2022 Forecast: In-Demand Practice Areas and Jobs
By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD
2022 looks to be a year of intense competition in the hiring market as law firms and legal departments pivot from pandemic survival to long-term growth. What does this mean if you’re planning to expand your team? Here are some of the key insights into employment market trends outlined in the 2022 Salary Guide from Robert Half.
Most in-demand practice areas
The biggest challenge facing hiring managers is the lack of available talent. Law firms are eager to hire people with experience in:
- Commercial law
- Real estate law
- Intellectual property
- Family law
Corporate legal departments are also growing, particularly in the financial services, government, healthcare and technology sectors. These teams need professionals with backgrounds in:
- Contract management
- Corporate transactions
- Labor and employment
- Mergers and acquisitions
Most employers are seeking mid-level legal professionals with three to five years of experience.
In this candidate-led market, it’s not surprising that starting salaries* continue to rise for most positions. Here are average starting salaries at the midpoint range or 50th percentile for some common roles in the legal field:
- Law firm lawyer (4-9 years of experience): $120,000
- In-house counsel (4-9 years of experience): $122,500
- Paralegal (4-6 years of experience): $63,750
- Contract manager (4-6 years experience): $75,250
- Compliance manager (7-9 years experience): $100,250
To find salaries for other positions, go to the “How much should I earn or pay?” section of the guide and type in the position of interest to you. To fine-tune national salary ranges for your specific location, type in your city or the city nearest you. The ranges that result include consideration of the regional cost of living, talent availability and other factors. You can also use the Robert Half 2022 Salary Calculator to benchmark average salaries in your area.
* The range listed for each position reflects the average starting salary only, meaning the salary a job candidate at any level receives upon starting a new job. Bonuses and other forms of compensation, such as retirement packages, are not taken into account.
4 significant hiring trends for 2022
1. Digital skills are essential
COVID-19 transformed the legal field, and many depositions and hearings will continue to be held virtually. However, the need for legal professionals to be tech-savvy long predates the pandemic, and candidates should be able to demonstrate proficiency in digital tools like litigation software, practice management systems and e-filing. The most sought-after professionals will also have ideas on how to use tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide a better client experience.
2. Large firms are looking at mergers and partnerships
Larger law firms are seizing opportunities to grow their business quickly. They are doing this through lateral partnerships with other firms operating in another type of law. This approach allows both firms to enhance their books of business and offer a comprehensive service to clients. Big firms are also putting pressure on smaller regional outfits by recruiting their brightest legal professionals. This will make it more challenging for smaller firms to attract and retain talent.
3. In-house legal teams expand skills with contract professionals
To meet rising workloads, corporate legal departments may need to hire legal professionals on a contract basis who can fill the gaps and hit the ground running on new projects. On certain initiatives, this may include contract talent with expertise unavailable in-house.
4. Legal support staff need to be well-rounded
In addition to conducting case research, managing online calendars and drafting legal documents, legal support professionals need to host video meetings and assist with automated client management and billing systems.
Increasingly, a key attribute for professionals in all legal roles is adaptability. The legal profession has gone through profound changes over the past two years, and 2022 could be just as unpredictable.