Legal Hiring Forecast: Litigation Expected to Yield Most Legal Jobs in the Next 6 Months

The legal field should see additional hiring in the months ahead. Slightly more than one-quarter (26 percent) of lawyers interviewed for a new Robert Half Legal survey said their law firms or companies will be adding legal jobs in the first half of 2015. Sixty percent of lawyers said they expect to only fill vacant posts, while 7 percent said they would neither fill vacant positions nor create new ones. Just 1 percent of respondents anticipate staff reductions in the next six months.

Litigation is expected to yield the most job opportunities from January through June of 2015, according to 36 percent of attorneys surveyed. Within the litigation practice area, insurance defense was cited by 45 percent of lawyers as the leading driver of job growth, followed by commercial litigation (23 percent).

Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal, observed that law firms are making strategic hires to meet client demands and expand profitable practice groups, such as commercial litigation. “As litigation caseloads continue to rise, experienced associates with business development skills and backgrounds in medical malpractice, personal injury and intellectual property will be highly marketable,” he said.

Legal departments are seeking compliance, contract administration and commercial law experts to meet the rising need for business-related legal services, Volkert noted. “Increasingly, general counsel are staffing these high-demand positions on a project or part-time basis as a cost-effective strategy for accessing specialized skills that may not exist within their organizations,” he added.

Fifty percent of lawyers surveyed cited at least some challenge in finding skilled legal professionals. Volkert noted that in many markets, candidates with expertise in the hottest practice areas are receiving multiple job offers and counteroffers.

Employee retention is a chief concern at many organizations, the research finds, with nearly one-third (31 percent) of lawyers expressing concern about losing legal personnel to other job opportunities. “Employers need to expedite the hiring process to avoid losing high-caliber candidates to competing firms,” Volkert said.

Aside from increased compensation, nearly one-third (32 percent) of lawyers surveyed said flexible work arrangements provide the greatest incentive for legal professionals to remain with an employer. Challenging work or variety of assignments ranked second, receiving 28 percent of the survey response, followed by professional development opportunities, cited by 24 percent of respondents. “While offering a competitive salary remains an important factor for attracting the industry’s top talent, many law firms and companies are re-examining their benefits programs to meet the work-life balance and career development needs of today’s multigenerational workforce,” said Volkert.

Looking for additional insight into 2015 hiring and compensation trends? Listen to a Robert Half Legal Report podcast on the Legal Talk Network.