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1 FUTURE LAW OFFICE: The Next Generation Paralegal legal support paralegal services resource Changing Roles and Responsibilities Page 1 New Challenges and Opportunities Page 3 Increased Hiring Activity Page 5 futurelawoffice.com Career Management Strategies Page 6

2 Table of Contents Introduction...1 Changing Roles and Responsibilities....1 New Challenges and Opportunities...3 Increased Hiring Activity...5 Career Management Strategies...6 Conclusion...6 About Future Law Office...7 About Robert Half Legal...7 Appendix A: Legal and Staffing Experts....8 Appendix B: Endnotes...8 All trademarks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

3 Introduction Robert Half Legal s Future Law Office is an annual research program that tracks important trends and developments in the legal field. This year, we examine how law firms and corporate legal departments are responding to economic pressures and changing client expectations. Future Law Office: The Next Generation Paralegal looks at how the roles of paralegals are evolving in this rapidly changing business environment, explores the new challenges and opportunities they are facing, and offers effective career management strategies. The report includes the insights of Robert Half Legal s staffing and recruiting professionals, and features interviews with other well-respected professionals in the legal field. Changing Roles and Responsibilities In a fast-paced and highly competitive landscape, law firms and corporate legal departments are striving to improve the quality and delivery of services while instituting leaner, more efficient modes of operation. As part of these efforts, many employers are asking paralegals or law clerks, as they are more commonly referred to in Canada, to take on additional legal duties and administrative responsibilities, and their roles are becoming more complex and demanding. Hiring Environment Responding to renewed business activity, law firms of all sizes are actively hiring paralegals as they rebuild their support teams to fill gaps created by recession-related cutbacks and expand lucrative practice groups. Law firms are seeking well-rounded professionals with legal and technical skills who can perform a wide range of administrative, human resources or financial management tasks. Corporations also are adding paralegals and law clerks to their in-house teams to bolster internal capabilities and manage more work in-house, including labor and employment, compliance and regulatory matters. In addition, paralegals are being hired to assist with records management, contract administration and lease reviews. Legal departments also are using project support professionals to augment the efforts of full-time teams as they focus on managing rising workloads while reducing their spending on outside counsel. education The current job market favors highly specialized and versatile legal support professionals. When hiring, law firms and corporate legal departments show a strong preference for candidates who have experience working with managing partners, are tech-savvy and have three to eight years of experience in high-demand practice areas, such as e-discovery, litigation, bankruptcy/foreclosure, corporate law, intellectual property and healthcare law. Education In terms of educational background, employers seek candidates with bachelor s or associate degrees and certification or accreditation, such as those from programs approved by the American Bar Association in the United States, or licensing programs in accordance with the requirements of the Law Society Act in Canada. Some firms also require paralegals to be registered with the bar association. Paralegal candidates are advised to highlight on their resumes the specific skills and expertise that make them the ideal fit for a specific job opening so that employers know they can make immediate contributions if hired. hiring environment Robert Half Legal Future Law Office 1

4 Lawyers were asked, Which one of the following criteria is most important when hiring paralegal staff? Their responses: Expertise in highdemand practice area 42% 38% Don t know/no answer 3% Don t use paralegals 2% Other 2% Paralegal certificate 2% Personality/attitude 3% (gets along with others) Bachelor s degree 4% Years of work experience Intelligence 4% Source: Survey of 350 lawyers among the largest law firms and corporations in the United States and Canada. The survey was commissioned by Robert Half Legal and conducted by an independent research firm. Robert Half Legal Future Law Office 2

