Change has been in the air in legal workforce for a while, and 2024 promises more of the same. Facing regulatory shifts, technological advancements and a competitive talent market, legal teams are adapting in creative ways. This article explores hiring and compensation trends in the field, as highlighted in the latest edition of the
Demand for specialized expertise
The legal industry is hungry for specialized skill sets. Corporate legal departments and small-to-midsize law firms seek skilled legal candidates with 3-7 years of experience. Among these in-demand roles, litigation experience is becoming a key qualifier, with expertise in civil, class action and commercial litigation taking center stage.
Skill sets that boost salaries
When it comes to the skills managers are willing to pay extra for, leadership and management experience takes the lead, with 42% of managers recognizing their value. Research and information analysis comes a close second at 41%, while 37% of supervisors put a high price on technical skills.
Perhaps the most eye-catching statistic is that a full third of managers (33%) are increasing pay for artificial intelligence and machine learning skills. These competencies, barely on the radar a few years ago, underscore how technological advancements are reshaping the legal field, with tech-savvy legal professionals becoming invaluable assets.
The remote work dilemma
Law firms and corporate legal departments offering remote or hybrid work arrangements stand to gain a competitive edge in the hiring market. These options have become more than perks — they're increasingly the cornerstone of recruitment and retention strategies in many fields.
But while many legal professionals crave these flexible work arrangements, some employers still prefer an in-office presence. This gap in expectations is causing some positions to remain unfilled, exacerbating staffing challenges. In some ways, this shouldn’t be surprising: A recent Robert Half survey found that 42% of legal professionals rank flexible work options as their top consideration when applying for jobs.
The importance of contract talent
To address staffing and knowledge gaps, legal departments and law firms alike are ramping up their use of contract professionals. Around half (49%) of law firms are turning to contract lawyers, while 43% are hiring legal specialists on a contract basis. Corporate legal departments are also following suit, particularly for litigation support and eDiscovery (38%), in-house counsel (36%), and legal support (36%).
Contract arrangements can be a win-win for employers and contractors. Employers get to scale teams up or down based on project needs, reducing overhead and the complexities of recruitment and onboarding. Organizations can also bring in dedicated professionals for projects that are best handled by the same person either periodically or for the long term. From the worker perspective, contract professionals benefit from a high degree of flexibility and the opportunity to gain varied experience across different fields and locations, making them more marketable.
Smaller firms get creative to stay competitive
While smaller law firms may find it challenging to match the above-market salaries that larger firms can afford, they are deploying creative strategies to remain competitive. By offering a positive company culture, flexible work arrangements and ample opportunities for professional growth and development, these firms can set themselves apart from deep-pocketed rivals. The emphasis on non-monetary benefits can be a major draw for talent seeking a more balanced and purpose-driven work environment.
Industries in the spotlight
Industries such as financial services, healthcare, insurance and manufacturing are particularly active in legal hiring. Within these sectors, corporate legal teams are taking on a more expansive role, increasingly handling work in-house to control the escalating costs of outside counsel. This trend has led to a surge in demand for specialized roles within the corporate legal environment. Professionals such as compliance analysts, contract administrators and data privacy experts are highly sought, serving as crucial supports for complex business needs and intricate regulatory frameworks.
Looking toward 2024, the legal world is anything but static. From the rising demand for skills with emerging technologies to the growing role of contract talent, the field is changing fast, creating an exciting landscape for employers and professionals to navigate.