Compared with this time last year, large law firms have more lawyers who are less productive but more highly compensated. They’re about to have even more, with first-years arriving in place of record-breaking summer associate classes, even as demand is down and uncertainty is up among firm leaders—and among associates without enough work to do.

Cuts are unlikely in the near term, say law firm management consultants and former firm leaders. Well-capitalized law firms are prioritizing long-term growth and basing their staffing projections on years ahead rather than the current downturn, although the influx of junior associates will hurt profitability in the interim.

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