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Episode Notes

Whether you’re a tenured legal professional or just starting out, monitoring the dynamic legal landscape and adjusting to evolving changes is key to your professional growth and marketability. In this episode of The Robert Half Legal Report, host Charles Volkert, senior district president of Robert Half Legal, and Jamy Sullivan, executive director of Robert Half Legal, explore the latest hiring and compensation trends expected to shape the legal profession in 2019.


Robert Half Legal Report

Key Hiring and Compensation Trends Shaping the Legal Profession in 2019



Intro: Welcome to the Robert Half Legal Report, where we discuss current issues impacting the legal profession, related to hiring, staff management and more, with leading experts in the field.

Robert Half Legal provides lawyers, paralegals and support staff to law firms and corporate legal departments on a project and full-time basis. The Robert Half Legal Report is here on the Legal Talk Network.


Charles Volkert: Hello everyone and welcome. I am Charles Volkert, Senior District President for Robert Half Legal and the host of our program. Our guest today is Jamy Sullivan, the Executive Director for Robert Half Legal, where she provides leadership and direction for the company’s global legal staffing and consulting solutions.

Since joining the company in 2002, she has held a number of training, staffing and development positions and has received recognition for her project work, mentoring employees and leadership performance.

Prior to joining Robert Half, Jamy earned a Juris Doctor from Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio and worked as a law firm clerk in the Ohio State Legislature.

Welcome to the show Jamy.

Jamy Sullivan: Thank You Chad. Happy to be here.

Charles Volkert: Today Jamy and I will explore key trends that are expected to shape the law profession during the coming year. We will discuss developments in the legal hiring market, factors that are driving demand for specialized legal expertise, growing opportunities for alternative legal careers and much more.

Jamy, I would like to start our discussion by addressing the legal job market. What can jobseekers and hiring managers expect to see in 2019?

Jamy Sullivan: Thank you again Chad. Yeah, the legal job market is expected to grow in 2019, that’s the great news. Nearly half of the lawyers that we surveyed here at Robert Half Legal for our state of legal hiring research said that their law firm or their company planned to expand legal teams in the first half of 2019.

The top full-time positions that they are looking to add to their teams are lawyers at 77% of the response and then that’s followed by legal secretaries as well as paralegals.

Charles Volkert: Jamy, those are impressive numbers, nearly 50% looking to hire with big numbers, hiring lawyers, legal secretaries and paralegals. What’s behind the demand for legal professionals?

Jamy Sullivan: We are seeing litigation and data privacy concerns that are among the top factors that are really accelerating the demand for legal professionals. 32% of lawyers who we recently surveyed said litigation will be the top driver of legal job growth in the first half of 2019, then followed by privacy, data security and information law.

This of course is fueled by expanding security and privacy regulations as well as heightened security measures. There is a need for that proactive risk management program to protect against increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks.

Specific to litigation practice area, commercial litigation is expected to yield the most legal jobs according to 48% of the lawyers that we surveyed. This is then followed by insurance defense coming in at the second spot, followed by employment law.

Charles Volkert: Great information Jamy. That obviously confirms a lot of what we read on the front page of the newspaper about the focus on data privacy, security and overall litigation. Are there other factors driving hiring?

Jamy Sullivan: Definitely the need for specialized skills and industry sector expertise is also driving hiring. Key industry sectors include financial services, healthcare, manufacturing and technology. And for practice areas, litigation, as we mentioned commercial litigation and employment, but also securities and corporate governance; again, that privacy and data security, commercial law as well as ethics and corporate governance.

Legal support staff whom are tech savvy and have litigation support experience, document management, as well as eDiscovery experience are in demand. We are finding law firms and corporate legal departments are recruiting experienced lawyers with these specialized expertise in-demand practice areas and sectors.

Ultimately, when hiring lawyers practice area expertise is the most important factor to employers, followed by technical skills, aside from of course legal knowledge and of course business expertise.


Charles Volkert: So that’s very interesting insight Jamy, and maybe we could pick up a little bit on those experienced lawyers you were talking about. What is happening in the market right now with lateral hiring?

Jamy Sullivan: We are seeing an increase in lateral hiring. Many firms see this as a strategy to expand their footprint and market share. This also helps them expand those practice areas and those capabilities and broaden their service offerings. More than half of lawyers interviewed by Robert Half said lateral hiring is an effective strategy for improving firm revenue.

If we look at this from the candidate perspective, attorneys are likely to consider making a lateral move if the position comes with higher earning potential or improved work-life balance.

