Get to Know the Legal Hiring Trends for the Rest of 2018 

By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD

If you’re looking for a job in a law office, you need to know what the latest hiring trends are. It’s also helpful to know the top practice areas firms are hiring for currently.

Here’s a look at the hot legal specialties, what factors motivate employers to extend a job offer and what you can do to improve your odds of landing a great position.

Top practice areas

Robert Half Legal recently surveyed more than 200 lawyers about the hiring outlook in their law firm or company. Of the respondents, 52 percent said litigation would be the practice area to offer the greatest number of job opportunities in the second half of the year. General business/commercial law ranked second at 12 percent, while real estate came in third at nine percent. Also named were healthcare, intellectual property, and fields related to privacy, data security and information law.  

A closer look at litigation

Respondents who cited litigation as the top practice area were asked to specify which sub areas would offer the greatest number of job opportunities. Thirty-nine percent chose insurance defense as the leading driver. Commercial litigation (23 percent), employment law (18 percent), securities and corporate governance (9 percent) and intellectual property (9 percent) round out the top five.

Why the demand for legal professionals with litigation experience? In brief, there’s significant activity in legal court filings and proceedings. In the meantime, corporations are implementing strategies to minimize the risk of costly and time-consuming litigation.

A place for consultants

Legal professionals interested in contract or consulting work are in luck. Fourteen percent of the lawyers surveyed said their firm or company plans to increase the outsourcing of legal matters on a project basis over the next year. The top areas are litigation support, legal research and document review.

Job search tips for legal specialists

Whether you’re a recent graduate or seasoned professional, these tips can help you increase your chances of landing your first or next legal job:

  • Apply at smaller firms. Small and midsize firms are currently doing much of the hiring, according to the Robert Half Legal 2018 Salary Guide. These employers are particularly interested in associates with four-plus years’ experience who can take on full caseloads and bring in new clients. Legal professionals with business acumen, technical skills and interpersonal abilities are especially in demand.

  • Look for expanding corporate legal departments. Many companies seek candidates with experience in a wide range of legal matters related to business growth, executive compensation, and labor and employment disputes to add to their in-house teams. Some of the top roles are contract administrators and corporate transactional paralegals.

  • Embrace the blended role. Investigate hybrid paralegal/legal secretary positions, which are more common than ever.  That’s because law firms can offer clients greater value if they have legal support staff who are able to perform multiple duties and deliver quality work at lower billing rates than attorneys. Hiring managers are especially interested in tech-savvy candidates. 
  • Consider temp-to-hire positions. Employers appreciate flexible staffing strategies to deal with fluctuating workloads. They are augmenting their core workforce by bringing in both lawyers and support staff for special projects and demands that occur only seasonally. Sometimes these contractors are invited to become full-time members of the team if their work turns out to be of high quality and the business wants to add a permanent position. If you work with a staffing firm, they can set you up in a temp-to-hire arrangement, which offers the client — and you — time to decide whether you are a fit with their organizational culture.

Legal support professionals looking for work should find no shortage of in-house or law firm positions. Especially if you have a background in hot practice areas like litigation and corporate law, you can afford come to the negotiating table with high expectations.