5 New Challenges and Opportunities There are clearly many new challenges, in addition to opportunities, for paralegals. Tracey L. Young, registered paralegal (RP) and president of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc., notes that paralegals may be reporting to and working with more lawyers than they did before. As is happening in other business arenas, law firms are tightening their belts, and paralegals and support staff are expected to take on additional responsibilities, she says. 1 The move from one-to-one support is possible, in part, because the new generation of associates is accustomed to using technology and, therefore, is much more self-sufficient, says Rita M. Alli, director of business and professional development at Stoel Rives LLP and past president of the Association of Legal Administrators. She adds that some larger firms have experimented with models where groups of first- and second-year associates are supported by one legal secretary. 2 Technology Skills Another significant trend for paralegals is the growth of technology in the legal field and the many opportunities it creates, observes Young, adding that continuing education is a key factor in remaining marketable. Paralegals should learn and stay current with technology and software updates, particularly with respect to litigation support and e-discovery, she says. 3 In today s law office, paralegals should have cuttingedge technology skills, including knowledge of database and legal research applications. Paralegals should be adept at using Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as litigation and e-discovery software, such as Summation, Concordance and Relativity. Certification Paralegals should learn and stay current with technology and software updates, particularly with respect to litigation support and e-discovery. - Tracey Young, RP, president, National Federation of Paralegal Associations Certification in a specific software program or within a practice area is a proven way to stand out, Young adds. Paralegals can gain certification in legal software, e-discovery or family law, for example, or take the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE ) to become a PACE registered paralegal, she notes. Competition for paralegal jobs will continue, and the jobs will go to the better educated and more highly skilled applicants, Young says. 4 Competition for paralegal jobs will continue, and the jobs will go to the better educated and more highly skilled applicants. - Tracey Young, RP, president, National Federation of Paralegal Associations Robert Half Legal Future Law Office 3

6 In addition to supporting a greater number of lawyers, many paralegals are performing more work that was previously assigned to junior associates and doesn t require a licensed lawyer. They also are helping to interview witnesses, prepare trial presentations, conduct legal research and meet with clients. In fact, some firms are hiring senior-level paralegals to bolster their practice groups. Paralegals need to have a can-do attitude and be accessible, accountable, and responsive to deliver results. - Rita Alli, director of business and professional development, Stoel Rives LLP; past president, Association of Legal Administrators Given their more complex and demanding roles, legal support staff should have exceptionally strong project and time management skills. Alli says paralegals also need to be proactive and think beyond the day-to-day tasks outlined in their job descriptions. [Paralegals] can do that by always keeping the end result in mind, anticipating needs, initiating ideas and suggesting how things can be done better and more efficiently, Alli says. Paralegals need to have a can-do attitude and be accessible, accountable, and responsive to deliver results, she adds. 5 Nontraditional Career Path Even considering their evolving roles in law offices, Young notes that it s beyond the traditional setting of law firms where paralegal careers are expanding most significantly. Paralegals also can be found at corporations, volunteer agencies, and in the government and military sectors. In the future, there will likely be an increase in the number of freelance or contract paralegals who are hired on an as-needed or project basis, Young predicts. Some paralegals will use their training and experience to work as mediators or investigators. Some will find themselves involved in legal software sales and training. 6 Communication Skills The paralegal role has increasingly become more client-facing, especially in the wake of layoffs that occurred during the downturn at the junior-associate level, notes attorney Charles A. Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. Of course, this means paralegals should have superlative communication skills, the ability to handle a matter from A to Z, and a strong emphasis on client service. They re often acting as a right hand to the partner on cases, he says. At smaller law firms, paralegals also may take on administrative duties in addition to their legal responsibilities, Volkert comments. The role will continue to evolve, he notes, adding that paralegals with certification or accreditation will have an edge in the job market. The more paralegals can access technical training in a broad sense, especially litigation tools and platforms, the higher salaries they ll receive and the more firms will focus on retaining their best legal assistants, Volkert says. 7 The paralegal role has increasingly become more client-facing, especially in the wake of layoffs that occurred during the downturn at the junior-associate level. - Charles Volkert, executive director, Robert Half Legal Robert Half Legal Future Law Office 4

