Robert Half Legal reports that nearly 50% of “law offices” will add staff; and the other half will “stay the same.” The survey came from 300 attorneys among the 1,000 largest law firms and corporations. Only 2% reported staff reductions.
The leading areas of hiring gains according to the survey:
– Litigation 30%
– Ethics and corporate governance 22%
– Intellectual property 18%
– Real estate 11%
Since litigation is the biggest growth area, it tells me that the survey is skewed towards a law firm sample. Most corporations don’t staff litigation in-house. The executive director of Robert Half Legal, Charles Volkert, seems to acknowledge this:
“Litigation occurs in every industry and is a practice area that continually produces a significant volume of work. Because case demands vary, however, law firms often supplement their full-time staff with project professionals to meet peak workloads.”
This is why combining law firms and corporate legal departments in the same survey sample renders the results less informative for me. In many law firms, for example, the better question is whether you will see a net gain in staff (we know a high percentage of associates eventully leave).
Adding to ethics and corporate governance resources are more a bit more plausible, especially in financial companies with public reporting obligations.
One good bit of news for law firms with a global footprint from Mr. Volkert:
“As companies expand into overseas markets and enter into partnerships on a global scale, they’ll look to outside counsel for advice on operating within a foreign locale’s regulatory framework as well as for guidance on how to minimize risk while making the most of new business opportunities.”
Recent examples of this include Tyco/Eversheds and DLA Piper/Linde. These arrangements are examples of law firms and corporate legal departments working together to deliver services for companies that want to remain competitive globally.
From this perspective, “adding staff” is an attribute of the old economy; “partnering” and “risk-sharing” are tactics of the new economy.
Those are issues a bit harder to survey; this one’s not half bad…