Whether you are a recent law school graduate, researching summer associate opportunities, exploring entry-level paralegal or legal support positions, or an experienced professional aspiring to transition to the field of law, listen to this program to learn about hiring trends, in-demand skills, search strategies, and career tips to find the ideal legal job.
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Intro: Welcome to The Legal Report from Robert Half, where industry leading experts discuss current hiring and practice management issues impacting the legal profession. Robert Half is a premier provider of talent solutions for the legal field. The Legal Report from Robert Half is here on the Legal Talk Network.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: Hello everyone, and welcome. I’m Jamy Sullivan, executive director of the Legal Practice Group for Robert Half and the host of our program. With me today is Raquel Flores, Vice President of Contract Placement Solutions for our company’s Legal Practice Group. Based in Washington, DC, Raquel has been instrumental in helping to manage and build our contract placement business and has been with our company for more than seven years. She has received recognition for her leadership efforts as well as her work on pilot programs and internal task forces.
Raquel, welcome to the program. I’m so delighted you could join us today.
Raquel Flores: Thank you for having me today. I’m very excited and honored to be joining your podcast. Really looking forward to spending some time together.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: Great. Today, Raquel and I will examine strategies that can help you jump-start your career. For those of you who are maybe re-entering the legal field after an extended absence or a recent law school graduate, or maybe you are exploring entry level paralegal or legal support positions, or you are an experienced professional looking to transition to the field of law. We will discuss current hiring trends in demand skills, search strategies, and tips that can provide momentum to achieve your job search and career aspirations.
Raquel, I’m sure many of us recall times when we needed some motivation to re-energize our work or a course of action to move forward. For legal professionals who find themselves in that very position, what should they understand about how to achieve forward momentum?
Raquel Flores: This is a great question, and super relevant to the current trends I’m seeing. Whether from my peers, my friends, or just scrolling through social media, it feels like since the pandemic, everyone has needed that boost of motivation. And in my experience, you first have to recognize that you need a jump-start. In order to get where you are going, you need to take actions to re-energize and propel yourself forward.
Jamy, I’m not sure if you knew this, but I have run two marathons in my lifetime. First, Easter Island, Chile and the second was Athens, Greece. Something I can share is that preparing yourself for the run is probably more challenging than the marathon itself. And similar to those searching for positions or looking for a change or looking to close the gap on your resume, the first step is recognizing that this will be a journey. You need to be motivated and willing to take actions that will get you to wherever it is you want to go.
Next, clearly identify where you want to go or what you want to achieve. A good exercise is to put pen to paper and plan out these goals. I’m a list person. I have learned that by writing all of my ideas and goals down and reorganizing based on my priorities has helped me achieve long term success with the goals I set forth.
Next, you’ll want to understand business landscape realities that could aid or hinder your ability to attain desired goals. Then you’ll want to research skills, competencies, and experiences that are required. Make sure you’re leveraging your experience to enhance your credibility in the legal field.
And finally, develop a comprehensive plan to achieve your goals. Maybe that’s updating your resume, reviewing your network on LinkedIn to see who might be able to help you, or reaching out to a recruiter.
Obviously, the process becomes a lot more complicated once you begin work on these five steps, but they form the critical foundation for revitalizing your career.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: Raquel, that’s very helpful groundwork, and I have to say I did not know about the marathons, so we’re going to have to save that for another conversation. But I also will say, I’m very much a list person as well, and that has helped me with career goal setting as well as achieving just priorities throughout the day and the week and the year. So, thank you for sharing those tips.
Raquel, you mentioned the importance of understanding the current business landscape as you map out those goals and action plans. Can you elaborate further on those for our listeners?
Raquel Flores: Absolutely. For the most part, if you want to energize your legal career, it’s critical to recognize what hiring trends are, what areas of law are growing, what skills and experiences are in demand, and what changes are expected in the legal field in the years ahead.
So, to really optimize for long term success, your career path should align with those business realities, and you should plan accordingly. For example, the 2023 Salary Guide from Robert Half Reports that employers are seeking lawyers, paralegals, and legal specialists with knowledge and experience in commercial law, estate planning, litigation, just to name a few. Additionally, legal professionals with expertise incompliance, corporate transactions, mergers and acquisitions are in high demand.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: And I would add it’s projected that new and emerging areas of law driven by technology will continue to grow. For example, data privacy and cybersecurity, liability issues associated with smart technology and artificial intelligence applications and drone technology, just to name a few areas. So, let’s pivot to demand. Raquel, what skills and knowledge are in the greatest demand today, and can you cite any particular skills that legal professionals should focus on for the long term?
