Litigation to grow, but skills shortage worries US firms
Survey says almost half of law firms plan to expand their legal rteams in the next 6 months, with litigation topping priorities.
Litigation and data privacy concerns are accelerating demand for legal professionals in these and other specialty areas. According to Robert Half Legal's State of Legal Hiring research, 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.
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).
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. Lawyers, legal secretaries and paralegals among top full-time positions being added, but firms see the shortage of qualified candidates as greatest hiring 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. Eighty percent of lawyers are concerned about losing top performers to other opportunities. ‘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.’