We are frequently asked questions by candidates about what trends we see in the legal hiring market. Reflecting on the past year, it’s clear that 2014 brought some new and interesting issues to the legal market. Outsourcing and insourcing models became a hot topic for conversation with Torys making the first move in Canada to open a satellite office in Halifax. Another key issue that continues to develop is the discussion regarding alternative business structures for law firms as the decision to allow this business model in Ontario would certainly have an impact on the firm model.

Here are the trends we think will influence hiring in the legal market in 2015:

Strength of mid-sized and boutique firms: We saw an increase in hiring among the mid-sized and boutique firms in 2014 and expect that this trend will continue in 2015. These firms have been active in building up their ranks at both the associate and partner levels and continue to attract clients who may be looking to cut costs. Click here for an article that discusses some of the advantages of working at smaller firms.

Specialists in demand: The old advice that becoming a specialist in an area of law will be beneficial to your career development continues to hold true. In particular, we expect to see a demand for lawyers with expertise in the areas of commercial real estate, intellectual property and certain specialized areas of litigation including class actions, fraud and anti-corruption. For M&A lawyers, we have seen an uptick in the hiring being done by major U.S. firms and therefore remain hopeful that the Canadian market will follow this trend which could mean an increase in hiring in the M&A space this year.

Growth of non-equity and counsel positions: 2014 saw the increase of non-equity and counsel positions in larger firms and again, we expect that this trend will continue as everyone continues to be concerned with the bottom line. Counsel positions are unique in that they offer more flexibility which can be appealing to both the firms and the lawyers. These positions come with reduced pressure to engage in client development activities, which can often be a reason that candidates seek to leave private practice for an in-house position, and lawyers in counsel positions can also focus their efforts on developing their legal expertise.

Importance of client development: As the traditional corporate and M&A market has slowed in recent years, we have seen an increased emphasis on firms looking for candidates who bring more than just legal expertise. Firms are looking for those candidates who bring a book of business when they move. As a result, it is more important than ever for junior lawyers to start thinking about client development early in their career. For many juniors, this can mean getting involved with start-up businesses, staying in touch with contacts you met in law school, and finding a firm that will be invested in supporting you as you develop these clients. A book of business can provide a safety net for your career that cannot be found anywhere else.

The legal market has been inconsistent for a few years and it seems that this pattern may continue; however, there is lots to watch for in 2015. No one can predict what the future holds, but 2015 certainly promises to be interesting.

Carrie is the President and founder of The Heller Group. She specializes in the recruitment and placement of partners and senior lawyers into major law firms, as well as general counsel and senior counsel roles for national and multi-national corporations. In her spare time, Carrie enjoys travelling, yoga, trying out new recipes, and spending time with her husband and two young daughters.

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