April 2014 Legal Industry Jobs Report

sci-aprilSpring forward: 192,000 Jobs Added in March

The most recent jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that March employment rose by 192,000 jobs. Private sector jobs added last month have surpassed the numbers in December 2007, the highest numbers since before the recession. All jobs lost in the 2008 financial crisis have been recovered, making this a milestone for the economy. However, despite a gain in jobs added, the national unemployment rate remains at a stagnant 6.7 percent.

Unemployment numbers have declined by 1.2 million from 2013 to 2014. The unemployment rate fell .8 percentage points. On average, 183,000 jobs were created each month, and March’s figures exceeded that number by 9,000.

700 jobs added in legal services

The sun is shining and weather is no longer a burden on the job market. Numbers are picking up speed and the Professional and Business Services sector is growing. The sector added 57,000 jobs in March, which is in line with
its monthly average of 56,000 jobs created. Although legal services added no jobs in the Month of February 2014, 700 jobs have been added in March 2014.

Temporary Help Services experienced the largest growth in March with the addition of 28,500 jobs. Since March 2013, temporary employment levels
have grown 9.6 percent, the largest year-over-year increase in temporary hiring since July 2012.

Higher hiring numbers could lead to higher wages

Due to an influx of resumes over the past few years, employers have had little incentive to raise their wages. The lack of available jobs in the US has made
employee retention easy. But with hiring numbers picking up speed, could this be the turning point for wages in America? Wages fell by 1 cent in March,
but according to the BLS, they’re still up 49 cents from last year.
All in all, March shows a steadily growing job market. These numbers prove a strong finish to the first quarter. It’s predicted that we will see faster
growth for the second quarter, which will eventually lead to a solid year of growth for the US job market and economy.

Portrait of an Indispensable Administrative Professional

administrative professional sitting at desk on the phone taking notes

Happy Administrative Professionals’ Day! For the past eight years, I’ve focused my recruiting practice on placing administrative support professionals. As a result, I’ve gained an appreciation for indispensable administrative professionals who take a firm or executive to new heights.

I recently visited with Anne Steward, one of the most impressive administrative professionals I’ve met, to understand the traits and behaviors administrative professionals must demonstrate to set themselves apart from the pack. After 13 years as a legal secretary at an Am Law 100 firm in Chicago, Anne recently relocated to Washington, DC and now supports four lobbyists at a non-profit. Here’s some insight as to the characteristics that led Anne to become indispensable.

What do you think makes someone successful in an administrative role?

I think there are several things you really need to focus on to be outstanding at this job. First, it’s very important to be team-oriented. Even if you work for the rainmaker of the firm, you have to be willing to pitch in when you’re needed. The support of your team will prove to be invaluable, and the relationships you form with your colleagues are an important ingredient of success. Another crucial component of success is to set your own personal goals. Obviously in a support role, you’re going to learn the goals and systems of the person you’re supporting. But make sure you’re also setting professional goals that you want to hit. For example, after supporting the litigation department for a number of years at my former firm, I knew I wanted to learn a different practice area, and so I worked hard and then was granted a request to support the construction law area, which gave me the opportunity to learn real estate law. Lastly, I think it’s really important to be open to where management wants you to serve your organization. If your supervisor wants you to move to support a different group or executive, embrace that change and get as much exposure as you can!

What’s a tip that you would give to an admin looking to excel and move forward?

I think one of the best things I would recommend is to pursue all the training you can, especially in the technology field. I remember our firm working on a project with MacPac, a document automation software system, and some of it went completely over my head. So I approached my supervisor and asked if I could go to a further training on the software. He agreed, and by me taking the initiative to gain expertise in it, I was asked to train others and soon became the lead on the project we were working on. I was granted permission to take advanced training courses in Visio, PowerPoint, Excel, and many other programs, and I feel that set me apart and prepared me well to advance.

It sounds like you were able to develop your skills to be in a position to train and lead others. What leadership skills do you think are most important in a role like yours?

