Are We Due Another Set of Law Library / Knowledge Centre Layoffs in Final Months of 2012

Probably not the rhetorical question that most of you want to hear

In my publication Law Librarians News I do try and source as many legal information related jobs as i can find and note them in the newsletter.

Recruiters don’t pay LLN to do so. Rather I like to keep an informal ongoing record of what jobs are available in the legal information / management / publishing sphere as a way of highlighting the way roles are perceived, advertised and change over time.

August 2012 like any other August of the last decade was dead as the proverbial dodo in terms of new jobs. What’s worrying though is that the usual early September pick up isn’t as strong as it was in 2010 and 2011. Things may well improve later in the month and into October but the news beginning to filter through on general law firm employment is looking pretty shaky across the board according to a number of articles I’ve read recently.

For example the American Lawyer Layoff List is getting busier again. We’re not at 2008-2009 levels but things aren’t rosy and cozy as Obama is well aware.

In an article published in the ABA Journal entitled Law Firm Consultant Predicts ‘Absolutely’ More Layoffs and as Many as Five BigLaw Dissolutions the author of the piece writes….

Call it the Facebook effect…..The first half of the year was strong for many law firms, but a drop off in work in the last six to eight weeks has many firms predicting a decline in revenues and profits this year, according to Kent Zimmerman, a consultant for the Zeugheuser Group. In a video interview with Bloomberg Law, Zimmerman referred to a survey by Citi Private Bank that found law firm expenses are growing faster than revenues during the first half of the year.

Also worth reading is this American Lawyer piece referenced above: Citi Report Shows Law Firm Leaders’ Confidence Waning in Q2:

Update, 9/12/12, 12:25 p.m. EDT: The third paragraph of the story below has been updated to reflect the demographics of the survey respondents.

Though managing partners remain relatively upbeat about the demand for legal services, concerns about the health of the broader economy are making them a bit more pessimistic about their business than they were earlier in the year.

That’s one of the messages contained in the Law Watch Managing Partner Confidence Index survey released Tuesday by Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group. The survey, which covers the second quarter of the year, asked 79 firm leaders about their overall confidence, as well as their confidence in nine specific areas. The answers are plotted on a 200-point index, with 100 representing a neutral opinion and 200 representing full confidence.

For the second quarter, firm leaders put their overall confidence level at 111, a 7-point dip from the first quarter of the year. Seventeen percent of those surveyed said they felt “somewhat worse,” 28 percent said they felt “somewhat better,” and 46 percent said they felt “the same.” Confidence in demand for legal services was also down slightly—from 147 in the first quarter to 144 in the second—but still remained the area in which managing partners expressed the most positive outlook. (According to Citi, the respondents were leaders at 27 Am Law 100 firms, 22 firms falling in the Second Hundred, 22 firms too small for those two lists, and three firms headquarted in the United Kingdom.)

Bloomberg even have a TV report on the subject.

In the first two quarters of this year there appeared to be plenty of legal information related jobs on the table. So much so that it almost began to look like a full recovery and I found myself editing out some of the serial job listers in the world of legal information.

Although nobody has as yet published on the subject of law library layoffs I’d suggest that if the firms are laying off lawyers it’s that time yet again for partners to “evaluate” the library / information centre.

We’ve all seen it before and the slightly more cynical amongst us will be expecting as due course, less staff, less resources, less everything. Some consultants will persuade (yet again) partners that lawyers are experts at undertaking their own research! Or our personal favourite, one of the partners decides that they know all about information management and an experienced library manager is pushed out in favour of a “Library Partner” who then relies on less experienced staff or more likely contract information managers who in the end cost more than the original library manager. I find cynicism and realism may well be closer bedfellows than we choose to wish for in September 2012.

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