MENLO PARK, Calif., Dec. 8, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- An increase in hiring within the legal field is anticipated for the first quarter of 2011, new research shows. Thirty-one percent of lawyers interviewed for the quarterly Robert Half Legal Hiring Index plan to add legal jobs, while just 1 percent anticipate a decrease. The net 30 percent increase in projected hiring activity is up 7 points from the fourth-quarter forecast. Much of the hiring will take place at law firms.
Business optimism remains strong. The majority of lawyers (82 percent) are at least somewhat confident in their organizations' ability to expand in the first quarter. Lawyers also report difficulty locating top candidates: More than half (52 percent) said it is somewhat or very challenging to find skilled legal professionals today, a seven-point increase from the fourth-quarter survey.
The survey was developed by Robert Half Legal, a premier 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.
Lawyers were asked, "Does your law firm or company plan to increase or decrease the number of full-time legal personnel on your staff during the first quarter of 2011?" Their responses:
"Improved business conditions have prompted many law firms and corporate legal departments to hire for critical positions to manage rising workloads and achieve greater efficiencies," said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. "Organizations that cut staff levels too deeply during the downturn are now rebuilding their legal teams and seeking candidates specializing in the most active practice areas."
Nearly one-third (30 percent) of survey respondents identified bankruptcy/foreclosure as the area of law that will experience the most growth in the next three months. Litigation ranked second (17 percent) and healthcare was third, receiving 14 percent of the survey response.
"As bankruptcy filings continue to increase, particularly in the real estate sector, law firms are hiring experienced candidates to help them enhance services and develop new business," Volkert said. "In response to a surge in litigation and recent healthcare regulation, firms are adding associates and legal support staff to meet increased demand for legal services in these areas."
Despite a competitive hiring environment, 52 percent of survey respondents reported difficulty finding skilled legal professionals. "Employers are increasingly selective, hiring job applicants who possess expertise in specific practice areas," said Volkert. "Often, firms are under pressure to immediately fill a role, and it can be challenging to swiftly identify the strongest candidate."
Survey participants who are planning to hire in the first quarter identified lawyers (91 percent) as the full-time position they intend to add, followed by paralegals (46 percent), legal secretaries/assistants (33 percent) and law clerks (30 percent). Law firms and corporations are strengthening their support teams, and hiring paralegals and legal assistants to handle a wide range of responsibilities, noted Volkert. "Legal support professionals who possess knowledge of an in-demand specialty, technical proficiency and the ability to multitask should remain marketable in the months ahead," he said.
About The Robert Half Legal Hiring Index
The Robert Half Legal Hiring Index is based on 200 telephone interviews with lawyers: 100 of the respondents are employed at firms with 20 or more employees, and 100 are employed at companies with 1,000 or more employees.
The interviews were conducted by an independent research firm. Information from the study is featured in The Robert Half Professional Employment Report, launched earlier this year and the first study of its kind to monitor the hiring environment for professional-level positions exclusively. Based on more than 4,000 telephone interviews with executives throughout the United States, it provides insight on employment trends to help businesses and job seekers prepare for the upcoming quarter. To see how hiring within the legal profession has changed since last quarter and how it compares to other sectors, please visit www.roberthalf.us/per.
About Robert Half Legal
Robert Half Legal is the legal staffing division of Robert Half International. The company provides law firms and corporate legal departments with highly skilled professionals, including lawyers, paralegals and legal support personnel, on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Legal offers online job search services at www.roberthalflegal.com.
SOURCE Robert Half Legal