Uptick in law firm hiring?

Is the U.S economy on its way to another recession, so soon after the last? Did we ever really get out of the last one?

Add the latest employment and salary survey by Robert Half Legal, the legal recruiting firm, to the list of contradictory economic indicators.

The survey of several hundred “senior lawyers” in firms and in general counsel offices around the country found that the hiring market had picked up. Firms were having increasing difficulty finding experienced associates in busy practice areas like litigation, commercial transactions and health care.

Salary ranges for the most experienced lawyers, those with 10 to 12 years experience, had actually gone up three percent in the last year. This shouldn’t surprise. Firms, especially the very largest, have been assiduous in protecting profitability, lest high producing partners head for the doors and join competitors willing to pay more. But to a very great degree, firms have been able to do this by cutting administrative staff, associate attorneys and even in some instances partners.

Now, the work flow seems to have picked up enough in some practice areas to cause firms to hire the lawyers who actually much of the work – associates with several years of experience.

The Robert Half survey was national in scope, but its results roughly track the situation in the Philadelphia region. There has been a slow firming up of the hiring market in the region. But young law school graduates haven’t yet seen the benefit. And overall, the road back has been, how to put it, a grim slog.

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