The most important leadership skill I have picked up is that you truly have to acknowledge and ask for help when you need it. Some people are fearful to ask for help, thinking that it makes them look incapable, but your coworkers are your allies! As I mentioned before, being a team player yourself is vital in the workplace, but it’s just as important to lean on others when you need to as well. It’s also important to learn how to approach others; recognize who you should be reaching out to and respectfully ask to borrow their expertise or have them teach you a new skill.

What do you enjoy most about being an admin?

I have found that an administrative support role is a great fit for me professionally. I like supporting someone so that they can absolutely excel at what they do. I’ve also enjoyed all of the things I’ve been able to learn in the role. By supporting an individual or team in a certain practice area, you really pick up on a great deal and learn more about what your personal interests are. For example, I learned in the law firm by supporting different areas that I was specifically interested in policy and government affairs, and that led me to pursue my M.S. in non-profit management. Now in my role at the think tank, I’m able to use both my administrative experience and my academic pursuits to be the best I can be in my role.

If you’re an administrative professional, follow the advice of someone like Anne who’s been in your footsteps, and see how incorporating these strategies can propel you to new heights within your organization. If you’re a colleague of an admin, understand where you can support your teammate and how you can help them develop. And finally, if you’re looking for someone talented to fill an admin role in your office, look for some of these qualities when you make a hiring decision – and consult the experts at Special Counsel to help you find the right administrative professional for your firm or corporation!

Six Powerful Cost-Containment Strategies for Law Firms and Legal Departments

As a legal professional, your expertise is what fuels your practice’s success. However, there are many factors – lack of operational efficiency, a poor understanding of law firm economics, and excessive business overhead – that can slow it down by reducing your profitability.

At Special Counsel, we help law firms and legal departments enhance their business results — not just by delivering top legal talent, but by delivering insight and best law firm management practices gleaned from our 25+ years at the center of the legal industry.

Here are some proven ways you can contain costs, boost operational efficiency and enhance profitability in your practice or organization.

Report and keep track of your financials

1. Report and keep track of your financials.

One of the main reasons why expenses get out of hand is because they aren’t being tracked. Many firms and departments wait until the end of the year to scour their books and attempt to understand their financial situations. However, at that point, it is too late to make corrections and implement improvements.

If you have in-house accountants and finance experts, speak with them to find out how you can gain real-time visibility into your financial situations. If not, explore software options that can track, maintain and report on your financials at all times. 

Achieve the right staffing mix

2. Achieve the right staffing mix.

If you are paying your attorneys to perform duties that can be performed by paralegals or legal assistants, you are probably paying an unnecessary premium.

Talented, experienced legal support professionals can handle many of administrative and operational tasks that your junior attorneys may be undertaking today at a fraction of the cost. Plus, by utilizing support professionals more often, you can free your lawyers to focus on high-value, high-grossing priorities instead of more menial tasks. You could also reduce your attorney headcount – and contain attorney staffing costs – overall.  

Hire a legal operations manager

3. Hire a legal operations manager.

Today, there’s a lot more that goes into running a law practice than practicing law. You need to manage budgets, people, investments, contracts and real estate. That’s why, according to the Corporate Executive Board, 80 percent of large legal departments now have legal operations managers. These professionals focus solely on the critical operational activities that typically fall outside the purview – and strengths – of a traditional law firm’s managerial team. By having someone dedicated to these tasks, you can continually gain operational efficiencies and improve cost containment throughout the year without distracting you from your core focus – winning clients and cases.

With many legal teams already employing legal operations managers, and with many more looking to add them, it can be a challenge filling a legal operations manager job. Consider leveraging the connections of experienced legal recruiters to help you find the right candidate for your firm or office.

legal department spend efficiency

4. Make selective investments in technology.

Technology can help you gain process efficiencies, but they come at a cost. Thus, not every software, app, tool or platform is the right solution for every challenge or every firm.

Thus, you should look for technology solutions that fit your goals, vision, size and budget.

If you are a larger firm with many offices throughout the country, perhaps an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution would be right for you.

