At the start of this new year, what is the outlook like for legal employment? There’s certainly a fair amount of bad news out there, particularly for recent law school graduates.

But what about for denizens of Biglaw, the lawyers fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to work at the nation’s largest law firms? What does 2012 hold for them?

Earlier this month, my colleague Elie made some predictions for the legal profession. I will follow in his footsteps and venture some prophecies of my own for the year….

Trying to predict the direction of the legal economy is like trying to predict the weather: so many factors go into it, and it’s so easy to be wrong. Exhibit A: the predictions and rumors, from summer 2007, that starting salaries for Biglaw associates in New York would soon rise to $190,000 (hence the rallying cry of “NY to 190″).

But still, the possibility of being wrong — as I was about the 2011 Cravath bonuses, as conclusively demonstrated by Steven Harper — hasn’t stopped me before. So here are some predictions I’ll make about Biglaw hiring and compensation for 2012:

  • Yes, Virginia, there will be spring bonuses. They’ll probably be about the same as last year (either Cravath scale or S&C scale).
  • Associate base salaries will not go up this year (notwithstanding the wishful thinking of some).
  • When the Am Law 100 profits per partner numbers come out in the spring, they will show some (probably modest) growth in 2011 over 2010.
  • Year-end bonuses in 2012 will be the same as, or maybe a little higher than, the 2011 numbers.
  • Hiring might pick up a bit, both for laterals and entry-level positions.

Some caveats. First, these predictions reflect my assumption that nothing catastrophic happens (e.g., no European meltdown triggering a crisis on this side of the Atlantic). Second, these predictions will probably turn out to be wrong, in whole or in part.

Want to hear more of my predictions for the future, as well as commentary on recent events, including ABA President Bill Robinson’s ill-advised comments about unemployed recent law school graduates? Feel free to check out my interview with Lee Pacchia of Bloomberg Law:

Is the Legal Recession Finally Ending? [YouTube]
Bonus Time — and Another Unfortunate Comment Award [The Belly of the Beast]

Earlier: Breaking: Cravath Bonuses Are Out; Welcome to the 2011 Bonus Season!
2012 Predictions: ATL’s Calendar Goes All the Way to 2013
More Rumors: NYC to 190!
New York to $190K? Actually, It’s About Time.
Law School Professionals Want Bill Robinson to Put a Sock in It
The ABA Thinks It’s Your Own Fault If You’re Poor and Unemployed


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