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Job Market Booming

Demand for Attorneys Rising

The Wall Street Journal dubbed it a “labor rebound.” CNN Business wrote, “The silver lining for workers after a hellish year? A jobs boom.” A CNBC headline shouted, “Jobs report blows past expectations.” The Associated Press reports, “California employers are adding new jobs at a record-breaking pace.” And pulled no punches, “A Hiring War: Companies and Firms Duke It Out for Top Talent.”

Before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, online job postings were level at about 10 million, but as lockdowns and shutdowns unfolded, available jobs quickly plummeted to below 6 million.

But as vaccinations take hold and continue to spread, society and businesses are opening up with vigor. “Now, as vaccinations increase and companies are again able to make projections,” reports Ben Popkin at NBC News, “they’re staffing up to capture booming demand, with the number of open positions across all online listings soaring 5 million above the pandemic’s start.” Many employers, across most professions and industries, are engaging in aggressive recruitment efforts and large job fairs.

The legal profession is a standout in this major employment and career boom. Sara Merken at Reuters writes, “Highlighting the rebound in hiring for lawyers following the pandemic's initial shocks, new data shows a dramatic increase in available jobs for lawyers looking to join a law firm.”

As an example, let’s take a look at how associates have fared in the job market over the past two years. Research from the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research found that associate hiring took a massive hit between 2019 and 2020, dropping nearly 50%. In concert with this study, the American Bar Association “reported data showing full-time legal employment for new graduates dipped by 2.6% from the class of 2019 to the class of 2020.”

But what a difference a year makes. Across the legal playing field, deal volume hit record highs this year and the demand for attorneys skyrocketed. Reuters also reported that law firms are boosting “base pay as competition for junior talent stays fierce.” In fact, news reports and studies are reporting that “many firms are now scrambling to attract and retain associates… Some firms have increased base pay for associates… and a raft of firms announced special bonuses.”

Leopard Solutions, a major legal industry database, reports that “Firms need to plan ahead now about how to hold onto their lawyers in anticipation of their people potentially being poached to other firms." Leopard’s CEO, Laura Leopard, wrote in a statement, “For those firms seeking new hires, be creative and look beyond the top 100 firms to small and mid-size firms.”

In fact, throughout all segments of the legal industry, aggressive recruitment and hiring is a major initiative—and sometimes a battleground. Take in-house attorneys for example. “Corporate legal departments and law firms are waging a battle for legal talent that could shape the future of the in-house world,” writes Philip Bantz of In many cases, “the in-house side is losing the recruitment tug-of-war as Big Law leverages eye-popping bonuses and the ability to work remotely to lure and retain top-notch lawyers.” The desire for hiring high quality people coupled with fulfilling diversity plans runs through the industry like a main circuit cable. One New York recruiter refers to in-house hiring as “the Wild West.”

With the job market booming and law firms growing, the competition remains great news for attorneys throughout the profession. Experts believe the hiring battle is here for a good long while. The retention of existing talent as well as the hiring of new talent has become of utmost importance—as evidenced by the fact that many major firms have created a top level position of Chief Talent Officer or CTO. These individuals focus their attention on initiatives aimed at garnering outstanding lawyers to join the firm and ensuring that the best and the brightest don’t leave. Their philosophy is simple yet powerful: Talented individuals have always been the backbone of any great organization and in this hyper-competitive market that’s true more than ever.

Superior Legal & Executive Recruitment

At SELR, we provide world-class recruiting and placement services to all of our clients and candidates. We’re not a legal job posting site—we’re a strategic, data-driven recruitment partner for our talented candidates looking to change career direction in meaningful ways. Our law firm clients and companies trust us implicitly based on our experience and our ability to deliver the right candidates for the right position. Fueled by this extraordinary job market, we can make it happen for you.

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