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Weekly roundup: Legal news from around the country

Welcome to the weekly roundup of the latest news from the courts and the legal industry. Each week, we bring you a quick summary of significant developments, new trends, and interesting articles.  

This week’s highlights 

  • Jobs Report: Legal services sector adds 3,800 jobs in April 
  • The legal industry’s mental health problem grew in 2020, survey shows 
  • Virtual courts likely to be a fixture for some time says senior NY judge 
  • Inflation report: Consumer legal prices flat; corporate legal prices jump 1.3 percent 
  • The greatest legal movie of all time is finally revealed 

Jobs Report: Legal services sector adds 3,800 jobs in April 

“The job hike is a drop in the bucket compared to the growth in jobs since April 2020, a month after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic. The legal industry has gained 40,600 jobs since then” (ABA Journal) 

The legal services industry added almost 4,000 new jobs in April, according to seasonally adjusted numbers released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

The increase follows anemic growth in March, when the sector added just 100 additional jobs according to revised figures released by the agency.  

There are now almost 1.13 million people working in legal services, close to historic highs and at least 40,000 more than at the height of the pandemic layoffs in April 2020. 

The legal industry’s mental health problem grew in 2020, survey shows 

“The influence of the pandemic on lawyer and staff well-being is clear: When asked whether the pandemic made their mental health worse, 70% of respondents said yes.” (The American Lawyer) 

According to a new survey conducted by ALM, 37% of respondents said they felt depressed in 2020, an uptick of nearly six percentage points on last year. A further 71% reported having feelings of anxiety, up seven percent year-on-year. 

The survey, based on more than 3,000 interviews found that the pandemic had exacerbated many familiar complaints—from expectations of 24/7 availability to unrealistic client demands. “I get calls and emails all night and over the weekend,” said one respondent. 

Lawyers Assistance Programs throughout the country provide support to legal professionals facing mental health issues. Learn more on the ABA’s website. 

Virtual courts likely to be a fixture for some time says senior NY judge 

“As we move forward into our ‘new and better normal,’ there is no doubt that many types of virtual proceedings and services will become permanent features of our court operations, even after the pandemic subsides.” (Law360) 

Many court proceedings that went remote during the pandemic are likely to stay that way in the future, New York’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has said.  

Moving hearings, status conferences, and even bench trials online have “proven to be an effective method of moving cases closer to resolution while ensuring that litigants and lawyers can have their matters heard in a convenient, timely, and cost-effective manner, Judge DiFiore said. 

The New York Unified Court System is yet to announce firm plans for operations post-pandemic. 

Inflation report: Consumer legal prices flat; corporate legal prices jump 1.3 percent 

“Companies paid much higher prices to producers in April for everything from steel to meat in another sign of inflation in an economy rapidly recovering from the pandemic.” (CNBC) 

A pair of economic status reports published this week showed consumer and corporate legal services are possibly recovering at different speeds.  

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), published Wednesday, showed prices for consumer legal services were flat month-over-month. The CPI considers average prices paid by consumers for services like the drawing up of a will, or for a typical family law matter.  

The Producer Price Index (PPI)—which tracks the prices paid by companies rather than individual consumers—showed a 1.3 percent bump in the price of legal services vs. March. Some economists suggest PPI inflation in areas like legal services is often a sign of a recovering economy.  

The greatest legal movie of all time is finally revealed 

“Earlier this year, the ABA Journal asked 12 prominent lawyers who teach film or are con­nected to the business to choose what they regard as the best movies ever made about lawyers and the law.” (ABA Journal) 

Struggling to find films for your next stay-at-home movie night? Look no further. The American Bar Association has gone so far as convening a panel of legal movie experts to definitively list the greatest legal movies of all time.  

After no-doubt days of painstaking deliberations, the panel has returned a worthy, albeit somewhat predictable verdict (no, it’s not Legally Blonde): To Kill a Mockingbird. 

The 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel, which garners a respectable 92% on the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator, isn’t currently on any streaming services but can be purchased through most of the usual sources. 

Author

  • Richard is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InfoTrack. He has worked with law firms for more than a decade to advise on adapting to regulatory and technological change. He writes about the courts, civil procedure, and developing trends that may affect law firm operations.