Nearly one-third (32 percent) of lawyers interviewed for the Robert Half Legal Hiring Index plan to hire full-time legal professionals during the fourth quarter of 2012, while 3 percent anticipate staff reductions.
The net 29 percent of respondents projecting an increase in hiring activity is down one point from the previous quarter’s forecast. Law firms are expected to do much of the hiring; healthcare is the practice area predicted to see the most growth in the coming months.
The vast majority of lawyers surveyed are optimistic about business opportunities. Three-quarters (75 percent) of attorneys are somewhat or very confident in their organizations’ prospects for growth in the next three months, down nine points from the third-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.
The net 29 percent of lawyers expecting to hire in the fourth quarter is down one point from the previous quarter’s forecast. Those who are hiring plan to add an average of two full-time positions.
The three most in-demand positions are lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries.
Healthcare is the practice area expected to see the most growth in the fourth quarter, followed by general business/commercial law and bankruptcy/foreclosure.
Nearly half (45 percent) of lawyers say finding the right talent remains challenging, a six-point decrease from the third-quarter survey.
Three-quarters (75 percent) are somewhat or very confident in their organizations’ prospects for growth in the next three months, a nine-point decline from last quarter.
“Steady hiring is projected for the legal field as law firms strive to meet clients’ requests and increase profitability,” said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “In particular, small and midsize law firms are recruiting associates with solid business development skills and client portfolios to expand practice groups in high-demand specialties such as healthcare and corporate law.”
Twenty-seven percent of lawyers anticipate healthcare will be the practice area that experiences the most growth in the coming months. General business/commercial law ranked second with 16 percent of the response, followed by bankruptcy/foreclosure (13 percent).
Volkert noted that companies are expanding their legal teams to support renewed business growth, manage regulatory activity and comply with healthcare reforms. “Legal departments are bringing in licensed lawyers, contract administrators and support professionals to handle a greater volume of work in-house and reduce spending on outside counsel,” he said.
Organizations planning to hire will add an average of two full-time positions in the fourth quarter. The vast majority plan to hire lawyers (93 percent), paralegals (28 percent) and legal secretaries/assistants (14 percent).
“As law firms and corporate legal departments continue to hire lawyers, the demand for legal assistants and secretaries should increase, particularly for litigation support specialists who are proficient in trial preparation and project management software,” Volkert said.