Legal job seekers take note – the principles of supply and demand are at play in the legal hiring market. Lawyers with key skills and proven expertise in niche practice areas are in strong demand; and they’re taking advantage of growing job opportunities, along with higher-than-average starting salaries.
Practice area growth driving legal job opportunities
As the executive director of a premier legal staffing firm, I hear clients frequently express their need for specialized legal expertise. To manage growing practice areas and rising caseloads, law firms are recruiting lawyers with five-plus years of experience in commercial, insurance defense and employment law. Firms are also competing with companies for the industry’s best talent.
Corporate legal departments are expanding their internal teams to manage increased workloads. They’re seeking lawyers who possess compliance, corporate transactional law, labor and employment law, financial services, and intellectual property. They are also hiring legal professionals with knowledge of a specific sector, such as healthcare and real estate.
Other skills and expertise in demand
Growing complexities and challenges in technology-related matters are also driving demand for professionals in areas outside the profession. Law firms, in particular, are interested in specialists to help manage data storage and privacy issues, online and mobile tech applications and access and increasingly critical concerns associated with data security.
Both corporate departments and law firms are also hiring litigation support experts to assist practice groups with eDiscovery activities, including preserving, searching and analyzing electronically stored data.
And while legal job opportunities favor professionals with specialized expertise, strong interpersonal skills, business acumen and technical proficiency remain essential competencies for all job candidates.
Market trends influence hiring of legal specialists
The current emphasis on specialization within the legal hiring landscape will likely continue for the foreseeable future due to a number of factors:
Key strategy for law firm growth: In today’s competitive business marketplace, many law firms are looking to grow by expanding profitable practice groups and taking advantage of emerging business opportunities. Lateral hiring is a critical strategy to secure legal specialists in these areas, as experienced lawyers with a book of business can start delivering immediate value upon employment.
Tech advancements: Technology has enabled legal organizations to achieve significant cost-savings, operational efficiencies and enhanced customer service during recent years. On the flip side, however, technology has introduced the era of “big data” and associated challenges regarding privacy, eDiscovery and security matters. IT experts, forensic consultants, security auditors, and other specialists are being tapped to help law firms and corporate departments effectively address and manage the proliferation of electronic data in today’s workplace.
New administration: Policy changes being implemented by the presidential administration may place further emphasis on specialized legal skills. An increased demand is projected for lawyers and paralegals with experience in areas such as healthcare, labor and employment law, financial services and tax law, and trade, to name a few.
Legal specialization – today and tomorrow
I often refer to the current hiring reality as the “tale of two markets.” In the legal field, it means there may be limited job prospects for entry-level and generalist lawyers, while legal organizations facing stiff competition recruit professionals with specialized, in-demand expertise.
My advice to legal professionals – stay current on hiring trends, monitor high-growth and emerging practice areas, take advantage of professional development opportunities that can enhance your marketability – and enjoy an exciting and successful career.
Jamy J. Sullivan is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a premier legal staffing and consulting solutions firm with locations in major North American and international markets. She holds a J.D. from Capital University Law School and a B.A. from Ohio State University and has more than 15 years’ experience in legal staffing, training, leadership, and consulting matters.