2015-16 Forecast: Legal Hiring Trends
As we approach the 4th Quarter 2015, changes are afoot in the global economy. And, like other markets, the legal market, is not stagnant. It changes in response to a variety of factors: the global economy, employer demands, client economic health, job seekers’ credentials, and expectations, and beyond. Most recently, with the economy, these trends and changes have affected hiring in the legal market. Although we do not have a crystal ball, against this general backdrop, we can identify some potential legal hiring trends for the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016.
- Linked to the global economy, legal hiring continues to improve
As legal markets are integrally connected to global markets, as the economy grows and changes, so does the legal industry. As the economy improves, clients have an increased demand for legal services. As the demand for legal services is heightened, legal hiring also increases. And, just as with the economy, not all practice areas of legal hiring are surging. Again, increased hiring is in the practice areas where the economy has seen the greatest improvement – healthcare, intellectual property, and corporate/transactional law. Indeed, the increased need for healthcare attorneys is directly tied to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the affordable healthcare act. Additionally, as the economy improves, and corporation are engaged in a greater number of legal transactions and transactions that have an intellectual property component, corporate and intellectual property legal departments, too, have increased their staff in to support client need.
- Increased demand for value-driven legal services creates competition for experienced attorneys
In general, a law firm associate is most marketable and brings the most value to a law firm when he or she is a mid-level. Following from that, the most marketable associates are mid-level associates with experience in practice areas that are highly in demand. As a result of this increased demand for experienced mid-level attorneys, there is increased competition among top law firms and that competition puts pressure on salary levels in those sections of the industry. As experience is in demand, so goes the market—so while freshly minted attorneys may be able to learn such skills quickly and expertly, law firms generally will choose caution by favoring experience over newness.
- The demand for associates with intellectual property expertise continues to increase
As with the global economy’s need for greater research in the life sciences, technology, computer science industries, the need for candidates and employees with STEM expertise is in high demand. As a result, the minimum educational qualifications for positions in in-demand practice areas have increased as well. Without an advanced hard science degree and direct experience, a candidate may find it hard to obtain such a position.
“Summary: Lawyers.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015.