2011 – A Promising Year for employment for Legal Professionals

The legal industry has been full of ups and downs since the carnage of Black Thursday. The legal employment firm, Robert Half Legal, recently published a survey in which they interviewed a large number of lawyers at different firms, all of whom had hiring authority in their organization.

According to a 2009 press release on the same survey, a retention crisis was imminent due to the ‘economic reset’ that was put in place that changes the way law firms recruit and retain their employees. Not very good news is it?

There is some good news though. Even though the market for labor changed in the last few years, an improving hiring ratio has been predicted for the first quarter of 2011. According to the Robert Half legal survey, 31% of lawyers plan to add legal jobs while a mere 1% expect a decrease. In other words, law firms will be hiring more in 2011 – in stark contrast to the hiring decline in previous years.

The study also revealed some surprising facts about the lawyers themselves. Apparently, a whopping 82% are more than confident regarding their legal organization’s expansion abilities in the first quarter of the current year. However, many of them (almost 52%) report facing difficulties when trying to search for skilled potential lawyers or legal professionals.

Many lawyers who were interviewed revealed that it was due to the improvement in business conditions that urged many legal organizations to open their doors for prospective lawyers. A majority of them will be judged according to the efficiency with which they can execute and manage rising workloads and high standing positions. In fact, several of these firms are now actively searching for candidates to help build and serve the most active areas of the profession.

One shouldn’t rejoice at the misfortune of others, but the rising rate of foreclosures in the next 3 months means that lawyers who specialize in this area will have more than enough on their plate to keep them afloat. Litigation and healthcare received 17% and 14% respectively in the survey as well which in turn increases the demands for legal services in the area.

Additionally, increased bankruptcy filings in the real estate market are also compelling law firms to hire professionals who can generate more business in this area.

One would think that the improving hiring atmosphere would increase the chances of attorneys landing a big job, but so far, this assumption has been wrong. According to the survey, (and as mentioned before) 52% of legal firms revealed that they were, in fact, facing difficulty locating skilled legal professionals.

The reason for this finicky attitude is because employers are being extremely selective during the hiring process because they are now focused on selecting candidates for specific areas. In other words, since trying to identify the perfect candidate from a sea of hopefuls takes time and effort, the hiring process has to be conducted in as thoroughly as possible. The result? An extremely picky legal system that has a lot of jobs to offer but is taking its sweet time in doing so.

So for now consider this the ultimate “good news/bad news” scenario. The legal employment market is finally changing, but not fast enough for many in the industry. Hopefully though we’ll see an acceleration in the hiring and growth among law firms and corporations alike.

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