Majority of Legal Departments Prefer In-House Talent

April 3, 2018 – Legal recruiting generally has been booming this year. Lawyers employed by government agencies in particular have been on the move as a result of changes in government administrations. Employment for lawyers is projected to grow 10 percent through 2022. Demand for legal work is expected to be robust as individuals, businesses and all levels of government require legal services in the U.S. and internationally as global economies expand.

Special Counsel, a full-service provider of legal staffing, and eDiscovery solutions  today released the results of its first ‘In-House Legal Trends Survey,’ a comprehensive look at how in-house legal departments are structured, how they are hiring and what their priorities are for the year ahead. Over 500 in-house counsel, including general counsels and chief legal officers completed the survey questions on topics related to talent acquisition resources, legal budgets and national and local salary data, including an examination of diversity and gender gaps.

As 2018 unfolds, in-house legal departments are seen to have a strong desire to bring more talent in-house. Sixty-five percent of the respondents to the survey said they would prefer to bring additional talent in-house instead of relying on outside counsel. Nearly one third of respondents (32 percent) would consider using contract attorneys during their continued search for an appropriate full-time hire.


Holden Richardson Lands Chief Legal Officer for Stoneridge
Winnetka, IL-headquartered executive search firm Holden Richardson recently placed Thomas M. Dono as the chief legal officer of Stoneridge in Novi, MI. Brad Holden, the firm’s president, led the search along with Alex Richardson, executive vice president.


“Our expertise in the legal space allows us to provide niche solutions that help in-house teams compete in this tight labor market,” said Laurie Chamberlin, president, Special Counsel. “Whether ready to add headcount or in need of a temporary hire, we work closely with our clients to understand their unique staffing needs and offer the most appropriate fit.”

The economy is at one of its strongest points in years and the employment of lawyers is projected to grow eight percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. For the legal professionals surveyed, the Special Counsel study found that over half said they are planning to grow or would consider growing their department in 2018.

What Law Professionals Want

Salary was not the biggest draw for talent, with only 13 percent of respondents citing compensation as a top reason for working at their current company. On the other hand, benefits like flexible work arrangements (23 percent), as well as long-term growth opportunities (23 percent) help make a difference for employees. The right mix of salary and benefits may be contributing to strong tenure within legal departments, with nearly half of respondents saying they have been at their current job for six years or more (48 percent).


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The general counsel role has been vital for companies maintaining an international presence. “The role and stature of the general counsel position has expanded globally,” said Paul Williams, a partner in MLA’s Chicago office.


“Monetary compensation is only one piece of the puzzle,” said Amanda Ellis, senior vice president, Special Counsel. “Following suit with other industries, in-house legal departments are now offering alternative perks to compete for and retain talent.”

Talent acquisition continues to be a pain point for in-house legal departments, with over half of respondents (56 percent) sharing they are not confident in their HR or talent acquisition department’s ability to staff attorney positions, citing a lack of expertise. Alternatives such as a retained search firm, external contingency recruiters, and internal and external referrals continue to be used as positive talent acquisition resources throughout the industry.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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