Positions as attorney's are few and far between right now. The economy has taken it's toll on all sizes of firms. The reality is that less than 10% of my classmates are employed right now. This is a scary, scary statistic. For my readers, I don't know where you are in your journey, but if you are a 2 or 3L, this is great cause for concern. If you are still in undergrad or maybe a 1L, probably not so bad for you as long as the economy picks up soon.
It seems that firms are holding off from hiring, but not downsizing anymore. A recent article by the ABA advises recent graduates to go ahead and take a legal assistant job. That firms will understand in this economy that you did what you had to do. This is, I believe, sound advice. I do not regret taking a job as a legal assistant in a smaller firm. I have learned a ton so far. A smaller firm means that you will be given more responsibility, likely more interaction with clients, more drafting abilities, more hands on experience. A smaller firm will rely on your ability to analyze a file.
One other thing...... I now have a healthy respect of a law firm as a business. I see what it costs to run an office. I see how I might do things differently to streamline, but see what works and was developed by people who have been doing this for years. I see the business practices of the office.
I also see the importance of a great support staff. The importance of a good software package designed to bill, take notes, and track documents.
The lesson I want to pass on is to make the most of the experiences you can gain by not practicing law at that moment. Your time will come, but in the mean time, take a look at the practice of law from a different angle.