• The 2017 legal market was one of the better legal markets on record. We placed 30% more attorneys in 2017 than we placed in 2016—and 2016 was a very good legal market.
  • While the partner market was healthy, the associate market was far healthier than it has been in a generation. The market is doing well in every part of the country.
  • Provided there is no crash, the 2018 market should be an even better market than 2017.
  • Litigation was surprisingly active in smaller to midsized law firms and very slow in the largest law firms. Large law firms have continued to have reduced hiring in 2017. Large law firms have also started creating more and more staff attorney roles for litigators. We saw numerous law firms do this in 2017 that formerly would have hired regular associates.
  • Niche practice areas remained very popular and the easiest to get jobs in. The more “niche” an attorney’s background, the more marketable they are likely to be. Attorneys in the most niche practice areas that are geographically flexible were almost always able to land positions.
  • For many niche practice areas, it became easier for attorneys to get hired at top law firms than it has ever been. Large law firms are finding a lack of talent for attorneys in many niche practice areas and hiring more and more of them.
  • Corporate generalist hiring was much less robust than it was in the previous years; however, corporate finance has gotten busier.
  • Overall, corporate was extremely competitive to get positions within the largest law firms, but smaller to midsized firms were hungry for attorneys in corporate.
  • Real estate was very slow. There was hardly any activity in real estate all year, and real estate attorneys had a difficult time.
  • More and larger law firms are moving away from employment-related work. Many of those that are not are hiring “staff attorneys” to do the day-to-day related employment work. In an interesting twist, many employment-only firms did a lot of hiring in 2017 and were increasingly demanding the best talent.
  • Trademark is traditionally a “barometer” of a healthy economy with new businesses being started—we saw more trademark jobs in the last month of 2017 than we have ever seen. Many large law firms are hiring staff attorneys to do trademark work, however.
  • Senior level litigators had a very, very difficult time getting positions in larger markets. Litigation is increasingly becoming a dangerous practice area for large law firm attorneys with few opportunities for advancement.
  • More and more millennials seem to be interested in smaller law firms and unconcerned about compensation and leaving large law firms than ever before—many are simply quitting.
  • Diversity has become something that is extremely important to law firms. This has become so important that this year I wrote a book about diversity for law firms and applicants that can be found here: Law Firm Diversity: How Race, Gender, Age, Social and Economic Divisions Impact the Hiring, Retention and Advancement of Law Firm Attorneys

State of the American Legal Market 2017: Hot and Weak Practice Areas of 2017

This annual report from BCG Attorney Search summarizes the recruitment, placement and job search of thousands of attorneys each year in firms throughout the country. I watch our candidates go through every stage of the job search process—from submitting applications to going to interviews, to accepting offers. By closely observing this process and the trends that reveal themselves we get a profound understanding of the legal market and what is in demand in markets and practice areas across the nation.[i]

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