If you handle lots of files, explore the potential of shifting from manual paper and printing workflows (which can be expensive) to more streamlined and cost-effective electronic document storage and retrieval systems.

If you perform a lot of document reviews that require your supervisors to travel to meet with reviewers, learn more about SightManager, an innovative document review management tool.

cost containment strategies in legal departments

5. Don’t pay unnecessary business overhead costs.

One of your budget’s biggest line items is your real estate. If you have a large office – or many offices – but the space isn’t being used optimally, consider reducing your square footage in order to reduce your expenses. This approach is especially prudent if many of your staff members work from home or are routinely out of the office on client visits or in the courtroom.

Of course, there are times when you do need to add office space. For example, if you have to conduct a large eDiscovery or Managed Review project, you may need the room – and resources – to accommodate all of your files and personnel. In these instances, you can rely on flexible, scalable facility solutions that give you the space you need, when you need it, without forcing you to pay for it when you don’t.

Expand your expertise on cost efficiency

6. Expand your expertise.

While cutting costs is important, there is another way to enhance your profitability – by enhancing your services.

Instead of referring clients to other practices, why not service their needs? Consider adding practice area professionals in specific disciplines to meet the specific needs of your clients and add to the value that you can deliver while generating additional revenue. These practice area professionals can be added on a full-time basis, or you can hire contract attorneys and professionals to support seasonal requests like tax law

For more proven tips you can use to contain costs and improve operational efficiency in your law firm or department, contact your local Special Counsel office.

A Taxing Situation: Time To Make A Move?

file folder with income tax tab

I recently spoke with an attorney candidate who was considering a corporate associate position at an AmLaw 100 firm in Miami. The candidate lived in NYC and was making $210,000 in her current role. The Miami offer was $155,000. The candidate, like most candidates, was focused on comparing the salaries of the two positions, and, on the surface, the Miami opportunity looked like a huge pay cut. But, when you factor in the amount of state taxes the associate is currently paying in NY, plus a lower cost of living in Miami, the Miami offer is actually a raise for the candidate.  As shown in the image below from CNN’s cost of living calculator, $210K in NYC is the equivalent of a salary of $101K in Miami.

salary in miami

Most job seekers are like the candidate above and concerned with finding the most lucrative position but often overlook how taxes and cost of living impact the quoted salary for a position. In order to really compare competing compensation packages for positions in different states, job seekers must consider the applicable tax rates of the states in which the positions are located as well as whether the state has an income tax.  Jobs in states that have the highest tax burdens are automatically going to mean less take home pay in your pocket. Positions located in areas with low tax burdens and low cost of living mean an instant boost to your paycheck!

For your reference, here are the states with the highest and lowest tax burdens for 2014 as well as the states without a state income tax.

Highest Tax Rates Lowest Tax Rates No Income Tax
New York Wyoming Alaska
California Alaska Florida
Nebraska Nevada Nevada
Connecticut Florida South Dakota
Illinois South Dakota Texas
Wisconsin Washington (State) Washington (State)
Vermont Texas Wyoming
New Jersey Delaware  
Iowa North Dakota  
Maine New Mexico  

Sources:  States Without an Income Tax; What US States Have the Highest and Lowest Taxes?

Additionally, I recommend using a cost of living calculator to evaluate the salaries in two markets.  Finally, check out the following jobs we have available in tax friendly states and contact us to hear more about how you can make more money just by moving!

Legal Jobs in Florida:

Legal Jobs in Texas:

Ready to make your next career move? Contact your local Special Counsel office today!

Legal Market Spotlight: Jacksonville, Florida

jacksonville-florida-skyline-river

Jacksonville, Florida: We all know that Florida conjures up images of sun, surf, and seafood. But did you know that Jacksonville offers all that AND sweater weather, bonfires, changing leaves and brisk fall football games? One of the most diverse cities in Florida, Jacksonville truly offers something for everyone. Home of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (Florida-Georgia football game), the Jaguars, The Players Championship, Jazz Fest, and boasting rivers, lakes and the ocean, Jacksonville appeals to a variety of pursuits and interests. A thriving music scene supports local artists and has produced Lynyrd Skynyrd, Limp Bizkit, Cold and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

It may also come as a surprise that Jacksonville is actually the largest city in the continental United States by land mass at over 800 square miles, and also the 14th largest city in the US by population. This creates an area that offers big city opportunities with a remarkably small town feel.

