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What the future holds for law firm recruiting

published January 07, 2013

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What does the future look like for law firm recruiting? What will the job picture look like for recent law school graduates, experienced attorneys, legal administrators, and support personnel in the coming years? No one knows for sure, but I'll make a few predictions of my own, based on my years of experience in law firm recruiting.
  1. Recruiting will continue to stabilize, and small firms will continue to hire more students than the large ones. I think that law firm recruiting will continue to stay on its current path for at the least the immediate future. During the last few years, there have been few significant changes in the number of students getting into firms. As in the rest of the economy, the smaller firms will continue to hire more people than the large ones.
  2. Big firms will continue to hire only from the best schools. It would surprise me if the big firms altered their paths and started going to lesser-known schools or started to dip down lower into classes by lowering their academic standards. Law firms are just too ingrained in their thinking. The Ivy Leaguers want more Ivy Leaguers.
  3. It's going to get tougher for the bottom of the class. We're beginning to see a polarization in the employment world-there's a gap between those who have fabulous credentials and are willing to make huge sacrifices for work and those who have average or below-average credentials and want to work nine to five. I think you're going to see this polarization in the legal world, too.

  4. More law graduates will work outside of law firms in nonlegal positions. This trend has already begun. More lawyers will work in more nontraditional jobs, or they'll leave law firms eventually. Many people are becoming disenchanted with the legal profession, and others are in it who should have never entered it in the first place. With Generation X and Generation Y entering the workforce, their choices will be different from those of the baby boomers.
  5. Law firms will ultimately have to face diversity issues. Our workforce is going to be more diverse with time. Law firms, which tend to lag behind the times on these kinds of issues, will eventually have to make changes in the way they recruit in order to hire a more diverse group of attorneys. At present, they're light-years away from grappling with this issue. Those firms that face the music sooner will have much better success in recruiting our diverse attorney population. Student members of this diverse population will also have to wrestle with an industry that hasn't gone through puberty on this issue.
  6. Support personnel will continue to face a rosy employment picture. Those in legal support positions, especially paralegal, marketing, and computer professionals, will have an ample supply of jobs available to them in the future. I think you'll also see more J.D.s joining the ranks of the administrators once they figure out that these aren't terrible positions after all. And as the Hudson Institute's study indicates, it is anticipated that service positions will far outstrip opportunities in other fields into the next decade.
  7. Technology will change legal recruiting. Technology will make the recruiting process much faster, and your ability to present yourself on paper or on screen will become even more important than it is today. On-campus recruiting, as we know it today, may cease to exist.
  8. The jobs will be in the smaller firms. Again, as we are starting to see today, the real growth will be in the small firms. More and more jobs, for all types of personnel, will be in these firms. Finding these positions will continue to be difficult, and networking will be even more important than it is today.
No one really knows for sure what the future holds for any industry, especially one that has been on a roller-coaster ride in recent times like the legal profession. The primary purpose is hot to make predictions, but to help you to understand how the legal recruiting process works so that perhaps you, too, can anticipate what to do next. Think about what you want out of life, plan for it, set goals for yourself, and then go out and achieve them. The legal profession has much to offer those who are suited for it and those who go about getting into it through a well-planned effort.

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