Oregon Employment Department data are based on tax records from those businesses participating in the Unemployment Insurance Program -- business entities which have employees. Since many of Oregon's attorneys are owners, e.g., partners, shareholders, or sole practitioners, information about these non-employees is not available from OED records. Considering that in 2012 the Oregon State Bar survey reported only 50 percent of Oregon's attorneys were salaried or hourly employees, combining information from these two extensive sources provides a solid view of the overall industry.
The Portland MSA, encompassing five of Oregon's 36 counties, accounts for two-thirds of the state's employment in offices of lawyers and 60 percent of Oregon's law firms. The discrepancy between percentage of employment and percentage of firms indicates the presence of large legal firms in this area. Multnomah County is home to 65 percent of the metro area's law offices; Washington County accounts for 16 percent; Clackamas County for nearly 15 percent; Yamhill County for almost 3 percent; and Columbia County for 1 percent of this metropolitan area's law offices.
According to the OSB 2012 Economic Survey, 56 percent of Oregon attorneys work in offices with one to six lawyers; 20 percent of the state's attorneys are found in offices with seven to 20 lawyers; and 24 percent are in offices having more than 20 lawyers. Oregon's more rural coastal communities were found to have the largest percentage of one-lawyer offices.
During economic slowdowns, several common shifts in employment have been observed. Established firms may elect to hire an inexperienced attorney in a less-expensive paralegal position. Or, the new attorney, having not received an acceptable job offer at a firm, may opt for self-employment. The decrease in hiring and resulting over-supply of new attorneys has also been confirmed by a recent report from the American Bar Journal (June 2013) which listed its top-10 states having the highest law school graduate "glut"; Oregon ranked eighth with 2.98 law graduates for each job opening. Responding to this generous supply and resulting decreased demand for attorneys, law school enrollments have also declined in recent years.
Graph 2 looks at employment growth rates for Oregon and U.S. law offices. Both areas' rates peaked in 2007 and 2008, corresponding to the overall state of the general economy. To adjust for the wide discrepancy between national employment totals and those for just Oregon, the data have been indexed to reflect employment growth rates (2001 was selected as the initial year, and values were set equal to 100.0).
Although some changes in law firm staffing have been attributed to the economic downturn of the Great Recession, shifts had been underway for a number of years. Information shared by the OSB, as well as practicing attorneys, highlights the increasing importance of technology. Instead of relying on the traditional role and duties of the office legal secretary, today's lawyers often find it more efficient to use a computer to prepare their own documents. Also, it has become commonplace for attorneys to directly send correspondence to clients by e-mail. Cloud technology is enabling firms to nearly eliminate the need for IT assistance. Virtual offices may still be a vision of the future, but numerous services are now available online such as receptionists, virtual secretaries, and paralegals.
|Areas of Practice for Attorneys in Private Practice|
|General and Other||23%|
|Source: Oregon State Bar, 2012 Economic Survey|
In addition to this mix of tradition and fast-paced change, attorneys and their staff counsel clients and tackle legal questions and associated issues. To meet the ongoing needs of clients, overall employment in the legal services industry is projected to grow. Table 2 highlights typical occupations found in this industry and the projected demands for employment between now and 2022. Note: although the legal services sector is made up predominantly of offices of lawyers, it also includes offices of notaries, title abstract and settlement offices, and all other legal services.
Conversations with Oregon attorneys reflect that whether the firm is the sole proprietor or is a partnership of attorneys who own the practice, business success depends on the credibility of the attorney and all who work in the legal offices. As a heavily regulated and scrutinized industry, the expectation of honesty is clearly evident; whether it's the judge in a courtroom or the legal colleague, today's legal professionals are held to high standards. Employment opportunities in the offices of lawyers are available across the state and offer interested and trained individuals a challenging work environment. While not immune to the ebb and flow of the overall economy, this industry's focus on legal problem-solving ensures its place in the business of Oregon's citizens.
|2012-2022 Employment Projections for Select Legal Services Occupations in Oregon|
|Occupation||2012 Employment||2022 Employment||Percent Change||Growth Openings||Replacement Openings||Total Openings|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants||1,532||1,942||26.8%||410||249||659|
|Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks||443||510||15.1%||67||41||108|
|Receptionists and Information Clerks||420||435||3.6%||15||113||128|
|Office Clerks, General||379||421||11.1%||42||80||122|
|Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive||325||298||-8.3%||0||39||39|
|Supervisors and Managers of Office and Administrative Support Workers||157||181||15.3%||24||37||61|
|General and Operations Managers||89||102||14.6%||13||17||30|
|Billing and Posting Clerks||69||79||14.5%||10||13||23|