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
|SIZE OF POPULATION PER NEW HIRE:|
|New York City||1,512||1,940||2,170||28.3||11.9||43.5||10.4||4,843||3,726|
|Salt Lake City||24||63||75||162.5||19.0||212.5||12.5||6,665||2,399|
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.