The Hiring Environment in Canada

Specialties in Demand
Regional Trends

Canadian firms of all sizes, including large national firms, are starting to add lawyers, paralegals and law clerks to meet rising demand for legal services. Law firms specializing in intellectual property and corporate law, in particular, are hiring, as the technology, financial services and commercial real estate industries continue to rebound.

Corporate legal departments also are adding staff in an effort to handle more work in-house and reduce spending on outside counsel. Demand for contract administrators is especially strong, as corporations manage a growing volume of contracts and licenses. In addition, legal departments have a steady need for professionals with e-discovery and litigation support skills.

Compensation at law firms and legal departments is improving slightly for lawyers and legal support professionals. Higher salaries are possible in the future as retention concerns grow and top candidates find opportunities more quickly.

Additional trends likely to influence the legal hiring environment in the coming months include:

Retention concerns. Legal employers are starting to become more cognizant of the need to reward loyal employees: The vast majority of Canadian lawyers recently polled said their law firms or corporate legal departments plan to offer associates raises and/or bonuses. Nonmonetary incentives such as telecommuting, additional time off and flexible scheduling are other ways employers can reward and retain valued team members.

Reliance on project teams. To manage rising caseloads, including matters related to litigation and e-discovery, while maintaining budgeting and staffing flexibility, law firms and corporate legal departments are using project teams as a cost-effective approach to augmenting the contributions of full-time staff.

Experience matters. Law firms and corporate legal departments place a premium on candidates with key skills and relevant experience to fill gaps in expertise and make immediate contributions. Firms continue to focus on hiring senior- and partner-level lawyers who can bring portfolios of clients. They also value seasoned paralegals and legal secretaries.

Regional Differences
Legal hiring is picking up in Toronto, with demand increasing for lawyers and law clerks, especially those with backgrounds in litigation and corporate law. The financial services industry and municipal/government sector is fueling much of the hiring activity. In addition, contract administrators are in strong demand by corporate legal departments. Professionals with e-discovery and litigation support skills are seeing opportunities in law firms and corporate settings.

Hiring in Ottawa also is improving, with lawyers benefiting from much of the increased demand. In particular, those with a few years of experience and a background in intellectual property or corporate law are seeing more opportunities.

In the western provinces, legal professionals with experience in the natural resources sector are needed. Lawyers and legal support professionals proficient in both English and French have a hiring advantage at law firms in Ottawa and Montréal, as well as with government agencies.

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