Legal Job Prospects Tied to Litigation in First Half of 2014

Is finding a new job one of your legal career resolutions? If so, you'll want to take a look at the latest legal hiring trends that we've been researching. 

More Than One-Quarter of Lawyers Plan to Hire

Twenty-seven percent of lawyers interviewed by Robert Half Legal said their law firm/company plans to expand or add new positions from January to June of 2014. Fifty-five 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 and two percent anticipate staff reductions.

Litigation is expected to drive much of the hiring activity: 46 percent of lawyers surveyed expect litigation to generate the greatest number of legal job opportunities from January through June 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).


Specialization in Demand

Legal professionals with expertise in high-demand practice areas may have employers competing for their attention: 60 percent of survey respondents cited at least some challenge in finding legal talent. 

Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal and executive managing director of Robert Half Legal eDiscovery Services observes, "Litigation-related activity shows no sign of slowing down in the months ahead. As a result, hiring highly skilled litigation experts -- from insurance defense paralegals to litigation associates and e-discovery attorneys -- will be a top priority for law firms as they focus on expanding services to meet clients' needs and increase revenue."

He adds that 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 have three-to-five years' experience in a high-demand specialty, are tech-savvy and are able to ramp up quickly." 

Research we conducted for the 2014 Robert Half Legal Salary Guide also points to this trend: 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. Paralegal duties 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.

If landing a new legal job is on your docket for 2014, you'll want to keep in mind that even with an improving job market, employers in the legal profession continue to hire selectively -- they want a precise skills match and the right fit for their work environment.