Law Firm Opportunities and Population Change, 1991-2003

NALP Bulletin, December 2004 

NALP periodically compiles information on law firm job opportunities compared with changes in population in a variety of cities across the country. The table below provides a look at the correlation (or lack thereof) between job opportunities and changes in population between 1991 and 2003. The table includes a mix of cities: those that have consistently provided significant numbers of law firm jobs (e.g., New York and Los Angeles); those experiencing growth in both population and law firm opportunities or that have been suggested as job growth centers in general (e.g., Austin, Charlotte, and Las Vegas); and those experiencing declines in both population and law firm job opportunities (e.g., Baltimore and Hartford). This year's table provides a new measure — population size relative to job opportunities. Nationwide figures provide a benchmark. A few highlights follow:

  • Among the cities that historically supply a large number of law firm jobs to new graduates, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston have seen the largest increase in employment opportunities, at about 44%, followed closely by New York City. 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, even as population has increased modestly.

  • Other cities, such as Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, are losing population but have experienced growth in the number of opportunities for new law graduates over the period, although only in Cleveland has the growth been steady and consistent.

  • With the number of law firm jobs more than tripling in the past twelve years, Salt Lake City leads the way in law firm job growth, followed by Jacksonville and Orlando.

  • Population growth in Phoenix has not been accompanied by job growth. Other growing cities, such as Charlotte, Las Vegas, and Raleigh, while not offering large numbers of jobs, nonetheless offer considerably 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 experienced notable growth in law firm opportunities.

  • Cities with "see-sawing" law firm employment markets over this time period include Austin, Portland, and Pittsburgh, all of which offered fewer opportunities in 1997 than in either 1991 or 2003. Conversely, Detroit, Palo Alto, and San Antonio offered more jobs in 1997 than in either 1991 or 2003. Other cities, such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Hartford, and Newark have not regained the number of opportunities available in 1991.

  • Finally, cities vary a great deal on how many jobs are available relative to their population, and on how this measure has changed. For example, Palo Alto and Washington, D.C., offered the most opportunities relative to population in both 1991 and 2003, with populations of less than 1,000 per job. In contrast, Phoenix and San Antonio offer the fewest opportunities relative to the population, and in Phoenix the opportunities have decreased since 1991. Jacksonville and Detroit also have relatively few jobs compared to the population, but in contrast to Phoenix, the population-job ratio has decreased.

Law Firm Job Opportunities and Population Changes, 1991-2003
(number of law firm jobs taken by graduates)

 


NUMBER OF JOBS: PERCENT CHANGE: Population Change
1990-2003
SIZE OF POPULATION PER NEW HIRE:
1991 1997 2003 1991-1997 1997-2003 1991-2003 1991 2003
Atlanta 289 363 367 25.6% 1.1% 27.0% 7.4% 1,362 1,153
Austin 63 109 96 73.0 -11.8 52.4 36.0 7,846 7,000
Baltimore 134 107 73 -20.0 -31.7 -45.4 -14.6 5,493 8,612
Boston 345 409 407 18.6 -0.4 18.0 1.3 1,665 1,429
Charlotte 47 78 83 66.0 6.4 76.6 36.9 9,085 7,044
Chicago 756 855 933 13.1 9.1 23.4 3.1 3,682 3,075
Cleveland 106 201 232 89.6 15.4 118.9 -8.7 4,768 1,988
Columbus 90 124 140 37.8 12.9 55.6 14.7 7,070 5,203
Dallas/Ft. Worth 277 373 398 34.7 6.7 43.7 23.3 5,252 4,506
Detroit 57 92 83 61.4 -9.7 45.6 -11.3 18,034 10,981
Fort Lauderdale 36 55 71 52.8 29.1 97.2 9.5 4,133 2,295
Hartford 93 65 56 -30.0 -13.7 -39.7 -9.3 1,476 2,221
Houston 374 391 542 4.5 38.6 44.9 18.4 4,540 3,708
Indianapolis 107 112 118 4.7 5.4 10.3 7.1 6,839 6,639
Jacksonville 30 38 69 26.7 81.6 130.0 21.8 21,168 11,214
Kansas City 100 139 109 39.0 -21.5 9.0 1.8 4,351 4,062
Las Vegas 42 95 74 126.2 -22.0 76.2 99.0 6,187 6,987
Los Angeles 797 658 732 -17.3 11.2 -8.1 9.6 4,373 5,219
Miami 139 214 227 54.0 6.1 63.3 4.7 2,588 1,660
Milwaukee 93 89 101 -4.2 13.5 8.6 -6.6 6,756 5,811
Minneapolis/St. Paul 216 174 226 -19.3 29.9 4.6 2.0 2,965 2,892
New York City 1,512 1,940 2,170 28.3 11.9 43.5 10.4 4,843 3,726
Newark 61 59 45 -3.2 -23.6 -26.1 1.0 4,513 6,176
Orlando 38 70 87 84.2 24.3 128.9 22.0 4,301 2,291
Palo Alto 55 152 102 176.4 -32.8 85.5 2.5 1,015 561
Philadelphia 364 311 312 -14.5 0.3 -14.2 -6.7 4,356 4,741
Phoenix 128 122 111 -4.6 -8.9 -13.2 40.4 7,726 12,508
Pittsburgh 149 122 176 -18.0 44.3 18.1 -12.1 2,484 1,849
Portland 87 121 99 39.1 -18.1 13.8 10.8 5,587 5,440
Raleigh 46 56 61 21.7 8.9 32.6 43.7 4,792 5,193
Sacramento 75 91 113 21.3 24.2 50.7 12.7 5,268 3,941
Salt Lake City 24 63 75 162.5 19.0 212.5 12.5 6,665 2,399
San Antonio 39 103 87 164.1 -15.5 123.1 21.8 25,575 13,962
San Diego 208 207 233 -0.4 12.6 12.0 14.0 5,341 5,437
San Francisco 381 392 331 2.9 -15.5 -13.0 3.8 1,900 2,271
Seattle 155 165 149 6.5 -9.6 -3.8 10.2 3,331 3,819
St. Louis 161 161 212 0.0 31.7 31.7 -16.3 2,464 1,567
Tampa 60 91 113 51.7 24.2 88.3 13.1 4,680 2,811
Washington, DC 688 824 823 19.8 -0.1 19.6 -7.2 882 685
Wilmington 44 45 69 2.3 53.3 56.8 0.7 1,626 1,044
Nationwide 15,681 17,456 18,394 11.3 5.4 17.3 10.4 16,804 15,810

Note: 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 city. Source for population figures: Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, "Annual Estimates of the Population for Incorporated Places Over 100,000, Ranked by July 1, 2003 Population: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2003," (SUB-EST2003-01), Release Date: June 24, 2004; "Population Estimates for Cities with Populations of 100,000 and Greater (Sorted by 1999 Population Size Rank in U.S.): July 1, 1999 (includes April 1, 1990 Population Estimates Base)," (SU-99-1), Release Date: October 20, 2000.

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