Now Hiring: 4 Desirable Legal Career Skills for New Attorneys


Thanks to the slowly but surely recovering economy, demand for new attorneys is on the rise. “Hiring in the legal field continues to accelerate, spurring competition among law offices for specialized talent,” states the Robert Half Legal 2015 Salary Guide.

Although legal hiring demand for first-year associates remains modest, it has increased slightly. The 2015 Salary Guide reveals that first-year associates just starting their legal career can expect a starting salary ranging from $79,750 to $109,500 at a midsize law firm (35–75 lawyers) and from $113,750 to $139,000 at a large law firm (75+ lawyers). Those salaries are up by 2.3 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, over 2014.

According to the 2015 Salary Guide, law firms are adding highly skilled legal professionals to expand lucrative practice areas, including corporate and general business, compliance, litigation, healthcare, intellectual property and real estate law. In this upbeat hiring atmosphere, many law firms and corporate legal departments are seeking new attorneys with specialties and nontraditional degrees in addition to the traditional J.D.

If you are a new attorney looking to get your foot in the door at any number of excellent firms, here are four skills and areas of expertise that might give you a leg up on the competition in today’s legal hiring environment:

1. Strong business background

According to the 2015 Salary Guide, law firms are recruiting associates with strong business development skills. That’s because many attorneys with business acumen are able to take on full caseloads, bring in clients and target new prospects. Corporate legal departments are also looking for attorneys with business law backgrounds. If you’re a new attorney with an MBA and a strong understanding of business development and corporate law, you have an advantage over many of your peers.

2. Engineering or science degree

As law offices explore new business opportunities, some are looking to hire attorneys with graduate or undergraduate degrees in engineering or other science-related disciplines. As a result, attorneys with these specialized skills are enjoying brighter employment prospects and higher compensation than their counterparts without these areas of education and training, according to the 2015 Salary Guide. A law degree combined with a graduate degree in engineering or science can be extremely valuable if you’re pursuing a job in intellectual property, patent law or environmental law.

3. Multilingual skills

The 2015 Salary Guide also reveals that multinational law firms and corporations are actively seeking lawyers with international law experience and multilingual abilities. According to a Robert Half Legal survey, 42 percent of interviewed attorneys reported seeing an increase in legal jobs requiring lawyers with second-language skills. Law firms and corporate legal departments are especially interested in attorneys who are fluent in Spanish and Asian languages, particularly Chinese. Spanish is the most sought-after language, particularly in states with predominant Latino populations, such as California, Florida, New York and Texas.

4. Technology expertise

In today’s increasingly high-tech corporate world, legal hiring managers are searching for candidates with solid technology skills. Considering the ongoing advancements in e-discovery and the growing volume and complexity of compliance and regulatory law, legal departments and Information Technology teams are collaborating more than ever before. “Legal’s accountability with data and compliance matters is inextricably entwined with the growing roles of IT departments,” said Tim Collins, general counsel and chief ethics and compliance officer at Convergent in Robert Half Legal’s Client Dynamics Driving Change in the Legal Profession report. As a result, tech-savvy attorneys are in high demand.

As the economy continues to improve, the legal field is seeing an uptick in demand for new attorneys — especially those who possess these four unique strengths.

Are you job hunting to start your legal career? Share your experience in the comments.