7 Increased Hiring Activity hiring Increased According to research conducted for the Robert Half Legal 2011 Salary Guide, many firms that consolidated support roles during the downturn are hiring for critical positions. Average starting salaries for paralegals have stabilized and are expected to see modest increases: In the United States, paralegals with 4-6 years of experience at midsize law firms will see the largest salary increases with average starting salaries of $48,250 to $62,500, a 3.7 percent increase over 2010 projections. In Canada, midlevel law clerks with 4-6 years of experience at small/midsize law firms will see the largest salary increases with average starting salaries of $44,500 to $54,750, a 3.7 percent increase over 2010 projections. (For additional compensation and hiring trend information, including a Salary Calculator, visit the Robert Half Legal Salary Center at activity Lawyers were asked, In a competitive job market, which one of the following attributes makes paralegals the most marketable? Their responses: Don t know/no answer 2% Other 2% Paralegal certification or bar 5% association accreditation Associate or bachelor s degree/ 7% associate certificate or diploma Length of employment/tenure 7% 12% 65% Practice area expertise Technological proficiency Source: Survey of 300 lawyers among the largest law firms and corporations in the United States and Canada. The survey was commissioned by Robert Half Legal and conducted by an independent research firm. Robert Half Legal Future Law Office 5

8 Career Management Strategies This is an exciting and challenging time to be a legal support professional. To remain marketable and stand out from the crowd, paralegals should consider the following career management strategies: Conduct a periodic career checkup. Compare your current accomplishments and skills to those necessary to advance professionally. Take classes or online courses to address any gaps. Stay on the cutting edge. Regularly attend legal association conferences, networking events or seminars to stay abreast of developments in the field and to make new contacts. Consider project or pro bono work. Gain valuable work experience and exposure to a variety of law firms, corporations and practice areas by taking temporary assignments or volunteering with nonprofit or legal aid organizations. Tap others expertise. Mentors and other professional colleagues can help you identify in-demand skills. They also can make professional introductions, and may be able to provide job leads. Conclusion The future looks bright for paralegals who continue to update their skills and take charge of their careers. Belt-tightening by firms actually creates new opportunities for legal support professionals who can take on broader roles within their organizations. Our research shows that employers most value expertise in practice areas such as litigation, corporate law and e-discovery. Equally important are technical skills, and these requirements will only grow in importance. Those who keep their fingers on the pulse of the legal profession, and make it a point to acquire in-demand expertise, will have a variety of career options from which to choose. Robert Half Legal Future Law Office 6

9 About Future Law Office Future Law Office is an annual research initiative conducted by Robert Half Legal that examines key trends in the legal profession. This report is based on interviews with experts in law firm and corporate legal department management, as well as our own legal staffing specialists throughout North America and other professionals in the field of law. Our findings also are based on information from legal publications and associations. Robert Half Legal regularly commissions surveys of lawyers on a variety of workplace and legal management issues. Relevant statistics from these studies, which include responses from lawyers among the top law firms and corporate legal departments in the United States and Canada, are cited in this report. All sources consulted by Robert Half Legal are listed in the Appendices. About Robert Half Legal Robert Half Legal is the premier provider of highly skilled legal professionals for law firms and corporate legal departments. The company also offers legal project management and e-discovery services for a wide range of initiatives, including litigation support, mergers and acquisitions matters and document review. Our relationships with leading professional associations include the Association for Certified E-Discovery Specialists, Association of Corporate Counsel, Association of Legal Administrators, and Minority Corporate Counsel Association. Robert Half Legal is a division of Robert Half International, a global leader in professional staffing services since Robert Half Legal Future Law Office 7

10 Appendix A: Legal and Staffing Experts Rita M. Alli, past president, Association of Legal Administrators; director of business and professional development, Stoel Rives LLP Charles A. Volkert, Esq., executive director, Robert Half Legal Tracey L. Young, RP, president, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. Appendix B: Endnotes 1. Interview with Tracey L. Young, RP, president, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc., Dec. 15, Interview with Rita M. Alli, past president, Association of Legal Administrators; director of business and professional development, Stoel Rives LLP, Nov. 24, Young. 4. Ibid. 5. Alli. 6. Young. 7. Interview with Charles A. Volkert, Esq., executive director, Robert Half Legal, Jan. 7, paralegal strategy services legal experts Robert Half Legal Future Law Office 8

11 roberthalflegal.com 2884 Sand Hill Road Menlo Park, CA Connect with us: YouTube 2011 Robert Half Legal. An Equal Opportunity Employer. RHL-0811

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