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US law firms and in-house legal departments to hire more staff in the third quarter

13 June 2012

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

A third of US law firms and in-house legal departments plan to hire full-time legal staff in the third quarter of 2012, according to a recent survey.

Respondents plan to add an average of two full-time positions, with the three most in-demand positions being lawyers (91 per cent), paralegals (35 per cent) and legal secretaries (14 per cent).

Law firms are expected to do the majority of their hiring in the upcoming quarter. In small and midsized law firms in particular, the report notes that there is demand for associates with three or more years of experience.

The practice areas expected to see the most growth in the third quarter are corporate and commercial, labour and employment, and litigation. For the first time since early 2010, bankruptcy/foreclosure was not among the top three practice areas among respondents.

The report notes that corporate legal departments are increasing hiring in response to renewed business activity and new regulatory requirements, and in an effort to curtail external spend. In particular demand are in-house associates and paralegals with contracts administration, compliance and labour and employment law experience.

Project-based recruitment is also on the rise in law firms and in-house legal departments to support document review and e-discovery services and to supplement key staff positions.

Finding the right talent remains challenging, however, according to 51 per cent of respondents, although this number is down eight points from the second quarter.

Business optimism is also improving. Eighty-four per cent of the lawyers polled are at least somewhat confident in their organisations’ growth prospects for the third quarter, up 16 points from the second quarter. Just two per cent of respondents anticipate making staff reductions.

The report from Robert Half Legal is based on responses from 100 lawyers at law firms with 20 or more employees and from 100 corporate lawyers at companies with 1,000 or more employees. All of the respondents have hiring authority within their organisations.

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