The WSJ just did an article on the rise of Contract/Temp attorneys (I initially put attorney in quotes and then removed them). It's behind a paywall but accessible if you come in through Google News. Interestingly, the WSJ put contract in quotes. Whatever.
There's nothing new here to anyone who reads scamblogs, particularly Tom the Temp. In fact, the WSJ was itself probably the first mainstream publication to call attention to the scam, with its landmark Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers in September 2007. That article immortalized Scott Bullock of Big Debt, Small Law and should have been sufficient to knock sense into anyone considering law school. Should have been.
The piece features a 37-year-old American U grad and describes his life as a coder. Dickensian working conditions, $50K annual compensation, lengthy unemployment, and assignments that end abruptly. The WSJ quotes NALP in saying that 10% of private practice jobs graduates accepted last year were temporary. Paul Campos, who I commented on here, would beg to differ on the 10%. Further, he notes that NALP itself collects data on but does not publish distinctions between permanent and temporary work.
The change to temporary attorneys is driven by cost-conscious clients of marquee law firms who probably resented paying for green associates in the first place. The Journal is a bit behind the times in not mentioning offshoring, onshoring to U.S. backwaters, or technology that will dispense with law grads altogether, but on the whole it's a respectable effort that accurately portrays a segment of the presTTTigious legal "profession" circa 2011.
Speaking of Bullock, I'm about 99% certain that he is the poster areyouinsane in the TLS thread http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=157855 no doubt inspired by the WSJ article. Writing style and anecdotes are identical; not many people begin their sentences with "You see,". He's apparently moving to Turkey. Naturally, the TLS rocket scientists suspect he's a flame, even as they content themselves in the knowledge that this temporary attorney nastiness only happens to "other" people.