Economic statistics

Today’s economic numbers are scary. Nearly 10% of our employment is in the retail sector; and 25% of jobs lost since November 2007 are from this sector. Looks like a bleak holiday season is approaching. Years ago, 5% unemployment was thought to be the right amount for fluidity in the economy. For a long time, now, that number has been substantially lower, giving rise to some inflationary pressures. Today, however, we’re looking at a current 6.5%, likely to increase to 8 to 10%!

Years ago, I visited China. I saw many people employed as manual laborers. I was told they were being kept busy to allow them to have their dignity and self-respect in contributing to the well – being of the society. They could have mechanized much of what they did, but that would have meant even greater unemployment. I remember thinking that the amount of their unemployment was equal to the entire population of our country!

Today, China is investing heavily in its infra-structure by building highways and public buildings to aid its economy and, as a result, the world economies. This same tactic was used by Pres. Eisenhower in the 1950s and is being discussed today as part of our economic alternative solutions. This also was a favorite tactic of FDR in the 1930s.  It has worked. And we do need infra-structure repairs as evidenced by falling bridges and highway potholes.

While the numbers are scary, now that the election is behind us, perhaps we can come together to focus on what unites us and will allow us to achieve improvements. Perhaps we can put our differences (political party, gender, special interests, etc.) aside for awhile. I keep returning to Rodney King’s "Can’t we all just get along?" Only by doing so will be come out of the depths of economic depression.

As lawyers, our challenge will be to serve a society with a shrinking economic base. But, where there is change, there is generally opportunity. We just need to stay alert to see the opportunities in front of us.  Lawyers will benefit in either event. If we can’t get along, our litigators will be beneficiaries.  For example, litigation has already begun over the issues relating to California’s Proposition 8 (same sex marriage ban). If we can tolerate differences, at least for awhile, our transaction lawyers will be the beneficiaries when they negotiate and draft agreements, write new legislation, etc.

To survive in this environment, lawyers will need to be flexible, seize new opportunities, and serve and bond with their clients as never before.


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