The median age in Jacksonville is 36 years old which is younger than all major cities in Florida! A burgeoning number of young professionals have fueled Jacksonville’s growth. Lured by low cost of living, beaches, golf, no state income tax and the opportunity to have a year round healthy lifestyle while still enjoying a change of season, legal professionals are seizing Jacksonville opportunities.

Jacksonville’s economy is growing in strength every year and 2014 is showing an economic rebound that tops the state of Florida. The legal community is one well entrenched with the local community. Corporations continue to flock to Jacksonville because the low cost of doing business. Several AmLaw 100 firms are headquartered in Jacksonville and a number of large, regional firms have offices in Jacksonville as well. In addition, Jacksonville has a plethora of prospering large and mid-sized firms that are unique to the city. The local Association of Corporate Counsel thrives in this market, and the city is proud to have major corporations with operations in Jacksonville such as Adecco North America, Fidelity National Information Services, Bi-Lo LLC, CSX Transportation, Deutche Bank, CIT and Rayonier and PHH Mortgage. Just check out some of Jacksonville’s notable recent accolades:

• #3 on “Ten Best Cities to Find Employment” by Forbes Magazine.
• #1 on “Best U.S. City to Start a Business” by Wallethub.com.
• #16 on “Top U.S. Economies” list by On Numbers Economic Index.
• # 5 in “2013 State Business Tax Climate Index” by The Tax Foundation.

So pack your bags and come see for yourself what this fantastic North Florida city has to offer!

Read more »

Four Tips and One Trick for Better Professional Headshots

male-photographer-from-subject-povWith the culture of social media and real-time sharing of photographs through Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and most recently, a more prominent positioning on your Facebook news feed, I think it has become increasingly more important to “put your best face forward” so that you can feel confident about the pictures you share (and the ones featuring you that others share).  How many of us have been to a networking event or conference where pictures are uploaded in real time (and occasionally with hashtags) for all to see?  And we all know that a good LinkedIn picture can speak volumes about who you are professionally. 

The most frequently verbalized compliment I have received in the last several years of my life has been, without a doubt, “Chrissie, you are so photogenic!”  After some reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that being photogenic is really more of a learned than an innate trait.  As such, I wanted to share some of the tips I have picked up to ensure you are putting your best face forward in photos, including a trademark “trick” I have come to be known for among my circle of friends and colleagues.

1. Dress the part. 

In a professional headshot, make sure that you wear a color that won’t blend in to the background.  For example, if you know the backdrop is going to be grey, I’d recommend wearing black or a bright color so you don’t blend with the background.  For women, veer away from big, bold or busy prints;  choose a color that compliments your eye color (blues and greens stand out), and keep jewelry simple.  Signature jewelry pieces are fine, but make sure they don’t take over the photo! Simple jewelry always works.  For men, jacket and tie are always appropriate; bring a few tie options to see what looks best.  Layers are a good idea for men; although polo shirts are fine if your business or industry tends to be more casual.  But always make sure your shirts and jackets are wrinkle-free.  And if you wear glasses daily, wear them in your photo!

2. Practice your look

It might sound silly, but practice a few times in front of a mirror (preferably in the privacy of your home) so that you can see what smile and look suit you the best.  Do you have a better angle?  Get to know it, and use it when being photographed!  Make slight adjustments if you need to, including turning your body and placing your arms in different positions and seeing what you like best.

