NALP periodically tracks law firm employment opportunities against changes in population in cities across the country. The table below provides a look at the correlation (or lack thereof) between job opportunities and increases and decreases in population between 1991 and 2002. The chart presents an interesting mix of cities that have consistently provided significant numbers of law firm jobs (e.g., Chicago, New York, D.C.); cities seeing significant growth in both population and law firm opportunities (e.g., Austin, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Orlando, Raleigh); and cities witnessing substantial drops in population and law firm jobs (e.g., Baltimore, Hartford, Philadelphia). Nationwide figures are provided as a benchmark.
A closer look at the chart reveals that:
Among cities that historically supply a large number of law firm jobs to new graduates, Atlanta has seen the most dramatic increase in employment opportunities at 52%, followed by Washington, D.C., at 41%, and Boston and Dallas/Ft. Worth at approximately 33% each. Interestingly, Boston and Washington, D.C., have seen the number of employment opportunities increase even as their respective populations have held steady or decreased. The opposite is true in Los Angeles and San Francisco where the law firm entry-level job market has contracted in the face of modestly increasing populations.
Other cities — Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, for example — are losing population but have seen consistent growth in the number of opportunities for new law graduates.
With the number of law firm jobs more than doubling in the past eleven years, Salt Lake City, Palo Alto, and Orlando lead the way in law firm job growth.
Population growth in cities such as Phoenix and San Antonio has not been accompanied by consistent job growth. Other growing cities such as Charlotte, Las Vegas, Raleigh, and Salt Lake City, while not offering large numbers of jobs, nonetheless are offering far more jobs than were available in 1991.
Sunbelt cities have experienced varying levels of population growth, but Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa have all witnessed notable growth in law firm opportunities.
Cities with "see-sawing" law firm employment markets over this time period include Detroit, which overall had more law firm opportunities in 2002 than in 1991 but not as many as seen in the mid-1990s. Boston and New York, which each saw more jobs in 2002 than in 1991, witnessed a drop-off from the late 1990s. Other cities such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Hartford never regained the number of job opportunities seen in 1991.
Several cities — Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Salt Lake City, to name a few — appear to have defied the economic downturns of both the early 1990s and today by consistently and significantly growing the number of law firm opportunities from 1991-2002.
Law Firm Job Opportunities, 1991-2002
|NUMBER OF JOBS:||PERCENT CHANGE:||Population Change, 1990-2002|
|Kansas City, MO||100||120||129||108||20.0||-10.0||8.0||1.9|
|New York City||1,512||1,491||2,035||1,783||-1.4||19.6||17.9||10.4|
|Salt Lake City||24||69||70||90||187.5||30.4||275.0||13.3|
|W. Palm Beach*||27||30||34||33||11.1||10.0||22.2||29.4|
Because NALP employment survey coverage in general has been increasing, and
participating schools vary slightly from year to year, figures and percentages
are not precise. They are, however, indicative of the contrasts from city to
Source for population figures: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 PHC-T-5. Ranking Tables for Incorporated Places of 100,000 or More: 1990 and 2000; U.S. Census Bureau, Table SUB-EST 2002-01 — Population Estimates for Incorporated Places over 100,000, Ranked by July 1, 2002 Population: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2002; Release date: July 10, 2003.
* Figures for Orlando, Palo Alto and West Palm Beach are obtained from comparable tables for places of 10,000 or more.