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For lawyers, a season of layoffs

RALEIGH -- Even lawyers are hurting.

Once guaranteed a shot at the good life, a growing number of those who practice law find themselves among the unemployed. This spring, out-of-work attorneys are being joined in the brutal job market by hundreds of newly minted lawyers graduating from the state's seven law schools, many planning to take the bar exam this summer.

"It's not a happy picture," said Allan Head, director of the N.C. Bar Association, a voluntary professional organization with 13,500 members across the state. "I can't remember a time when lawyers were being laid off."

The Bar Association has started a program to help unemployed lawyers, offering aid in dealing with the stress, job placement services and encouraging the unemployed lawyers to think of different types of jobs where a law degree can be used. So far, less than a hundred are participating, but Head suspects they're just seeing a fraction of those who have been sidelined.

Nationally, the unemployment rate in 2008 for the legal profession, including paralegals as well as lawyers, was at the highest it's been in years -- 2.6 percent, approximately 44,000 people, according to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares to an overall 5.8 percent national unemployment rate.

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