17 June 2019

Legal teams to grow next six months

Driven by litigation and data privacy concerns early half of US law firms and companies plan to expand legal teams within the next six months research predicts.


According to a ‘State of Legal Hiring’ research report, released by Robert Half Legal, nearly half of US-based lawyers (47 percent) said their law firm or company plans to expand their legal teams in the first half of 2019.

Spurring demand

More than one-third of lawyers (36 percent) anticipate staffing only vacated positions. Thirteen percent said they would neither fill vacated positions nor create new ones, while 3 percent foresee reductions. More than three in 10 lawyers (32 percent) predict litigation will be the top driver of job growth in the legal field during the first half of 2019, followed by privacy, data security and information law, which garnered 12 percent of the survey response. General business/commercial law and ethics/corporate governance tied for third place, with each category receiving 11 percent of the response. Within the litigation specialty, commercial litigation is anticipated to yield the most legal jobs, according to 48 percent of lawyers surveyed. Insurance defense ranked second, with 41 percent of the response, followed by employment law (36 percent). “An increase in litigation and regulatory matters is spurring demand for attorneys and legal support staff with relevant expertise,” said Jamy Sullivan, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “Many employers are seeking legal professionals with compliance, data privacy and commercial litigation experience, which is intensifying competition for specialized talent in these areas.”

Talent challenge

Ninety-one percent of lawyers said finding skilled legal professionals is somewhat or very challenging. Forty-four percent of respondents said that a shortage of qualified candidates is the greatest challenge their law firm/company faces when hiring. The top full-time positions being added by law firms/companies in the first half of 2019 are lawyers (77 percent), legal secretaries (57 percent) and paralegals (51 percent). When hiring lawyers, practice area expertise is the most important factor to employers, aside from legal knowledge. On average, 22 percent of open positions at law firms/companies will be filled on a temporary, project or consulting basis. Eighty percent of lawyers are concerned about losing top performers to other opportunities. Flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities and company perks were cited as the best incentives for retaining employees, aside from compensation or bonus. Mr Sullivan added, “In today's environment, job seekers with superior legal skills, business acumen and advanced technical knowledge are receiving multiple offers. Employers that offer competitive pay and perks will be better positioned to attract top candidates.”

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