Raquel Flores: Absolutely. I’m seeing high demand for specialized legal expertise, so this includes industry or sector knowledge in financial services, healthcare, pharma, manufacturing, and technology. Legal professionals need to be tech savvy, so being familiar with litigation support, document management, or E-discovery is key. What’s always in demand is a broad range of tech skills. So that could be anything from Microsoft Office, Office 365, Google Workspace, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, also some legal softwares, so those could be the contract management systems, collaboration platforms and comprehensive data literacy.
And as we’ve seen, following the pandemic, legal employers are placing a premium on interpersonal or soft skills that includes verbal and written communication, analytical and critical thinking skills, eagerness to learn, creative thinking, empathy, ability to work on a team and collaborate. So those looking to refresh their careers and gain advantage for future success should focus on strengthening these capabilities.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: Well, I know that I have to agree. A lot has come out of the pandemic with those interpersonal skills, so I appreciate you really elaborating on those insights. Whether you’re just entering the legal field or an experienced veteran, what other strategies are key to gain that momentum in your career plans?
Raquel Flores: In addition to seeking out opportunities to hone your tech skills, knowledge and capabilities, it’s really important to commit to continuous learning, whether that’s formal education, certifications, professional development programs for entry professionals that could be internships and externships. So, seeking mentorships and mentors can also guide you through your career plans, giving you the ability to achieve your desired goals. So consider tapping multiple mentors, for example, one to help you identify and pursue career growth opportunities.
Another to advise on strengthening skills and capabilities, another to help you with your networking connections. We also are seeing more people return to in person networking events and virtual networking events. These really give you the ability to access wider platforms, including different associations that you may not have been able to interact with before.
And speaking of these networking events building and strengthening your connections are invaluable techniques to jump-start your career and explore new legal opportunities. So think about focusing on expanding your network at industry events, community or volunteer programs, social media platforms. Things like that.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: I personally can attest to how important mentors have been to my career path. You’ve provided excellent information so far, Raquel. We have lots more to discuss. But first, a quick break.
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Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: Welcome back to The Legal Report from Robert Half. Before the break, Raquel and I were discussing ways to jump-start your legal career and how to regain momentum to achieve your goals.
Let’s talk specifically about those poised to enter the legal field, whether they’re a lawyer, paralegal, support staff. I very much remember being in this position and seeking direction. Raquel, what can they do to help launch their career?
Raquel Flores: I too remember being in this position. Some of the key actions are some that I actually outlined prior to the break. So, whether that’s commitment to continuous learning or gaining relevant certifications, being tech savvy, using mentors, things like that can really help to optimize your job search. So also, we want to talk about how you can gain experience, right? So, internships, volunteer programs, pro bono work. All helped to really beef up your resume.
About 48%, or nearly half of hiring managers surveyed for our salary guide said that they plan to increase their use of contract professionals in the next year. Contract work is a great way for a variety of companies and law firms to really enhance your skills with different projects. Another is to shadow a legal professional to observe and better understand the realities of the work.
Going back to being aware of trends in the legal field, stay updated on hard and soft skills, in demand, niche or specialization areas that are growing and can offer expanded opportunities. Ensure your resume focuses on career goals, skills, achievements, and make sure you’re really tailoring your resume and professional experiences to those job descriptions, and that you’re really highlighting relevant skills. You can also tap career service offices at industry organizations or educational institutions. Finally, use multiple sources to land a job, that could be online, legal association postings, joining professional groups, or again tapping into your network.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: Well, I remember how valuable it was for myself to do contract work to really figure out which direction I wanted to go to launch my career. So, I believe those are all valuable points that you’ve just shared, Raquel. And it’s a great way for our listeners to think about all the options and the resources out there for them. Do you now have any tips for those who plan to re-enter the legal profession after a period of absence?
Raquel Flores: Definitely. I actually had one of my colleagues in DC share that she was able to successfully place a legal professional that had been out of the workforce for seven years. She was able to do this by networking and working with a mentor to really leverage her connections and the mentor’s connections to advance her search. So, in addition to that, keeping up to date on those current hiring trends are important. So, for example, research what’s changed in the legal profession since you were last employed, what are some in demand positions and specialized skills?
It’s really important, again, to identify a career option that you desire and update again that resume based off of your relevant skills. You should renew, update, expand your professional legal networks by using multiple avenues to land a job. And finally, just be prepared, right? During interviews, make sure that you are able to explain any of those gaps in your legal work history.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: I would agree. And for those who plan to transition to the legal field from work in a different sector, many of the strategies you just cited are also effective. In addition, identify skills and competencies you possess that are relevant to the legal positions that you’re looking at. For example, research skills, a broad range of tech skills as you’ve mentioned previously, or even data security knowledge, accounting expertise or degree may help in tax law practice and even security experience may relate to legal data privacy positions. Assess any of those potential gaps and really work to gain experience in those areas to advance.
