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Bright Spot in Legal Market: In House Counsel Hiring Up ... Again

By William Peacock, Esq. on October 03, 2013 1:09 PM

Survey says? In-house hiring is up again, with 59 percent of ALM survey respondents reporting an increase in hiring of lawyers in the past year, up from 51 percent last year, and 44 and 39 percent in the two preceding years, reports the ABA Journal. Add it all up, and you have a long-term trend of a growing job market.

As for companies cutting back, only 21 percent planned to do so, down from 24, 28, and 33 percent over the three preceding years. Again, it's a sign of progress for at least one sector of the legal industry. It's not just the one survey either -- HBR Consulting's survey found a 3 percent increase worldwide in companies' total legal spending in 2012, according to a press release.

Bad News for BigLaw?

On the surface, this may mean more bad news for BigLaw -- after all, if companies are hiring more in-house attorneys, that leaves less work for outside counsel, right?

The HBR survey measured outside counsel spending as well, and while inside counsel spending alone rose 5 percent, outside counsel spending rose 2 percent. Interestingly enough, outside counsel legal spending beyond the borders of the United States decreased by 1 percent.

On the bright side, the average hourly rate for the three top-billing firms is $461 in the United States, up from $458 in the last survey.

Fortuitous Forecast?

With the ALM survey showing year-over-year-over-year growth in inside counsel hiring, does that point to continued growth of these departments?

HBR's survey showed that 47 percent of respondents expected increase in demand in regulatory practice areas, 44 percent expected an increase in demand for international legal expertise, and 37 percent forecast increased demand for commercial contracts counsel.

Impact on Legal Job Market

Our best guess? This is great news for lateral and experienced candidates. After all, in-house gigs are typically the domain of BigLaw refugees. And with BigLaw battling for lateral hires to steal books of business, that means those who are a few years out of school, with established expertise, are sitting pretty.

For the recent grads, sorry, but going straight to in house from in school is a pretty rare proposition.

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