How Is It That Law Firms Purport To Have Remarkable Prescience Regarding Regarding The Economy in 2011 and 2012?

Posted on 08/04/10, No Comments

Like you, I have always looked for an investment counselor, a financial adviser or a bookie that could tell me with some accuracy what the economy will look like in the future or which horse would win the race. Boy, if we could find one, we’d all be so rich.

I think I may have found those folks.

During the last week, a number of extremely prominent law firms announced that they would increase their hiring for summer associates in 2011 (from which they will draw the bulk of their associates for the bulk of the class of 2012.  Other equally prominent firms proudly boasted that offers would be made to all of their 2010 associates, which naturally equates to the fact that those summer associates will become full time associates in 2011.  Further adding to this exuberant suspension of reality was a subsequent report ( http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2010/08/10/further-evidence-that-the-law-job-market-is-thawing/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wsj%2Flaw%2Ffeed+%28WSJ.com%3A+Law+Blog%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher ) that law firms would increase recruiting activities during the current 2010 recruiting season. And all of this in the face of a simultaneous separate press report that demand for legal services will either remain flat or decline over the coming months.

Well, what does this mean?  Quite simply that some firms have remarkable and, indeed, unprecedented prescience regarding what the demand for legal services will look like in 2011 and 2012, respectively and how our economy will then fare. Don’t get me wrong, these firms stand above the crowd in terms of their leadership in the bar and quality of the service they regularly render.  But, clearly, they seem to have enormous psychic and prophetic prowess in their vision of the future. Or hubris.  They all seem to have a far different and more optimistic vision and understanding of the next couple of years than Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner, Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate and New York Times Op Ed writer, Robert Reich, former Treasury Secretary, Ben Bernanke, current Chairman of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Fed and a host of other prominent economists.  All of these folks have consistently reported that recovery from the Great Recession will be prolonged and that the recovery will be marked by an extended period of unemployment.  Paul Krugman, in particular, has consistently reported over the last few months that the federal government’s current economic policy (and that of European central banks) will surely result in a double dip recession and perhaps even worse.

Let’s be sure we all have a shared understanding of what this means:  As we sit here today, there are some law firms who now purport to know what the demand for legal services will be in 14 months (with regard to the class of 2011).  More remarkably, law firms, sitting here in August 2010 have remarkable confidence, factually unsupportable, that demand for legal services will increase in October, 2012, when the crop of law students now being sought out for summer associate positions for next summer, will graduate. History being our guide, other law firms will in coming weeks and months “meet the competition” and follow suit with similar announcements.

These current announcements also seem dismissive of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s view that it also expects fees paid for outside counsel to continue to decline over the intermediate term.

As much as I admire these law firms for every possible reason, what do these law firms (and the number of law firms that will likely follow suit) know that most prominent economists don’t know?  I surely haven’t a clue. But, if they prove to be right, be assured that I will be at their door asking for their advice on how to invest my meager savings; I suspect that if this indeed proves to be so, I will surely be sitting in their reception areas asking these seers to gaze in to their crystal balls and advise me on what the economic conditions will be two years hence and find each of you there.

The real issue seems to me be twofold:  First, as I previously noted, the entire recruitment process is broken, virtually beyond repair and needs a major overhaul, with law firms, like every other business enterprise hiring graduates of either undergraduate programs or post baccalaureate programs, should be first hiring lawyers in the Spring prior to graduation. No firm has   The second may very well be my fear that “deferrals” of start dates and withdrawal of job offers, based on economic conditions extant in the Fall have now become an accepted and acceptable part of the entire recruiting process and perhaps, just perhaps, firms expressing economic exuberance at this time of year in connection with future hiring, may simply shrug their shoulders if their economic forecasts prove to be wrong and act accordingly.

As I watched the sad events of the past year, I regularly recalled Langston Hughes’ rather famous poem, most apt through the past months,  A Dream Deferred:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Lord, I really hope that Hughes’ poetic question is not again brought to mind in 2011 or 2012.

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