The United States Law Week

INSIGHT: Legal Recruitment Professionals—There’s a ‘War for Talent’

July 11, 2019, 8:00 AM

It’s summertime, and legal recruiting professionals around the country are busy. Law firms are filled with summer associates and on-campus interviews will begin in a few weeks. If you have been in the market for a new recruitment professional you know how difficult they are to find. There is an ongoing “war for talent.”

Legal recruiting has seen a tremendous uptick in new roles over the past year. Since January 2019 alone, we have received 33 new positions, representing 40% of all new jobs.

For the first time in my 23 years of placing recruiters into law firms, we have many more jobs than experienced candidates. As for junior recruiter roles, for the first time since 2007 we are seeing an active market for new grads.

Every two to three years, Wisnik Career Enterprises surveys recruitment professionals around the country and compiles the findings in the Wisnik Law Firm Recruiting Industry Snapshot. These Industry Snapshots provide insight into salary, responsibility, and hiring trends for legal recruiting professionals. The 2019 edition is based on the survey responses of 508 legal recruiting professionals from top law firms in six major markets: the Bay Area, Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia.

Their responses show some interesting trends that validate what we’ve been seeing in the hiring market:

  • 42% of respondents say their department size has increased; only 12% say their department size has decreased;
  • 42% of respondents were promoted with a title change in the last two years;
  • 17% of respondents are new to the industry and joined recruiting in the last two years.

Having placed more than 500 recruitment professionals into more than 70 law firms, I can attest that if you are looking to add top recruitment talent to your team, it’s important to know the market for the level you are looking to hire at, both in terms of candidate credentials and salary averages.

The 2019 Industry Snapshot provides additional insight into legal recruiters’ experience and the current market rates for salary:

  • Nearly 30% of recruiters have either a graduate degree or JD;
  • The average manager has more than 11 years of experience in law firm recruiting;
  • 47% of respondents have been in legal recruiting for more than eight years;
  • Salaries vary significantly based on location—NYC directors came in as the most highly paid at $234K on average vs. $145K for Philadelphia directors.

Comparing our most recent survey with the 2016 version, salaries have been rising across markets:

  • Chicago had some of the biggest salary increases, with directors seeing an average increase of 22.4% and managers seeing an average increase of 21.5%.
  • In New York, managers saw the largest increase: 7.6%, from an average of $126,461 up to $136,130.
  • In D.C., exempt coordinators had the biggest jump in salary: a 12.6% increase, with an average base of $75,050.
  • Assistants have also had big increases in salary across markets (5.3% in New York, 9.4% in D.C. and 7.3% in Chicago). This holds with what we’ve seen in the job market for junior talent—for the first time in years, recent grads are in a candidate’s market, and firms are offering higher starting salaries to attract them.

If you are to hire top recruiting talent to help your growing law firm, I highly recommend being in the know on these market trends. And if you already have great recruiting talent, do whatever you can to keep them.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

Eva Wisnik is president and founder of Wisnik Career Enterprises, a training and placement firm for the legal community. Since founding the company in 1996, she has placed more than 800 marketing, recruiting, and professional development professionals into top law firms and has conducted more than 625 training programs on topics ranging from interview training to time management.

To read more articles log in. To learn more about a subscription click here.