In Philadelphia, WolfBlock, which has been in business since 1903 and has more than 300 lawyers in several states, is "unwinding" in preparation for closing. Partners blame the banking crisis, the recession ¿ especially in the firm's core real estate practice ¿ and lawyers and clients bailing as the writing on the wall became clearer.

In New York City, Thacher Proffitt & Wood, in business since 1848, survived the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; it had offices in the World Trade Center and lost none of its more than 300 lawyers and support staff. But it couldn't survive the bad economy and closed in September.

Fanni Koszeg, 34, of New York City, lost her job at Thacher in April 2008. Koszeg thought she would take the summer off and maybe go back to work as a public interest lawyer.

"That was very naive of me," Koszeg said. "Now, all of the other law firms have been laying off hundreds of lawyers."

It has been more than a decade since the market was this bad for lawyers, said David P. Landau of Klein, Landau and Romm, one of the nation's oldest continually operating legal search firms in the United States.

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