Despite economic uncertainty, hiring continues to increase at law firms and corporate legal departments, both locally and nationally.
Opportunities and salaries continue to rise for professionals in many key legal positions such as general business/commercial law, labor and employment, and litigation, according to research conducted for the Robert Half Legal 2012 Salary Guide.
In South Florida, firms are adding staff to expand lucrative practice groups fueled by current economic conditions -- litigation, foreclosure and corporate transactional law to be specific.
Despite a thriving legal industry, the upturn in hiring has led to a tightening talent market. More than half of lawyers polled by Robert Half Legal said it's challenging for their law firms or companies to find skilled legal professionals. As competition for top candidates has intensified, multiple offers, counteroffers and signing bonuses have become more common. In Miami, the shortage of skilled talent means firms and companies are moving much faster to fill open positions. Law firms are moving especially fast to secure talent, often making offers to candidates the day of or day after an interview.
"Employers who delay making hiring decisions may miss out on the best prospects," cautioned Charles Volkert, executive director for Robert Half Legal. "Candidates who have the proven skills, relevant experience and can make immediate contributions to the firm are in very high demand, and it's not uncommon for them to receive multiple offers."
As the war for top legal talent continues, it's no surprise that salaries are making slight gains after several years of staff reductions and salary freezes. The market for certain highly skilled professionals has grown more competitive, and starting salaries reflect that trend.
The Robert Half Legal Salary Guide shows starting salaries are projected to increase an average of 1.9 percent in 2012, though proven performers and candidates with in-demand expertise are likely to be offered higher starting salaries.
In Miami, the three most in-demand legal positions are: in-house contract manager/administrator; in-house corporate paralegal; and litigation attorneys, paralegals and legal secretaries in insurance defense, commercial foreclosure and commercial litigation.
The projected salary ranges for these positions in the Miami area are: $123,505-$179,790 for a licensed attorney with four to nine years of experience at a midsize firm; $61,886 to $105,366 for a contract administrator with at least four years of experience; and $49,882-$69,355 for a midlevel in-house paralegal with four to six years of experience, according to the Robert Half Legal 2012 Salary Guide.