Two factors led to the current dearth of mid-level and senior associates available for hire in law firms. First, the Great Recession that began in the late 2000s and ended in the early 2010s. Showing a lack of business foresight (recessions are famously cyclical) law firms cut back dramatically on hiring students and newly called lawyers. This resulted in understaffing, even without the surprising boom of business many lawyers experienced during the pandemic. Second, the number of in-house counsel positions has grown exponentially over the last decade. Mid-level associates are particularly appealing to in-house legal departments, who appreciate the time and expense the law firms have expended to train these associates.
So what’s a law firm to do? I suggest four things.