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Ah, autumn. Turning leaves, crisp nights, turtleneck sweaters. And for 2Ls returning to law school, the perennial question of questions: How’s the job market? The short answer is, so-so. The consensus among hiring partners, law school career-placement professionals, and other recruiting experts interviewed by JD Jungle is that after a lousy hiring market last year, the demand for new attorneys is improving. Don’t get too excited: The boom is far from back. But hiring for 2003, the experts say, should be no worse than last year, and perhaps a bit better. Call the forecast cloudy but clearing. Hiring partners like Eric Goldstein of the New York office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison say they plan to bring aboard more or less the same number of lawyers they took on last year. While recruiting remains depressed in markets that depend heavily on industries like technology, says Goldstein, “people should be relatively upbeat about their chances in major markets like New York where the base of work is broad.” Law school career services professionals report that interview schedules seem to be holding steady at last year’s levels. “So far, firm registrations for the fall are the same,” says University of Chicago Law School assistant dean for career services Diane Downs. And signs are encouraging for 3Ls hoping to land permanent offers from the firms they summered at. Says Paula Patton, the executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP): “Firms seem to be saying ‘Steady as she goes.’” Last year, law firm hiring took a nosedive (the number of job offers made to 2Ls who got call-back interviews fell from 63 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2001, according to NALP), and many experts feared this year’s recruiting season would bring another big drop. So far, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Why the resiliency? The 2002 economy has been far from great but it hasn’t been awful, either. “And after last year’s big cuts,” adds NALP’s Patton, firms just don’t need to cut a lot more.” What about the lateral market? Firm-to-firm hiring is generally holding steady, and demand for laterals in areas that thrive in unsettled economic times, including bankruptcy and litigation, is growing. To land a job in a still-recovering market, you’ll have to bring your A-game, recruiters say. If you’re a student, buckle down and earn the best grades you can. If you’re a lateral, try to add a breakout achievement to your resum�. Finally, remember that soft job markets come and go. Sooner or later, as any veteran lawyer will tell you, the sun will shine again.

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