From Salary Range to Employee Happiness: 5 Employment Trends in the Legal Field
It’s a job seekers’ market for in-demand legal professionals. These lawyers and support staff can expect an excellent legal job offer in a competitive salary range. To hire and retain your firm’s superstars, here are five trends that are important to understand:
- Starting salaries are rising.
When you find an excellent candidate for a legal job, don’t delay making a strong offer. The best legal professionals are hired quickly, and may even be entertaining several offers. Starting pay for U.S. legal professionals is expected to increase 3 percent in 2015, according to Robert Half Legal’s 2015 Salary Guide. To stay ahead of the curve, research the latest salary range before you make a formal offer. Use our Salary Calculator to adjust the numbers for your city.
- Technology is driving business.
Technology has transformed the way the world does business. Law firms are increasingly relying on cloud software, mobile apps, e-filing, videoconferencing and online subscriptions to reduce costs and offer competitive pricing to their clients, according to Robert Half Legal’s Future Law Office research. These and other advances in legal technology have allowed legal professionals to be more accessible to clients and colleagues, and complete tasks and assignments more quickly and at a lower cost.
Legal job candidates who are well versed in technology will expect top compensation, but they are pivotal if your firm or company wants to take full advantage of the newest legal applications. Also encourage existing staff to keep on top of tech advances through continuing legal education. And consider asking members of your IT department to conduct lunch-hour workshops to update your team on topics such as useful legal apps, remote access, security risks and social media best practices.
- Hybrid workers make good financial sense.
To better meet client and company needs, legal organizations are asking legal secretaries and paralegals to perform a wider scope of tasks. In fact, blended paralegal-legal secretary roles are growing in popularity. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of lawyers interviewed by Robert Half Legal said hybrid paralegal-legal secretary positions are more common today than they were two years ago.
Consider including in your job postings a desire for tech-savvy candidates with previous law firm experience (at least three years), proficiency in eDiscovery, a bachelor’s degree and certification from an American Bar Association-approved program. Also seek out applicants who would be comfortable supporting four to six lawyers. They’ll command a higher salary range, but the investment will be worth it.
- Counteroffers don’t work.
When valued members of your legal team give notice, your first instinct may be to entice them to stay with a more attractive counteroffer. This may be an unwise move. The reason they sought another legal job is usually not about money, but rather poor work-life balance, lack of in-house advancement opportunities or desire for different challenges. A bigger paycheck won’t resolve those issues, and chances are they won’t stay for the long term. When skilled employees hand in their resignation, the best course of action is to let them go with your best wishes.
It’s best to reward key employees with more money before they consider going elsewhere. According to a recent survey, legal professionals’ preferred retention incentive is a raise or bonus. Still, money isn’t everything to all professionals. If you discover that valuable members of your team are becoming disillusioned about their jobs, talk to them about what changes in their job responsibilities might be made to entice them to stay before they decide to resign.
- Lawyers want meaningful work.
A lucrative compensation package is important to many attorneys, yet a high salary range doesn’t necessarily equal greater job satisfaction. According to a recent study published in the George Washington Law Review, the common denominator among satisfied lawyers surveyed was their sense of “autonomy, relatedness to others, [and] feelings of competence.” Also telling was a finding that lawyers were happiest when they were able to choose their job for “internally motivated reasons,” meaning, essentially, from the heart, as opposed to external pressures to make more money. When possible, play to this desire to work on projects that align with staff’s personal values by allowing your legal team to choose which assignments they want to handle, including pro bono work.
In today’s competitive hiring environment, recruiting and retaining the best legal talent is more important than ever. Stay on top of the trends, and you’ll be poised to attract the sharpest legal minds to help your organization grow and thrive.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.