9 Things to Know About the 2018 Legal Job Market

By, Robert Half Legal

Thinking of changing jobs or making a new hire in the months ahead? It’s critical to keep a close eye on hiring and compensation trends in the legal field. Here are 9 trends to watch:

1. Hiring is predicted to remain active in the months ahead. So far this year, we’ve seen steady hiring activity in the legal field — and that is expected to continue for the remainder of 2018. In a recent survey conducted by our company, more than one in five attorneys said they plan to add to their existing teams during the coming months. Succession planning has become a key factor in hiring decisions.

2. Turnover rates are rising. This is driving hiring managers to work harder to determine whether a candidate is a good fit for the organization’s workplace culture and a strong match for the available position. That means that law firms are hiring more strategically. In today’s competitive marketplace for legal services, firms are focusing on emerging business opportunities and making targeted hires that will better allow their teams to expand into lucrative practice areas, such as commercial law, intellectual property and litigation.

3. Experienced legal professionals are in demand, a reality that is driving the continued growth of the lateral job market for lawyers and legal staff support members. In fact, nearly seven in 10 lawyers recently surveyed by Robert Half Legal said it is challenging for their firm or company to find skilled legal professionals in the U.S. today.

4. Heightened focus on high-growth practice areas. Litigation and general business/commercial law are anticipated to be generate the greatest number of legal jobs in the next two years. Growth is also projected in the real estate, regulatory/compliance and healthcare practice areas.

5. Highly skilled candidates are being hired quickly; multiple offers are more common. Finding someone who exactly matches a position’s requirements can be difficult. When hiring managers do identify strong candidates, they need to act quickly to extend a job offer or risk losing them to other firms. Multiple job offers and counteroffers have become more common.

6. Candidates with specialized skills are in demand. Law firms and legal departments are seeking lawyers who possess not only superior legal skills but business and financial knowledge as well. Advanced technical capabilities are also increasingly important — for legal support staff and lawyers alike. 

7. Hybrid roles are more prevalent. In a recent survey we conducted, two-thirds of lawyers interviewed said blended or hybrid paralegal and legal secretary positions have become more prevalent in the last two years, and 15 percent said their organization plans to increase hiring for these roles in the next 12 months. Our research also found that 50 percent of the legal support jobs at law firms or companies today are hybrid positions. Tech-savvy and versatile legal assistants, especially those with three or more years of experience in a high-demand specialty, are highly marketable.

8. Salaries are increasing along with expectations of staff members. Billable hour and business development requirements are rising, and many organizations are linking compensation to performance. To stay competitive, legal organizations are using additional compensation strategies to attract and retain top talent.

9. Employers are enhancing benefits packages. Many recognize that while salary continues to rank among the top criteria legal professionals consider important in their jobs, other factors also contribute to employees’ job satisfaction. Many are increasingly offering an expanded range of benefits, incentives and perks that employees value, including flexible work schedules, telecommuting, performance-based bonuses, training and education, paid parking and more.

It’s important that legal employers continue to monitor hiring and compensation trends to both attract top-tier candidates and retain exceptional staff members. And legal professionals, whether currently employed or on the legal job hunt, should also keep current on new developments that can help guide their career decisions and success.