Top Legal Hiring Trends for 2020

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As 2020 kicks into gear, hiring managers are considering what’s on the horizon for the year ahead. With competition for skilled legal professionals likely to remain intense, it’s critical to have a sound strategy in place if you want to attract and retain top talent.

More than half (54%) of lawyers surveyed for Robert Half’s State of Legal Hiring research said their firms plan to expand their teams in the first half of 2020. But what kinds of professionals are firms chasing? And what can legal managers do to give themselves an edge over the competition?

The most in-demand practice areas

The survey identified three practice areas that are set to drive job growth over the next six months:

  1. Litigation —Litigation comfortably tops the list of practice areas, with 27% of survey respondents expecting it to offer the most job opportunities in early-mid 2020. Within the litigation practice area, commercial litigation (39%), insurance defense (33%), and securities and corporate governance (31%) were cited as most likely to see the greatest growth.
  2. Privacy, data security and information law —Of the lawyers surveyed, 16% said that this practice area would offer the most job opportunities in the next six months. Heightened security concerns and expanding privacy regulations are top factors accelerating this demand. The need to mitigate the risk means big opportunities for industry experts.
  3. General business and commercial law —From contract analysts to compliance specialists, the skilled professionals required by companies, banks and governments make general business and commercial law a competitive practice area. It was named by 14% of survey respondents as a top area for job opportunities in the next six months.

New year, new challenges

High demand for skilled legal professionals means law firms and corporate legal departments have their work cut out for them when hiring. Of the 350 lawyers surveyed, 87% have experienced recruitment challenges. Nearly half reported a shortage of qualified candidates, especially among midlevel associates and corporate counsel with four to nine years of experience. Attorneys with technology skills, practice area expertise or industry-sector knowledge are highly marketable.

Attracting and retaining top talent

With 76% of respondents concerned about losing legal talent to other firms this year, employers need to focus on improving retention as well as recruitment. Going the extra mile to provide perks that workers seek most can give your firm an edge over the competition.

  • Offer fair compensation. With2020 set to be a candidate-driven employment market, firms must be prepared to meet or exceed salary expectations. Extras like sign-on bonuses and profit-sharing plans add appeal.
  • Don’t forget nonfinancial perks. Beyond salary, professional development opportunities and challenging assignments are among the best incentives for attracting and retaining employees. Flexible work arrangements are also highly prized, especially among millennials.
  • Streamline your recruitment process.Candidates don’t want to wait around to hear from you. Once you find someone with the specialized skills and experience you need, act quickly to extend a job offer — or risk losing a great hire to another employer.

Tap into interim talent

To meet the challenges of recruitment over the next six months, 9 out of 10 legal employers surveyed said they anticipate hiring legal professionals on a temporary or project consultancy basis. Not only is this a cost-effective way to access specialized skills and experience not available internally, but it allows firms the flexibility to meet fluctuating caseloads. It also gives you the chance to evaluate a worker’s skill set before hiring them on a permanent basis.

Look ahead to get ahead

As we enter a new decade, companies and law firms must be able to respond quickly to changing market conditions. Employers who keep up with the latest research and trends — and adapt to them now — will see their efforts pay off in the future. With a little foresight and planning, you can attract and hire the legal specialists you need to expand your practice into the biggest areas of opportunity.

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