At Robert Half Legal, the legal staffing division of Robert Half International, one Bay Area recruiter tells us that the outlook for contract jobs is looking up.
Monica Tobin, a Robert Half Legal recruiter who places all levels of lawyers, says that from where she sits, law firms of all sizes are super focused on clients. “They are in a mode where they need to preserve all their clients,” Tobin said. “They basically have been able to retain a lot of work through being very flexible.” And she’s seeing that flexibility translating into higher demand for contract attorneys -- partners and associates alike -- than for permanent lawyers. (Though she notes some bright spots she's seeing for the latter, too, below.)
How speaking German, or other languages, fits into the picture, after the jump …
In Silicon Valley, the myriad micro-boutiques that have popped up during the downturn have been hungry for contract lawyers, Tobin said. And she’s seen a slight uptick in demand for them in litigation, especially of the employment, patent prosecution and commercial varieties. Ditto for contract attorneys who can speak a foreign language. “We’ve seen demand for Mandarin, Korean, German and Japanese” in the last six months.
Still, certain things never go out of style.
There’s some demand for permanent attorneys with a book of business in any kind of litigation, Tobin said.
And as the first quarter of 2010 unfolds, she expects lawyers with experience in regulatory and compliance practices, bankruptcy, foreclosure, energy and environmental law to be most sought after for permanent posts. “We’re seeing a slight uptick in construction litigation positions in the East Bay,” she added. The hardest candidates to find continue to be in IP, she said, with patent prosecutors with an electrical engineering degree and more than three years of experience in especially high demand.
Robert Half predicts salaries for staff and attorneys to stay flat or decline in 2010 across the nation. Though that’s not great news, Tobin said, legal professionals here continue to be paid on average more than in other parts of the country, with San Francisco salaries about 35 percent above the national average, and Oakland about 27 percent above the national average.
— Petra Pasternak