Read more »

Lessons Learned: Valuable Career Tips from our President, Laurie Chamberlin

career-in-business-lesson-drawn-on-blackboard-with-chalk
Whether you’re just starting your career or you’ve already been in business for years, there is always something to learn. My career path was anything but ordinary. I started out as a litigation paralegal because I was not certain if I wanted to go to law school. Fast forward 9 years and I was a billing paralegal manager, figuring I should give law school a shot. Fate intervened and Special Counsel recruited me to their DC branch office. Through a series of opportunities including a change in business units, I find myself in my current role. Along the way, I’ve had success, made lots of mistakes, and I continue to learn each day. Here are the top 10 lessons I learned.

1. Take every task seriously.

Although some of your initial responsibilities may seem mundane or unimportant, if you do not take them seriously, no one is going to trust you with more substantial or rewarding work.

2. The easy way isn’t.

Procrastinating on unpleasant tasks takes up far more mental space and time than if you tackle these things first. It makes everything easier in the long run.

3. Own up to your mistakes.

We all will make mistakes. Some are a minor glitch and some are significant. Regardless, own them. Your quick reaction and getting assistance where appropriate will help facilitate learning, mitigate the issue and in the end, garner more respect from your colleagues and superiors than avoidance or finger pointing ever could.

4. Just because it sounds like a good idea on paper, does not mean it will work.

Some of the best ideas simply do not work. It does not mean it is a bad idea, but the reality is that if something isn’t working, the sooner you can identify it and abandon it, the better. Digging in can be a costly error.

Read more »

Trends in eDiscovery: Information Management

san diego ediscovery special counsel office

With each passing week, the amount, location, and complexity of data grows exponentially. Employees carry your company’s proprietary information all over the globe by way of laptops, flash drives, tablets and mobile devices.  Your server space dwindles as thousands of emails with Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoints are sent each minute.  Essential older electronically stored data is purged by IT departments looking to create space on servers.  In litigation, the opposition’s counsel continues to turn their focus towards claims of destruction or spoliation when they are not succeeding on the merits. Potential lawsuits and exposure for your company or client are around every corner  and you are constantly trying to save money all the while staying up on the latest trends and case law. Well, I just made one part of your life a little bit easier. In this new blog series, we’ve put together the Top Ten trends in eDiscovery, and why you should get up to speed. To kick things off, let’s talk about Information Management.

Read more »

March 2014 Legal Industry Jobs Report

SCI-JobsReport-March175,000 Jobs Added in February

As economists prepared for the release of the BLS’ “The Employment Situation – March 2014” report, they remained cautiously optimistic. After all, in November, total nonfarm payroll employment had risen by 274,000 jobs, one of the highest monthly totals of 2013 and the economy had recovered 5.4 million of the 8.7 million jobs lost during the recession.

When the BLS released its most recent jobs report on March 7th economists were surprised yet again. Rather than remaining stagnant or declining further, total nonfarm payroll employment actually surged in February, rising by 175,000 jobs. The nation’s civilian labor force also continued to improve, increasing by 264,000 and total employment rose by 42,000 jobs.

Read more »

Legal Market Spotlight: Atlanta, Georgia

atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia: known affectionately as “the ATL” and “Hotlanta;” home of the Braves, Falcons and Hawks; and – with the eighth-largest economy in the country and a metropolitan area of roughly 5.4 million people – the cultural and economic king of the South!

Atlanta’s growth, fueled by highly-educated professionals, low costs of living and doing business, and of course the spectacular weather, shows no signs of slowing and Atlanta’s legal market is no exception.

Atlanta continues to be one of the country’s fastest growing legal markets and has emerged as one of the best lateral associate markets in the country.  Many AmLaw 100 firms are headquartered in Atlanta and a number of others have offices in Atlanta.  Atlanta is also a popular home to the headquarters of numerous Fortune 500 companies, such as Home Depot, Coca-Cola, UPS, and Delta Airlines.  In fact, only New York and Houston have more.  Just check out some of Atlanta’s notable recent accolades:

Interest piqued?  If so, here are a few suggestions to help you best savor Atlanta’s renowned southern charm whether you’re interested in making Atlanta home or just soaking it in for a weekend away.

