Corporate legal departments largely expect to maintain current in-house staffing levels or hire more in-house attorneys in the second half of 2017, according to new data from legal recruiting firm Robert Half Legal.
According to the Robert Half report, which included responses from 100 corporate attorneys at companies with between 1,000 and 10,000 or more employees, 15 percent expect their legal department head count will expand, while 67 percent expect to maintain head count, only hiring to fill vacated roles.
Jamy Sullivan, executive director of Robert Half Legal, said these numbers are consistent with what the firm discovered in a survey a year ago, and that last year, too, law firms expected to hire at higher numbers than corporate legal departments.
According to this year’s data, 36 percent of the 101 private-practice attorneys surveyed said they expect head count to grow.
Sullivan said corporations might be “slower to hire” depending on the regularity of in-house work. “They may supplement what they have with contractors during busier times of the year, as well as outsource to law firms on specific matters,” she said.
Sullivan said the hiring trends are not primarily driven by macro influences like economic growth or developing government regulations. Instead, she said the hiring market for law firms and corporate legal departments is ripe, with lots of talent and lots of opportunity.
In-house lawyer respondents were also asked what practice areas they expect will have the largest number of job opportunities for the remainder of 2017. General business, commercial law and corporate law were the most popular combined practice areas, with 24 percent of all companies expecting the most opportunities in those areas.
On the low end of the spectrum for in-house jobs were real estate and labor and employment. Only 3 percent of in-house respondents said real estate would offer the greatest number of opportunities at their companies, and only 2 percent said the same for labor and employment.
Litigation did not fare so well either, as just 7 percent of the attorneys surveyed at companies said litigation would present the most opportunities for hiring in-house counsel in the second half of the year.