This morning I read this article http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/19/business/19bear.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin about how a lot of Ivy league grads have had their job offers from Bear Stearns rescinded before they have even started working, and it TERRIFIED me.
BSC is a unique case, and their situation bears--no pun intended--very little resemblance to the legal job market. Bear suffered serious liquidity issues resulting from mortgage-backed securities and hedge fund losses, and were subsequently taken over by JPM. Layoffs and offer retractions are commonplace during any acquisition, as redundancies in organizational structure result in operational inefficiencies. Unless the firm that you accepted an offer from was going bankrupt and was taken over in a white knight acquisition, then the BSC case offers no parallel. The high-finance job market is notoriously volatile even in the best of times, and offers much less job security than the legal profession.
That said, I would argue that layoffs and slow hiring over the next couple of years would actually result in an increase in hiring as the economy picks back up in the wake of a recession or economic slowdown. The economy is cyclical, and periods of contraction tend to last, on average, 17 months. It is highly unlikely that this current period of economic slowdown will continue for another 3 or 4 years, when many of us will be entering the job market. In fact, we may enjoy graduating into an expanding economy and above average hiring practices.
In Sum: The case of Bear Stearns is unique and not representative of the high-finance job market at large; The high-finance job market, though currently contracting (to a lesser extent than the Bear Sterns example would cause you to believe), is more sensitive to changes in the overall economy than is the job market for lawyers; The economic cycle rarely sees periods of contraction lasting longer than several years, and we are likely to graduate into a period of economic expansion in 3 or 4 years.