It’s been a long hard slog for jobs in the legal sector, especially for newly minted lawyers. There have, however, been indications that the opportunities are ticking up. The optimism makes it a good fit for this week’s Friday Share series.
Jacob Gershman, penning a post for the Wall Street Journal’s Law blog cited the ABA’s 2013 Law Graduate Employment data and reported mixed results. More law graduates were landing jobs, but more law graduates were also looking for work:
Law schools reported that 57% of class of 2013 graduates landed long-term, full-time jobs for which passage of the bar exam was a prerequisite. That’s a slight increase over 2012 when 56.2% of students in that year’s class were employed in those types of jobs. At the same time, the percentage of class of 2013 graduates reported as unemployed and seeking employment grew to 11.2% from 10.6% the year before.
The chances of landing a job at a large law firm have improved from the hiring nadir a few years back, when sputtering demand for legal services triggered layoffs and cutbacks. Of class-of-2013 law graduates working in private practice about nine months after graduation, 20.6% landed a job at a firm with more than 500 lawyers, according to the National Association for Law Placement. Such positions accounted for 16.2% of law-firm jobs held by 2011 graduates.
Later in June, Robert Half Legal released a phone survey of 200 attorneys conducted by an independent research firm that found 29 percent of lawyers expect their companies will be adding new legal jobs in 2H 2014. This is up two points from the previous six months and it comes with caveats – 52 percent said they expect to fill only vacant positions, rather than create new jobs, though just 2% said they’d cut staff.
So where are the jobs? The prospects look best in litigation, and specifically in insurance defense and commercial litigation:
Litigation is expected to generate the greatest number of legal job opportunities in the second half of 2014, according to 42 percent of attorneys surveyed. Within the litigation practice area, insurance defense was cited by 31 percent of lawyers as the leading driver of job growth, followed by commercial litigation (30 percent).
Prospects Warming in Corporate Counsel
Many of the employment headlines in the legal industry focus on big law jobs, but there are some signs that prospects for inside counsel are warming. In January 2014, BTI Consulting President Michael B. Rynowecer noted corporate spending on in-house counsel had risen and new jobs would follow:
Notably, corporate counsel has been increase its internal spend by about $6 billion over the last two years, which Mr. Rynowecer says indicates a substantive change in that businesses are bringing more work in-house. Why? He says that businesses have access to much more talent from partners that have left law firms while inside counsel is also seeking talent to solve legal trends like IP prosecution. BTI says such shifts are usually temporary and it does not expect this trend to continue over the long-term.
Though more progressive, Mr. Rynowecer’s forecast seemed to mesh with the findings in ALM’s year end 2013 Law Department Metrics Benchmarking Study which found headcount in corporate counsel was steady, but the volume of work had increased:
About 82% of respondents said their corporate legal department avoided staff reductions over the last 12 months, however, 81% say the volume of work has increased. About half (43%) say the workload has increased between 5-10% while another quarter say workloads have increased 25%.
In light of the newer data, that forecast seems to be bearing out according to the Robert Half study:
“General counsel are hiring corporate counsel, patent attorneys and contract managers to take on more work in-house and reduce their spending on outside law firms,” said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal in an announcement on the survey results.
In an article titled Things Are Looking Up for In-house Counsel Hiring, reporter Rebekah Mintzer focus in on the inside counsel number from the Robert Half Legal study in Corporate Counsel’s online sister publication to the print magazine. Quoting Charles Volkert, executive director at Robert Half Legal, she wrote:
The survey includes data from both law firms and law departments, but Robert Half broke down the numbers into in-house data sets for CorpCounsel.com. According to the stats, 18 percent of in-house attorneys surveyed anticipate hiring legal department staff in the second half of this year, a full six-point increase from the numbers collected in its hiring survey taken six months ago. Only 4 percent of respondents anticipated a staff reduction.
And later noted the opportunity extends to well-rounded attorneys and support staff too:
“One of the trends we’re seeing is a demand for hybrid legal and legal support roles,” he said. For example, he said, a job candidate could have in-depth background and experience in both compliance and litigation, or intellectual property and data privacy.
What do you think? Has the legal industry turned a corner? The complete infographic follows below.
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