralegals had a higher hourly income than the bottom 10 percent of lawyers, and the top 10 percent of paralegals had a higher hourly wage than the bottom 25 percent of lawyers. Here’s a blow up:
Note that the OES data packs full-time and part-time workers together, which means some of these people’s annual incomes are higher/lower than they appear. The current median lawyer real hourly wage ($54.58) is at record low going back to 1998. For paralegals it’s tied with 1999 at $22.59.
If you’re wondering what non-wage-and-salary lawyers made last year, get in line. If the bottom 10 percent of lawyer jobs paid less than $26.11 per hour, also a record low going back to 1998, and they were likely short-term contract workers, then things aren’t looking good for self-employed new lawyers. I suppose the thing to do is check the ABA data for part-time long term lawyer jobs in the solo and 2-10-person firm categories. Another potential flaw in the ABA data is that they don’t do much for people holding multiple jobs.
If the BLS data were really good, I’d give a time series of the percentage of paralegals that have J.D.s. I’ll bet that the percentage is much higher than it was several years ago, indicating the vile cancer of credential inflation is metastasizing throughout the legal profession. Then again, if it’s low, then we can assume that lawyers aren’t getting legal jobs at all, which means more credential inflation. Heads I win, tails anyone who disagrees with me looses. Three cheers for unfalsifiable claims!
My prediction for next year, i.e. May 2013, is that the number of jobs added will be about the same as last year, and wages will either decrease by 2 percent again or stay the same. Realistically, the lawyer market can’t get any worse than it is right now, so it probably won’t.
Anyone else care to make a prediction?