In the real estate industry, there’s a popular phrase: “location, location, location.” In the legal industry, you could say it’s “litigation, litigation, litigation.” That’s where many of the legal jobs are likely to be in the new year, according to a recent survey from Robert Half Legal.
Nearly half (46 percent) of lawyers surveyed expect litigation to generate the greatest number of legal job opportunities in the first six months of 2014. Within the litigation practice area, insurance defense was cited by 46 percent of lawyers as the leading driver of job growth, followed by commercial litigation (37 percent) and employment law (28 percent).
Although litigation was, by far, the hottest practice specialty for hiring activity, other areas cited in the survey include the following:
- General business/commercial law (10 percent)
- Intellectual property (6 percent)
- Real estate (4 percent)
- Family law (4 percent)
- Privacy, data security, information law (3 percent)
- Regulatory/compliance (2 percent)
- Insurance (2 percent)
Asked more specifically about hiring plans, 27 percent of lawyers interviewed said their law firm or company plans to expand or add new positions in the next six months. More than half (55 percent) said their organizations expect to maintain current staff levels by filling vacant posts, while 12 percent of survey respondents said they will not fill vacant positions or create new ones. Only 2 percent anticipated staff reductions.
Talent in Demand
Legal professionals with expertise in high-demand practice areas may have employers vying for their attention: 60 percent of survey respondents cited at least some challenge in finding legal talent. Among those in greatest demand are highly skilled litigation experts — from insurance defense paralegals to litigation associates and e-discovery attorneys.
Legal departments also have a steady need for corporate associates and paralegals to help them manage more litigation and e-discovery matters internally. The most marketable legal professionals are tech savvy and have between three-to-five years’ experience in a high-demand specialty. Now more than ever, employers seek candidates who require little or no training.
When it comes to hiring senior associates, practice area expertise and client contacts have been cited as the most important factors to legal employers. According to the 2014 Robert Half Legal Salary Guide, 31 percent of lawyers surveyed said their law firms plan to increase hiring of senior-level lawyers as a strategy to grow business in the next two years.
Opportunities for Paralegals
Paralegals with backgrounds in litigation, compliance, corporate law and healthcare should see continued strong demand from law firms and corporations in the months ahead. Duties for paralegals continue to expand as law firms and businesses look to these professionals to tackle a range of assignments previously performed by junior-level lawyers, including research, trial preparation, patent filings, and regulatory and e-discovery matters.
For legal professionals who have finding a new job on their docket in 2014, keep in mind that even with an improving legal job market, law firms and corporate legal departments continue to hire selectively — they want a precise skills match and the right fit for their work environment. The most successful candidates will have a combination of professional experience, practice area expertise, soft skills and business connections.
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.