Where to Stay

The St. Regis Atlanta stands out as the crown jewel among luxury Buckhead hotels.  Located just a few miles from downtown Atlanta, the St. Regis is an impeccably groomed “in-town” resort with a gracious, residential feel. The remarkable hotel bar and outside patio area make the St. Regis one of the best people watching spots in Buckhead.

Loews Atlanta Hotel is a trendy, vibrant and contemporary option in the heart of Atlanta.  The corner suites on the higher floors are large, quiet, and provide a nice panoramic view of the city.

If you’re looking for something unique, the Artmore Hotel in midtown Atlanta (in the middle of Atlanta’s Cultural Arts District) is an independent boutique hotel that prides itself on delivering a personalized guest experience.  The Ellis Hotel in downtown Atlanta is another boutique option for those looking for an alternative to cookie cutter chain hotels.  Historic and intimate in size, yet sleek, the Ellis is within convenient walking distance of restaurants, major corporations, must-see attractions and athletic arenas.

Where to Eat

Bacchanalia offers the city’s most memorable dining experience.  Featuring a seasonal menu of mostly-organic contemporary cuisine, the experience doesn’t come cheap, but is consistently spectacular.  Six Feet Under Pub & Fish House (in Grant Park or West Midtown) offers delicious fare, casual ambiance and a cool crowd.  Not to mention the best outdoor dining views in Atlanta. Ask a locale Atlantan where to find the best Mexican food, and you’ll undoubtedly be pointed to the Nuevo Laredo Cantina, a hole-in-the-wall joint in the industrial district off of Chattahoochee Avenue that has become the stuff of Atlanta legends.

If you love brunch – and who doesn’t! – try Park Tavern near historic Piedmont Park.  The large park-side dining area serves a simple menu of breakfast favorites like eggs and southern biscuits and is also dog-friendly.  Cafe 458 serves a gourmet brunch prepared by guest chefs from all over the city with all the proceeds going directly to support the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency, a nonprofit agency whose mission is to help homeless men and women achieve self-sufficiency.

Where to Drink

Article 14 is a favorite Midtown establishment and the perfect place to meet up with a business associate or colleague for an after work cocktail.  The Brewhouse sits in the heart of Little Five Points, one of Atlanta’s most eclectic neighborhoods, and is the ideal spot for watching games and people.  Red Brick Brewing (formerly Atlanta Brewing Company) is a local brewery that bottles Atlanta’s favorite local beers and opens its brewery doors for public tastings each Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (5pm-8pm), and Saturday (2pm-5pm).

Finally, if afternoon tea is on the agenda, check out the traditional afternoon tea at the The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead featuring seasonally-inspired tea sandwiches, pastries, and warm scones along with tea in the English tradition.

What to Do

Atlanta is certainly not lacking in entertainment options.  For sports enthusiasts, the Braves, Hawks and Falcons all put the “Hot” in “Hotlanta.”  The Georgia Aquarium is the world’s largest aquarium with a ridiculously varied collection of creatures in 6.3 million gallons of water.  Piedmont Park, located in Midtown is Atlanta’s most iconic green space and offers basketball, tennis and bocce courts, a dog park, green market, an aquatic center, playgrounds and a fishing lake.  Centennial Olympic Park, a legacy of the 1996 Summer Olympics, is the centerpiece of the city’s tourist district.  The Tabernacle, an intimate church-turned-concert venue and the outdoor Delta Classic Chastain Park Amphitheater are both unforgettable settings to catch a night of music.

Where to Live

Relocating to a new city is an exciting, but nerve-wrecking time.  But good news! Whether you’re searching for great schools, accessible transportation or a happening restaurant or entertainment scene, Atlanta is brimming with dynamic communities that have plenty to offer. A few of my favorites include: College Park, Collier Hills, Decatur, Duluth, East Atlanta, East Point, Inman Park, Lawrenceville, Midtown, Old Fourth Ward, Peachtree City and Smyrna.

Please contact Brian Weyhrich at brian.weyhrich@specialcounsel.com if you have any questions about the Atlanta legal market.