Litigation and insurance defense are yielding the greatest job prospects in the legal field in the first half of 2018, according to new research from Robert Half Legal on hiring trends.
And the added good news? No one’s planning on cutting jobs anytime in the next six months.
More than one-in-five attorneys plan to add to their existing teams, or 22% of lawyers interviewed by Robert Half Legal. This compares to 33% six months ago and 25% one year ago. More than half (51%) anticipate that their law firms or companies will maintain or fill vacant legal jobs in their organizations in the first half of 2018.
And while 14% said they would neither fill vacant positions nor create new ones, none of the survey respondents plan to reduce their legal teams.
The survey follows Robert Half Legal’s December 7 webcast, Jumpstart Your Legal Career in 2018, which is available on-demand.
“This really reinforces what we’ve been seeing in terms of hiring and salary trends,” says Jamy Sullivan, Executive Director of Robert Half Legal, who reiterated that the two in-demand law practice areas this year are litigation and, more specifically, insurance defense.
Indeed, litigation and insurance defense are expected to offer the juiciest job prospects in the legal field in the first half of 2018, with 38% of attorneys citing litigation as the practice area that should yield the greatest employment opportunities over the next six months. 48% identified insurance defense as the top driver of job growth within the litigation practice area, compared to 35% six months ago.
Robert Half surveyed 200 lawyers in the U.S.; 100 of the respondents are employed at law firms with 20 or more employees, and 100 are employed at companies with 1,000 or more employees. All have hiring authority within their organizations.
“I like to draw attention to the fact that nearly one-quarter of lawyers anticipate they will add legal jobs in first half of 2018 — that’s positive,” Sullivan explains. “And right behind that, more than half of lawyers surveyed would absolutely fill vacant jobs, and close to half, or 48%, cited insurance defense” as a hot sector.
After litigation, other vacancies lawyers need to fill include general business/commercial law (12% of those surveyed) and real estate (10%). Wall Street and Corporate America’s increased mergers-and-acquisitions activity and continued residential and commercial property boom help explain the demand, Sullivan says. “Those law firms are looking for lawyers and support staff who know state and local laws, understand lease administration, zoning laws and issues, and title research,” she explains. “For business-and-corporate, we anticipate the strongest drivers will be M&A and compliance work as top areas for hiring. That includes joint ventures, companies developing new products, start-ups, and companies expanding into new areas.”
The survey also showed that nearly two-in-three lawyers surveyed — or about 62% — said tight labor conditions were creating hiring challenges, while 31% said they are concerned about losing legal personnel to other job opportunities.
Among the hiring challenges cited were requirements for extremely specific legal skill sets, which outpace supply, particularly for small and mid-sized law firms seeking talent. “A client prefers 12 years of experience, specifically with a mid-sized firm and a book of business. Then they layer in an educational requirement such as a top-tier law school or Law Review member. The list continues to narrow the pool of available candidates,” Sullivan says.
To attract and retain the best talent, law firms and companies are promoting perks and benefits that job seekers covet most, Sullivan adds. “Aside from compensation, offering programs that help employees improve work-life balance and advance their careers are highly effective strategies for boosting recruitment and reducing turnover.”
Aside from compensation or bonus, flexible work arrangements provide the greatest draw for legal professionals to remain with an employer, said 28% of lawyers surveyed by Robert Half Legal.
Sullivan said the increased demand is showing up in higher salaries, and recommended lawyers on the hunt for new positions check the latest compensation in Robert Half Legal’s 2018 Salary Guide.