Charles Volkert: That’s great. I mean we continue to hear so much about work-life balance really being almost equal to compensation and your numbers support that. Now, if I put myself in a recent grad’s shoes, what does the job market look like for entry-level associates?

Jamy Sullivan: I am glad you asked that Chad. The entry-level legal market is strengthening. We are seeing more and more employment opportunities for first-year associates. Employment rates for law grads continues to improve. According to NALP, the class of 2017 specifically, more than half landed jobs in the private sector.

Charles Volkert: Wow. Well, that is just great information for our listeners. If it’s good with you let’s shift gears and talk about employment options for JDs who are not interested in traditional legal careers. What’s available to those job seekers?

Jamy Sullivan: There are quite a few alternative legal career options. A JD degree is offering legal candidates more employment options than ever, including positions as legal operations managers, regulatory and compliance analysts, contract managers or contract specialists, all in high-growth practice areas such as cybersecurity and privacy law.

Tech savvy lawyers are also applying their knowledge and expertise to expanding fields such as litigation and eDiscovery support.

Some other examples of alternative careers include legal recruiting, legal firm administrators, risk managers as well as conflict resolution managers or mediators, just to name a few others.

Charles Volkert: That’s great Jamy and that really confirms what we are seeing with many, many corporations using consulting solutions and hiring individuals with JDs as part of their overall career. We really appreciate your insights. We will return to our discussion after a quick break.


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We offer a wide range of resources to assist hiring managers and job candidates, including our annual salary guide, industry-leading workplace research and valuable interactive tools. For more information, call us at 1-800-870-8367 or visit


Charles Volkert: Welcome back to the Robert Half Legal Report. I am Chad Volkert and joining me today is Jamy Sullivan, the Executive Director of Robert Half Legal.

Before the break, we were talking about hot practice areas, hiring trends, and expanding opportunities for legal professionals. Now I would like to talk about the effect of these trends on employer’s recruiting and retention practices.

Jamy, what are some of the challenges legal employers may face in 2019?

Jamy Sullivan: Competition for skilled legal professionals is expected to intensify in 2019. In fact, 91% of lawyers said finding skilled legal professionals is either somewhat or very challenging, followed by 44% of lawyers said a shortage of qualified candidates is the greatest challenge for their law firm or their company when they are hiring.

To combat these challenges, many legal employers are involving their staffing strategy to include hiring legal professionals on a temporary or a project and consulting basis.


Benefits to this include increased flexibility, of course cost effectiveness. It also helps organizations adjust their staffing levels to meet fluctuating caseloads and access specialized skills and experience that maybe they don’t have internally.

It also enables the organization to really evaluate an interim worker’s skill set in real time to determine if that’s somebody suitable to bring on full-time.

In a recent survey conducted by our company, attorneys said that they expect to fill 22% of their open positions with temporary or project consulting hires. According to research conducted for the Robert Half Legal 2019 Salary Guide, lawyers cited litigation support as a type of legal work that was often outsourced to lawyers as well as legal research and then followed by document review and contract work that they outsource to lawyers.

Charles Volkert: Thank you Jamy, a lot of great information there. How is the market demand affecting salaries?

Jamy Sullivan: Legal professionals with in-demand skills and expertise are seeing competitive salaries as well as enhanced benefits. According to our 2019 Salary Guide research, legal positions that are reflecting some of the highest paying salaries annually include lawyers in law firms with ten plus years of experience within those key in-demand practice areas, general counsel, in-house counsel as well as compliance directors.

In addition to competitive pay and healthcare benefits, legal candidates look for employers who can offer flexible hours, alternative work arrangements as well as annual or even biannual bonuses, a defined career path as well as professional development opportunities.

In response, employers are using compensation strategies to both attract this talent as well as retain top talent. Higher salaries, again those annual as well as spot bonuses are key. Retirement savings plans as well as profit sharing programs are often a few of those examples.

Employers also are looking at expanding their health related benefits and this might be in the form of paid time off or again those flexible work arrangements to attract that as well as to retain those legal professionals.

Charles Volkert: Excellent Jamy, thank you. What do employers need to be most concerned about within today’s hiring environment and the complexity of that environment?

Jamy Sullivan: Indeed. Employers need stronger recruiting and retention strategies in today’s candidate-driven market. Typically, both firms and corporate legal departments are looking for individuals of course with specialized skills, a certain number of years of expertise. Once they find those candidates, hiring managers need to act quickly to extend job offers or they are going to risk losing those potential candidates to other employers. That’s not at all surprising in the current strong hiring market that we are in.

