About 42 percent of practicing attorneys said the recent collapse of Lehman Brothers and the sale of Merrill Lynch & Co. would hurt their careers, up from 27 percent who expressed similar detrimental effect when the government bailed out the former Bear Stearns Cos. earlier this year, according to a recent survey by Lateral Link, a legal recruitment firm.
The survey drew responses from 800 lawyers, most of them associates, as well as law students.
Those in New York had more concerns than those in other parts of the country.
During the Bear Stearns bailout, about a third of those in New York who responded to the survey were afraid of the effect on their careers; now, nearly 55 percent had similar fears resulting from the recent Lehman and Merrill Lynch announcements.
"New York is arguably disproportionately hit," said Justin Bernold, director of Lateral Link, which teamed with www.abovethelaw.com for the survey.
But the Southeast region of the U.S. expressed similar concern. According to the survey, 52 percent of lawyers and law students in Atlanta who responded were afraid of the effect the financial market collapses would have on their careers. About 60 percent of those in Charlotte, N.C., said the same.
"Part of that probably stems from the amount of structured finance and real estate going on in those markets and the extent to which they've already been hit," Bernold said.
In contrast, about 39 percent had concern in Los Angeles and Philadelphia; 37 percent in Chicago; 35 percent in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area; 30 percent in Boston; and 17 percent in Dallas.
The fears were even greater among law students: About 63 percent of first year students felt afraid about their careers given the recent events. Of third year students, nearly 50 percent expressed the same reservations.
"The first years are just getting into law school, perhaps a little more likely to be terrified than some of their classmates," Bernold said. He said he was surprised that the third year students didn't have as many reservations, especially since many are joining firms that have pushed back their start dates to January.
That, however, might change.
"You may start to see, in the wake of Merrill Lynch and Lehman Bros., and now AIG, more third years interviewing in on-campus interviews to find the most stable ground they can," he said.