A Quick Look at the In-House Staffing Trends in 2018

To understand this evolving legal hiring landscape, Special Counsel recently (2017) fielded 500 interviews from corporate law departments to find out what the in-house staffing trends are in 2018. The responses came from 37 cities across the country. Presented here are the “big picture” trends we’re seeing on hiring and staffing solutions for America’s corporate legal departments.

In-House Staffing Trends in 2018: Our Report

Corporate Law Departments as the New Career Destination

As the top corporate law jobs continue to grow in power, stature, and compensation, in-house positions have become increasingly desirable career options.

Legal professionals value the idea of a balanced career, with room to grow. When asked about the major attraction of working at their current company, the highest percentage of corporate law respondent votes were cast for “Flexible Work Arrangements” and “Opportunity for Growth”—each of which received 23 percent of the survey vote.

“In-house legal departments in the United States now… rival large law firms as a destination of choice for talented lawyers,” said Harvard Law School Professor David Wilkins. Noting the growing influence of in-house attorneys, Prof. Wilkins described a “profound” restructuring of career mobility patterns and status hierarchies in the legal profession.

Striking a Strategic Balance Between Internal and External Resources

For CLOs in 2018, ACC data indicate that:

  • ~33 percent will increase the work they send to outside counsel
  • 47 percent expect the amount of work sent to firms will remain unchanged
  • 17 percent expect to decrease their spend with outside counsel

Not surprisingly, litigation continues to be heavily delegated to outside lawyers. As the ACC survey found, “Complex litigation remains the most common type of work outsourced, with 90 percent of CLOs outsourcing it. While still a strong majority, this is a decrease from last year, when 97 percent reported outsourcing complex litigation.”

There are instances, however, of corporate law departments taking on discrete litigation projects. For example, approximately two-thirds of respondents prefer to bring more legal talent in-house, rather than relying on outside counsel. CLOs also are actively outsourcing patent services and eDiscovery matters to law firms. But for the most part, CLOs prefer to hire staff for general corporate work, intellectual property, and commercial contracts.

And corporate law departments are devoting more budget resources internally. In its Law Department Management Report[3], ACC reported these responses to the question:

“What percentage of  corporate law department budget is spent internally?”

  • Nearly 60 percent in smaller companies (those with less than $100 million in gross revenue)
  • 56 percent in large companies ($3 billion or more in gross revenue)

Corporate Legal Department Staffing: Trends For The Era of the Chief Legal Officer

In this era of the Chief Legal Officer, what staffing solution should you be implementing? Read the paper to find out.

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