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Industry Reports in 2014 Provide Clues to the Surge in In-house Attorney Jobs

08/01/14

Industry Reports in 2014 Provide Clues to the Surge in In-House Attorney Jobs


Recently, we have been witnessing a surge in the demand for in-house attorney jobs and the shrinking of many traditional law firms, or those unable to adapt fast to shifting dynamics in the legal market. And it seems the word is clearly out that in-house law departments of big corporate companies are increasing in size the worldwide, and this is no isolated trend in the U.S. In fact, the trend has become so strong that top U.S. law schools are rethinking their educational strategies, while law firms are trying to upgrade their operations to be more friendly to corporate parameters.

Thomson Reuters In-House Counsel Survey Reported Headcount Growth in 2014

In February this year Thomson Reuters published the results of their In-House Counsel Survey. They interviewed nearly 600 in-house attorneys for studying law department trends and needs. The results were stunning and showed that at least 50% of corporate law departments surveyed had increased the number of employees over 2012 and 2013, at a time when law graduates were finding significant difficulty in finding law firm jobs.

The survey also found that for each corporate law department that decreased their budgets over 2012 and 2013, there were two that actually increased their budgets. That's a 2:1 ratio in favor of increasing budgets in corporate law departments.

The survey clearly showed businesses are increasing the amount of legal work to be handled in-house. Therefore, the surge in in-house attorney jobs, at least in the U.S., remains no mystery.

The EMEA Legal Department Benchmarking Survey 2014 Shows a Whopping 60% Rise in Headcount in Corporate Law Departments in Countries in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Since 2010

The EMEA Legal Department Benchmarking Survey 2014, published this July and conducted by Laurence Simmons, shows that in-house teams in the world outside U.S. experienced a 60% growth since 2010, and the trend is expected to continue as companies keep trying to build their in-house capacity and reduce external spending in legal services. In fact, the report observed that in a marked shift of attitudes from 2012 and 2013, when close to half of the surveyed companies expected in-house headcount to remain static, this year none of the companies expected a drop and 65% expect an increase in the numbers of their in-house attorneys.

The Stanford Law School Considers the Implications for Legal Education in Consequence of the Growth of In-House Legal Departments

The growth of In-house legal departments in the U.S. has become so evident that ignoring it is unrealistic. The academia is rightly concerned and in April 2014, the Stanford Law School conducted a discussion (webinar) titled "The Power Has Shifted: The Growth of the In-House Legal Department and Implications for Legal Education." In introducing the theme, the law school said on their announcement page "The in-house bar has grown significantly in both size and stature over the past decade and the needs of the corporate legal department have galvanized changes throughout the profession. But so far, little has been said on the possible impact of this shift on legal education. Are there substantive changes that should be made to legal education to better capture the new dynamic of the corporate law practice? What should the role of the in-house bar be in the ongoing debate of the education and training of young lawyers? Does the in-house bar have a professional duty to engage in the education, training, and development of young lawyers more than it traditionally has?"

When the Stanford Law School considers such questions as significant enough to consider remodeling legal education, it's time to wake up and realize there are as many or more in-house attorney job openings out there than ever before. For law firms, it means they have to adapt and do it fast in order to survive, and for attorneys, it means working in-house is no more an alternative but a mainstream option that needs to be cultivated.

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