Unsurprisingly, we are seeing things slow to an average pace concerning legal hiring. In 2021, it was a feeding frenzy for corporate associates, with law firms cranking out deals, pay raises, and even handing out associate positions without interviews. Today we see the market sector even out, normalizing to more pre-pandemic levels. 

Larger U.S. law firms have been experiencing a drop in demand over the past year; those firms are more likely to be focused on rightsizing than hiring new talent. 

Regardless of how the economy is currently performing, some firms are looking to hire despite it all. Of course, various factors contribute to whether or not firms in a particular area are hiring, and national trends aren’t always an exact mirror of how things are going everywhere. 

In Wisconsin, legal professionals admit the past two years have been solid in legal hiring. Attorneys based in Wisconsin don’t seem concerned about a downturn yet but remain prepared for any type of shift in the market. They are also confident that firms will continue to hire even if a downturn does occur.

In-demand practices that do not revolve around the economy are still steadily hiring, such as:

  • Litigation
  • Privacy
  • Data security
  • Employee benefits
  • Tax
  • Intellectual property

So, is legal hiring slowing down? It depends on where you look and who you ask. For example, law firms in California or New York, where shortages of qualified attorneys have been an ongoing problem, are steadily seeking out talent on virtually all levels.

Location Matters  

Job opportunities vary from state to state; legal careers are no exception. Research revealed that Washington, D.C. is one the best areas to live if you are a lawyer. States like California and New York regularly search for individuals to fill legal positions, so they present more job opportunities for budding or young talent.

Wisconsin presents a unique scenario for attorneys looking for work. The badger state is seeing steady hiring in the legal field. Those currently working in the WI legal field seem optimistic about the outlook for legal hiring in 2023. Wisconsin is experiencing an ongoing labor shortage, so firms will likely be more eager to secure and retain talent.

Is Legal Hiring slowing down? 

Here’s what our Legal Recruiters are saying and their outlook on hiring in 2023.

“The majority of in-house legal teams in SE Wisconsin operate relatively leanly and never returned to being overstaffed following the last recession. While there may be less movement generally in 2023 than there has been over the last two years, when positions are open due to retirement or movement on a team, I think in-house legal teams will continue to hire. Whether they add new headcount may be another story, and we will all be watching as we get deeper into the year. I have not heard whisperings of any great slowdowns or cuts among my clients. As always, it is critical for attorneys to be well-networked and prepared for sudden market changes, but I don’t believe we are at the point where the sky is falling just yet. While the last two years were unusually strong, I think we will settle back into a more normal landscape. The fact remains that we still are suffering from a general labor shortage, and that runs across industry.”

Carrie Booher, J.D.-Business Development Executive

“There seems to be a little hesitation amid fears that we are going into a recession or even that one has already started. With that said, we still have clients that are actively hiring based on growth and are optimistic that even if there is a downturn, it won’t be impactful enough for them to stop hiring. If you are looking to make a move or just like to keep your ear to the ground, don’t shy away from listening to potential opportunities.”

Tim Mostowik – Sr. Attorney Recruiter

“Coming off the last three years, law firms were in a hiring frenzy. They couldn’t hire enough attorneys fast enough. During the last half of 2022, we saw a slowdown in terms of billable hours and revenues at many law firms. With corporate practices slowing down considerably (M&A for example), there looks to be an uptick in areas like restructuring or litigation. Firms that have been well-managed will be in a position to capitalize on great opportunities. While some firms are slowing down, there are others that are coming off another record year – and for some, 2023 is forecasted to be better than 2022. The hiring market exploded the last three years and 23’ seems like we will move back to a more normal hiring market. Still plenty of opportunities, but not the frenzied pace we’ve been accustomed to the last couple of years.”

Nate Bogdanovich- CEO

“The last two years have been exceptionally strong in legal hiring, and I think 2023 will bring a change toward pre-pandemic hiring trends. Legal departments will continue to hire when there is attrition but will not be as likely to add headcount, especially in industries more strongly affected by a downturn or uncertainty in the economy. I believe there will be fewer in-house opportunities available to junior and mid-level lawyers than we’ve seen in the past two years and a stronger preference for local candidates. Law firms will continue to hire and especially in highly specialized areas such as employee benefits, intellectual property, and privacy. Except for these highly specialized practices, we’ll be seeing firms be more selective when assessing candidates, and both law firms and in-house departments will be less likely to offer opportunities for remote work.”

Marina Novakovic – Senior Recruiter