And as you develop your resume and apply to job openings, fully leverage and highlight your experience and background in other areas to land your desired legal position. I recently attended a conference and a topic that we came up quite often was around the alternative paths that you could take. So, Raquel, can you talk briefly about alternative legal careers and how to review them if they’re interested in pursuing this career path?
Raquel Flores: Sure. And I would say, if you’ve considered making a career change, there’s never been a better time given the strong hiring outlook for many non-traditional roles. So, some examples of alternative legal careers include legal adjacent jobs, so that could be like legal operations, compliance, risk management, ESG and DEI are also hot areas within companies.
And some other alternative legal roles would include legal writers, mediators, legal researchers, legal tech contractors, just to name a few. So really, to determine if an alternative legal career is the right path, you’ll want to research alternative legal career paths and opportunities, examine skills and experiences that they are requiring, and just look at how to transition your skills to that new role. Also, you’ll want to see what you can do within your current company or law firm to identify opportunities or find a champion to help you take on new roles and gain the new skills that are needed.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: We talked a lot about that last one at the conference and just looking within your own firm or company to expand those opportunities. So, I’m really glad that you brought that point home and really to our listeners, the alternative career paths available out there, isn’t going away anytime soon and will continue to evolve. So Raquel, can you outline effective strategies that legal professionals can use as they begin their job search?
Raquel Flores: Absolutely. Start with the basics. Ensure your resume is up to date and develop a cover letter. And as noted earlier, tailor your resume and cover letter for each job application to emphasize key skills and competencies that relate to the particular job opening. Be sure to include a range of hard and soft skills and attributes and strengths. So, cite examples of how you’ve used these hard and soft skills most relevant to the job you’re seeking, including specific and quantifiable results.
Cast a wide net to learn about job openings. This could be online sites, industry associations and events, colleagues, network connections. It’s really important to regularly monitor these legal job resources and stay current on positions that are available. So, that could include setting up some online alerts to notify you of newly posted openings.
Another big thing is mastering that interview process. Brush up on your interviewing skills. Practice answers to commonly asked questions. You can easily find those online. Consider asking a colleague to provide feedback on your possible interview answers.
And then, following the job interview, you’ll want to make sure to follow up with the hiring manager to thank that person. This action always shows you’re interested in that position and always demonstrates your drive, determination and perseverance.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: I’d say that these are tips that stand the test of time, but appreciate that we’re revisiting getting them for our listeners to realign as they’re doing their job search. I would add for each job application that you submit, research the company. You want to make sure that you understand their workplace culture, values, goals and include that in your resume and your skills and competencies that really align with that organization’s priorities.
I would also recommend updating your online presence, such as your LinkedIn profile. It should match your resume and highlight content and again, those interests that align with your next career search.
Raquel Flores: I would agree with that. I think LinkedIn is so important to the modern job search. So, I would also consider Legal Talent Solution firms to broaden your job search options. I know I personally have successfully placed hundreds of candidates that are in your very same position if you’re looking for a new opportunity. And one last point I’d like to add is, despite today’s highly competitive job market for legal professionals, it’s very important to remember to stay focused and positive.
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: I love that. I would echo that for sure. Raquel, you’ve provided excellent points and insights today, and unfortunately, we have reached the end of our program. Special thanks again to Raquel Flores for joining me today and sharing these valuable tips with all of our listeners. And before we close, how can our audience contact you and where can they obtain more information?
Raquel Flores: Absolutely. I can be reached at Raquel Flores or [email protected].
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD: Great. Thank you again, Raquel. And listeners can reach me at [email protected]. Thanks to our audience for listening today. If you liked what you heard, please rate us in your favorite podcasting app and follow Robert Half and the Legal Talk Network on Twitter and Facebook. And please visit roberthalf.com for more information and resources, including our latest salary guide and demand for skilled talent research.
Join us again for the next edition of The Legal Report from Robert Half here on the Legal Talk Network as we discuss important trends impacting the legal field and legal careers. Until next time, be well.
Female: 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 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.
Outro: Thanks for listening to this podcast. Robert Half is a premier provider of Talent Solutions for the legal field. Robert Half is an equal opportunity employer, including minorities, females, people with disabilities and veterans. Robert Half is not a law firm and does not provide legal representation. Robert Half project attorneys do not constitute a law firm among themselves.