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Survey: One-Third of Lawyers Expect to Increase Hiring of Entry-Level Associates

March 23, 2015

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The job market for newly minted associates is showing signs of improvement. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of lawyers recently interviewed for a Robert Half Legal survey said their law firm or company plans to increase its hiring of entry-level associates in the next 12 months. Five percent of lawyers said they expect to decrease hiring while60 percent anticipate no change in hiring activity.

While job responsibilities may vary, certain skills are deemed essential for new associates. Nearly half (48 percent) of lawyers surveyed said analytical or critical thinking abilities are the most important skills for entry-level lawyers to possess, aside from legal knowledge. Interpersonal skills ranked second, with 32 percent of the survey response.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Legal, a legal staffing and consulting services firm specializing in lawyers, paralegals and other highly skilled legal professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on 350 telephone interviews with lawyers in the United States and Canada: 175 of the respondents are employed at law firms with 20 or more employees and 175 are employed at companies with 1,000 or more employees. All of the respondents have hiring authority within their organizations.

"As the economy gains strength, law firms and corporate legal departments are expanding their teams to pursue new business opportunities," said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. "While the legal job market has yet to return to pre-recession levels, hiring prospects for new lawyers are improving as employers recruit first-year and summer associates to support busy practice groups." 

To enhance their marketability, job seekers need to highlight in-demand skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving and team collaboration, on their resumes and during interviews, Volkert added. "Pursuing additional training or enrolling in continuing legal education programs can help early-career professionals gain expertise in these areas and excel in today's competitive environment," he said.

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