Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Great Recession and the Legal Profession

17 Pages Posted: 2 May 2010  

Eli Wald

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: April 30, 2010


Perhaps with historical hindsight, 2008–2009 will be remembered not for the Great Recession but as an inflection point for world history, the U.S. economy, and the legal profession. In the short run, however, the impact of the economic meltdown on the legal profession has been quite devastating: unprecedented layoffs, salary decreases, and hiring freezes resulting in an extraordinary number of unemployed law school graduates nationwide. The long-term consequences of the economic downturn are less certain. While some believe that the Great Recession will have permanent adverse effects on the legal profession, it is important to bear in mind that points of significant distress are at the same time moments of great opportunity, and that the legal profession, with its track record of adapting to changing practice realities while successfully maintaining its elite professional, financial, and cultural status atop U.S. society, may end up stronger than ever.

In a symposium issue titled The Economic Downturn and the Legal Profession published by the Fordham Law Review leading scholars of the legal profession begin the process of studying the impact of the Great Recession on various segments of the legal profession and on the bar as a whole, examining both the unique consequences of the economic downturn and their interplay with contemporary trends that were already underway before the recession hit. This introductory essay summarizes some of the insights explored in the symposium, situating them in the context of past moments of anxiety experienced by the profession, and discusses some emerging patterns and developments taking place in different segments of the bar.

Suggested Citation

Wald, Eli, The Great Recession and the Legal Profession (April 30, 2010). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 2051, 2010; U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-16. Available at SSRN:

Eli Wald (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States


Paper statistics

Abstract Views