It’s hard to put a number on just how many people are in the so-called “lost generation” of attorneys who had their careers ruined during the recession. We’ll probably never know how many people did not get jobs or had to take very bad jobs because of the weak economy in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

But one way of assessing the damage is to look at the number of positions that have been shed by Biglaw firms. That’s the perspective the National Law Journal 250 took this year. Based on their numbers, Biglaw has lost almost 10,000 lawyers since 2008.

So if you got laid off during the recession, you are certainly not alone…

Here’s the top-line data from the National Law Journal:

Revised 2010 figures show that NLJ 250 firms employed 2,868 fewer lawyers than in 2009. Expand that view to 2008, and the headcount drain is a rounding error away from 10,000 attorneys. In the 34 years The National Law Journal has been surveying large firms to gather headcount numbers, there have never been multiyear declines of this magnitude.

Overall, 140 firms reported lower headcounts last year; three firms reported no changes; and 107 added lawyers. But the players who are hiring aren’t exactly setting hiring records. On average, firms that grew added 14 lawyers each. Flat was the order of the day.

Well, that bites. But a lot of the most recent losses came from firms that have now dissolved. From the ABA Journal:

The firms with the biggest percentage declines are the now dissolved law firm Yoss, which lost 29 percent of its lawyers last year; Thompson & Knight, which shed 24 percent of its attorneys; and the now dissolved law firm Howrey, which lost 23 percent.

Given the economy, it’s bad for recent law graduates when firms are hemorrhaging people. But on the other hand, bigger isn’t always better. Here are the largest three firms, by attorney headcount:

1. Baker McKenzie: 3,738 total attorneys.
2. DLA Piper: 3,348 total attorneys.
3. Jones Day: 2,502 total attorneys.

Well, the biggest firms are still… big.

The lost generation is quite large. Maybe they should have jackets made?

The NLJ 250 [National Law Journal]
BigLaw Lost Nearly 10K Lawyers in Last Three Years [ABA Journal]


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