Demand for Specialized Skills Presents Legal Hiring Challenges

Law firms are recognizing that in today’s competitive legal marketplace, they need to continue to adjust their service offerings in response to clients’ expectations around specialized practices, including litigation, business law and healthcare. But handling these top-of-mind matters for clients requires targeted skills and knowledge that may or may not be part of a law firm’s repertoire.

This post is Part 4 in a series of excerpts from Future Law Office: The Evolving Legal Profession and Emerging Workforce of Tomorrow, Robert Half Legal’s annual research project about emerging legal trends.

Specialized Talent Proves Elusive

As legal hiring becomes more exacting in the skills and abilities required, talent can be increasingly difficult to locate. More than half (57 percent) of lawyers polled in a recent Robert Half Legal survey said it is somewhat or very challenging to locate skilled legal professionals today.

The reason can be attributed to a supply-and-demand imbalance that has emerged as the job market recovers from the economic downturn. Educated, highly specialized workers are enjoying low unemployment rates, while the national overall unemployment rate remains relatively high.

Complicating this supply-and-demand imbalance is the need for professionals who bring valuable expertise from areas outside the legal profession. Consider the diverse professional backgrounds of Seyfarth Shaw partner, Scott Carlson, and his e-discovery and intellectual governance team: “I have a B.S. in computer science and mathematics and used to be a software engineer. Three of my attorneys are certified computer forensic examiners, and one is a certified technical hacker,” he says. “It can be a challenge to find the right candidate for our team. It’s often easier to teach the litigation risk and legal issues than the technology side. So we try to recruit good lawyers who are strong technologists – with the technology skills being critical.”

While locating legal candidates with just the right combination of in-demand skills can be difficult, law firms that can present leaner, more nimble teams with the sharply focused expertise their clients require will be able to produce far better legal outcomes – and for less, notes Michael Roster of USC’s Gould School of Law. “I predict that as firms become much more effective at producing a legal product, costs will come down for clients,” he says.

To learn more, read our other Future Law Office research posts or download a complimentary copy of the report.