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One In Three Lawyers Plans To Hire In Third Quarter

Majority of Lawyers Interviewed Optimistic About Business Prospects

Nearly one-third (32 percent) of lawyers interviewed for the quarterly Robert Half Legal Hiring Index plan to hire full-time legal staff during the third quarter of 2012, while just two percent anticipate staff reductions. The net 30 percent of respondents projecting an increase in hiring activity is up eight points from the previous quarter’s forecast. Law firms are expected to do the majority of the hiring in the upcoming quarter.

Business optimism also is improving. Eighty-four percent of lawyers polled are at least somewhat confident in their organizations’ growth prospects for the third quarter, up 16 points from the second-quarter survey.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Legal, a legal staffing firm specializing in lawyers, paralegals and other highly skilled legal professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with 100 lawyers at law firms with 20 or more employees and 100 corporate lawyers at companies with 1,000 or more employees. All of the respondents have hiring authority within their organizations.

Key Findings
The net 30 percent of lawyers expecting to hire is up eight points from the second-quarter forecast. These lawyers plan to add an average of two full-time positions.

The three most in-demand positions are lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries.

The practice areas expected to see the most growth in the third quarter are general business/commercial law, labor and employment, and litigation. For the first time since Robert Half Legal began conducting the quarterly hiring survey in early 2010, bankruptcy/foreclosure was not among the top-three practice areas.

Finding the right talent remains challenging, according to 51 percent of lawyers, although this number is down eight points from the second-quarter survey.

Business optimism is up, with 84 percent of lawyers saying they are somewhat or very confident in their organizations’ prospects for growth in the next three months, a 16-point climb from last quarter.

Hiring Trends
“Law firms are expanding in-demand practice groups to renew their commitment to growth and meet client requests for legal services,” said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “Many firms are launching new service offerings, and this accounts for some of the resulting hiring activity. Commercial law also is picking up, and general litigation remains strong.”

Volkert notes that small and midsize law firms, in particular, are seeking associates with three or more years of experience who can make immediate contributions and support thriving practice areas.

Lawyers identified general business/commercial law and labor and employment law as areas that will experience the most growth in the coming quarter. Both specialties garnered 17 percent of the response from those interviewed. Litigation followed closely with 14 percent of the response.

Volkert added that corporate legal departments are hiring in response to a greater volume of work. “Renewed business activity and new and ongoing regulatory requirements are leading to steady demand for in-house associates and paralegals with contracts administration, compliance, and labor and employment law experience,” he said. “In addition, general counsel are expanding their in-house teams in an effort to curtail spending on outside counsel.”

Lawyers hiring expect their organizations to add an average of two full-time positions in the third quarter of 2012. Those interviewed said they will most likely hire lawyers (91 percent), paralegals (35 percent) and legal secretaries (14 percent).
“Although many law firms and corporate legal departments are boosting full-time hiring, they’re also responding to immediate needs by engaging legal professionals on a project basis to work on document review and e-discovery initiatives, and to supplement key staff positions,” Volkert said.

Charles Volkert

The Robert Half Legal Hiring Index is based on 200 telephone interviews with lawyers: 100 of the respondents are employed at law firms with 20 or more employees, and 100 are employed at companies with 1,000 or more employees. The interviews were conducted by an independent research firm.

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About the Author: The Robert Half Legal Hiring Index is based on 200 telephone interviews with lawyers: 100 of the respondents are employed at law firms with 20 or more employees, and 100 are employed at companies with 1,000 or more employees. The interviews were conducted by an independent research firm.

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