As the end of bonus season approaches, we are seeing more and more inquiries about the state of the legal market. The effects of recent increases in law firm salaries, in addition to decreases in legal budgets in-house continue to reverberate throughout the industry. Large firm mergers continue to happen, at the same time companies are turning in-house for more of their legal work. Area-wise, while there is still hiring in the corporate, finance, and real estate realms, there has been an uptick in litigation hiring.
Law firms continue to grow their use of contract and non-partnership track attorneys across the markets. Candidates vying for these positions are not the permanently-unemployed candidates of past years, but highly-qualified practice-area specialists. Where are these candidates coming from? Many are relocation candidates, as we see people moving into the Southeast. Some are large firm attorneys who took time off for family reasons. Still more are simply interested in leaving partnership track roles due to burn out or in pursuit of more free time outside of work.
This is a win-win situation for law firms and candidates. Law firms acquire well-qualified, relatively inexpensive, and flexible workforces, while candidates can work on sophisticated projects, network, and build their resumes, while (most importantly for many!) maintaining quality of life.
In corporations, we are seeing several new developments. Perhaps the best indicator of “health” is that many corporations are in growth mode (albeit conservative for most). Most of this growth seems to be in the area of corporate generalists, particularly at the lower to mid-level counsel levels. Along with this comes an increase in hybrid roles, such as counsel/HR, or counsel/CAO. These roles are an economical way to cover two areas, particularly for risk-averse, budget-conscious corporations. Work that had previously been farmed out to law firms is now being handled in house, when possible. Anything from litigation to due diligence to benefits and employment compliance analysis can be done by bringing a team in-house, and using internal counsel to oversee progress. Finally, compliance continues to be a growing and natural area for many attorneys to transition into a non-traditional role, but still use their legal skills.
There are many more market-specific trends we would love to discuss with clients in both law firms and in-house. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can be a resource to you! Likewise, if you are ready to make a move yourself, head over to my colleague’s recent post, Jump Starting Your Job Search, and get started!