68% of Law Firms Anticipate Hiring More First-Year Associates in 2019

Good news for recent law school graduates, your chances of getting hired look great! New research from Robert Half Legal shows entry-level law associates can expect more job opportunities in the months ahead.


Source: Ivanko80 / Shutterstock

Nearly 7 in 10 lawyers surveyed (68%) said their law firm plans to increase its hiring of first-year associates in the next year, more than triple the number of lawyers who cited similar hiring plans in a 2017 Robert Half Legal survey. More than one-quarter (27%) indicated no change in hiring activity, and just 1% plan a decrease.
Beyond expanding job offers to recent law school graduates, law firms are reassessing starting salaries for those candidates. More than 6 in 10 survey respondents (63%) believe their firm should raise first-year associate starting pay to match base salary increases at large law firms.
Lawyers were asked, “Does your law firm plan to increase or decrease its hiring of first-year associates in the next 12 months?” Their responses:*
  • Increase significantly (14%)
  • Increase somewhat (54%)
  • Neither increase nor decrease (27%)
  • Decrease somewhat (1%)
  • Decrease significantly (0%)
  • Don’t know/no answer (3%)

*Responses do not total 100% due to rounding.    
Lawyers were also asked, “In your opinion, does your law firm need to increase starting salaries for first-year associates to match recent base salary increases for entry-level lawyers at Big Law firms?” Their responses:

  • Yes (63%)
  • No (35%)
  • Don’t know (2%)

“While law firms don’t expect newly minted associates to possess in-depth industry knowledge, they do seek lawyers with advanced tech skills, business acumen and collaboration abilities,” says Jamy Sullivan, Executive Director of Robert Half Legal—in a press release. “Highlighting in-demand attributes on their resumes, along with scholastic accomplishments and legal experience gleaned through internships, pro bono activities and project work, helps candidates stand out to potential employers.”
Sullivan adds that it’s important for applicants to take a strategic approach when researching legal positions. “Aside from responding to online postings, law school graduates can enhance their job search efforts by attending legal conferences, workshops and events to network and learn of new leads.”
Sullivan recently contributed an article to Recruiting Daily Advisor about the ins and outs of hiring legal talent in 2019, see, “Legal Hiring in 2019: What Managers Need to Know.”

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 175 lawyers in the United States and Canada who work full time at law firms with 20 or more employees.