Two recent articles highlight two interesting and seemingly contradictory trends in the legal sector. On the one hand, a recent NALP report (as discussed in June article by Karen Sloan) shows that the employment rate for 2012 law grads fell by 1% relative to 2011, marking a fifth straight year that overall legal employment has fallen. This in the eyes of many is not a good sign, as the industry continues to feel the effects of the economic downturn of 2008.

However, the news is not all bad. Another recent article by Vivia Chen of The Careerist shows that big law hiring is actually up significantly. Says Chen, “law firms of 500 or more lawyers hired more than 3,600 members of the J.D. class of 2012—a 27% increase compared to the previous class.” Law schools such as Georgetown and University of Pennsylvania are both reporting “strong and steady” levels of hiring and on-campus interviewing, with Georgetown experiencing upwards of a 6% increase in graduates hired by big law firm.

There is also some additional silver lining to law grad job rates being down. According to Sloan, the actual number of jobs obtained by graduates has increased slightly this year. Similarly, median starting salaries have also increased. Accordingly, the overall take for law schools and entry-level law grads becomes somewhat in the eye of the beholder. This is seemingly good news for those with aspirations of joining big law firms, but seemingly bad news for those seeking positions at smaller to mid-size shops. With big law hiring up 27% but overall law grad jobs down 1%, smaller to mid-size legal hiring has clearly taken a large hit.