Law firms and legal departments are stepping up their retention efforts to encourage that they keep their most valued professionals as well as minimize that risk of having them recruited away by another organization.

However, a recent Robert Half survey revealed that employers and workers are not in sync on popular office perks. Workers ranked bonuses as their most desired incentive; in fact 77%, when they were considering job offers. However, only 44% of employers said that they offer an annual or a biannual bonus.

Profit sharing plans, sign-on bonuses, those were also highly sought after by candidates; however, only 33% and 19% of employers respectively offer such rewards.

Beyond the compensation, the perks, those incentives that legal professionals value the most, our research shows that lawyers cited flexible work arrangements as their top incentive that they were offering, followed by professional development opportunities and then company perks such as dry cleaning on-site, a fitness center on-site or even childcare, as well as challenging work assignments rounded out the top incentives.

Charles Volkert: You know Jamy, that’s very interesting because a lot of those statistics support the major retention buckets that a lot of clients think about, but I also know that many clients ask us what else are other companies or law firms doing that really help them retain talent, maybe outside of the box a little bit. Could you share any insights about those?


Jamy Sullivan: Definitely Chad. Legal organizations should pay particular attention to retention of Millennials. They are playing an increasingly significant role in today’s legal workplace with a large number of baby boomers retiring.

Key retention strategies for Millennials include focusing on their values and the interests. They have the feeling or the desire to be included. They are averse to isolation. They want to make sure they feel like they are being a part of a team. By providing regular as well as frequent and constructive feedback, this can also help with the retention of Millennials.

They want to make sure they are on projects that allow them the opportunity to interact with clients as well as then they are getting continuous exposure to development and training.

All in all, Millennials often seek out work that is meaningful and being a part of a healthy legal culture with work-life balance. Even the ABA has provided some real critical factors that can help a law firm or a corporation with a successful retention program for Millennials.

Collaborative planning of strategy and values is one. Again, those opportunities for recognition. Third, emphasis on the relationship building; and lastly, really a new one that we are hearing in the market is work-life integration over work-life balance.

Other retention tips, improving on-boarding as well as orientation process with new lawyers, allowing them an opportunity early as well as often to connect with their peers and their mentors, and of course providing opportunities for those new hires to spend time connecting with the staff and working with the staff.

These are all aspects that Millennials are definitely continuing to look for and they want to make sure that they are feeling that motivation and they are being recognized and being driven by those employee contributions that they are making.

From the employee perspective, providing them career advancement opportunities, it gives them a path and allows an opportunity for them to envision how their career can grow and then again this encourages them not to leave the organization. And by offering promotions to employees that demonstrate they can succeed at the next level, all of this and implementing all of this can continue to boost morale and retention.

Charles Volkert: Outstanding insights, Jamy. I am sure our listeners were taking as many notes as I was about all of the great information regarding retention and how we can plan effectively to keep our best individuals throughout 2019 and beyond.

Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our program for today, but a special thank you to Jamy for joining us.

Jamy Sullivan: Thank you Chad.

Charles Volkert: Before we close, I would like to let the audience know how they can contact you and where they can obtain more information that you discussed today.

Jamy Sullivan: Any of our listeners can reach me at my email, which is [email protected].

Charles Volkert: Excellent. And our listeners can also reach me at [email protected].

You can also visit the Robert Half Legal website for additional information on legal career and management resources, including our latest Salary Guide for legal professionals, at

Thanks for listening and join us next time on the Robert Half Legal Report as we discuss important trends impacting the legal field and legal careers.


Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Robert Half Legal, Legal Talk Network, or their respective officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.


Thanks for listening to this podcast. Robert Half Legal connects highly-skilled candidates with the best positions in the legal profession. If you liked what you heard today, please remember to rate us in Apple Podcasts. Also, follow Robert Half Legal and Legal Talk Network on Twitter or Facebook.

Join us again for the latest information in the next edition of the Robert Half Legal Report, here on the Legal Talk Network.

Robert Half is an equal opportunity employer, including minorities, females, people with disabilities and veterans.


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Episode Details
Published: March 1, 2019
Podcast: Robert Half Legal Report
Category: Legal Marketing
Robert Half Legal Report
Robert Half Legal Report

The Robert Half Legal Report covers the latest trends affecting the legal profession.

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