Legal Hiring Expected to Increase Over Next 6 Months

Like most industries, the shortage of qualified candidates is the greatest hiring challenge, and this holds true for employers in the legal industry. According to a new survey, released by Robert Half Legal, litigation and data privacy concerns are accelerating the demand for legal professionals in these and other specialty
According to Robert Half Legal’s State of Legal Hiring research, nearly half of U.S.-based lawyers (47%) said their law firm or company plans to expand their legal teams in the first half of 2019. More than one-third of lawyers (36%) anticipate staffing only vacated positions. Thirteen percent said they would neither fill vacated positions nor create new ones, while 3% foresee reductions.
More than three in 10 lawyers (32%) 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% of the survey responses. General business/commercial law and ethics/corporate governance tied for third place, with each category receiving 11% of the response.
Within the litigation specialty, commercial litigation is anticipated to yield the most legal jobs, according to 48% of lawyers surveyed. Insurance defense ranked second, with 41% of the response, followed by employment law (36%).

Other Research Findings

  • 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%), legal secretaries (57%), and paralegals (51%).
  • When hiring lawyers, practice area expertise is the most important factor to employers, aside from legal knowledge.
  • On average, 22% 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.

“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—in a press release. “Many employers are seeking legal professionals with compliance, data privacy and commercial litigation experience, which is intensifying competition for specialized talent in these areas.”
Sullivan added that hiring managers should act quickly when they find ideal applicants or risk losing them to another offer. “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.”
Lawyers were asked, “Which one of the following practice areas will offer the greatest number of job opportunities at your law firm or company in the first half of 2019?” Their responses include:

  • Litigation (32%)
  • Privacy, data security, and information law (12%)
  • General business or commercial law (11%)
  • Ethics and corporate governance (11%)
  • Real estate (9%)
  • Regulatory or compliance (8%)
  • Intellectual property (6%)
  • Healthcare (6%)
  • Other (6%)
  • Don’t know (1%)

*Responses do not total 100 % due to rounding.
Lawyers who cited “litigation” as a response were also asked, “Which of the following areas of litigation, if any, will offer the greatest number of job opportunities at your law firm or company?” Their responses include:

  • Commercial litigation (48%)
  • Insurance defense (41%)
  • Employment (36%)
  • Securities and corporate governance (35%)
  • Intellectual property (32%)
  • Class actions (21%)
  • Other (9%)
  • Don’t know (2%)

*Multiple responses were allowed.

Survey Methodology

The online survey was developed by Robert Half Legal and conducted by a leading independent research firm. It is based on responses from more than 200 lawyers in the United States who work full time at law firms with 20 or more employees and corporate legal departments with 1,000 or more employees, or as solo practitioners. Respondents possess 5-plus years’ experience in the legal profession and are involved in managing the hiring of legal personnel.