Editor: What factors should corporate counsel consider when developing a legal staffing strategy?
Volkert: The practice of law has become a global endeavor, requiring a wide range of professionals to collaborate in a fast-paced, pressure-filled environment. The ability to smoothly integrate projects and caseloads can add tremendous value to a legal department's level of service. Many corporate counsel are managing rising workloads and reducing outside counsel costs by as much as 30-50 percent through the strategic use of their own staff in combination with project professionals, such as attorneys and paralegals. When assembling a project team, it is important to formulate a plan that includes a staff assignment list, objectives and deadlines. Identify the skills required by the team and whether the expertise is available internally or if outside assistance is necessary. Also consider logistics, such as if the team will work at individual desks or in a specific area of the office, if it will handle all activities for the project, or if it will need to coordinate with outside counsel, and what requirements there will be in terms of new technology, equipment, supplies and other materials.
Editor: What developments in the law have had the greatest impact on legal staffing in 2008?
Volkert: Research conducted by Robert Half Legal for its Future Law Office research project shows several economic and demographic trends are making it more challenging for hiring managers to attract, groom and retain top legal professionals. Decreased law school enrollment, a shortage of talent in high-demand practice areas, increased lateral movement, higher attrition rates, greater demand for flexible work arrangements and a sizeable number of attorneys on the verge of retirement has intensified competition for talent. As a result, corporate legal departments as well as law firms are reevaluating the way they hire, motivate, promote and retain top performers. They are developing and implementing policy changes to meet the needs and priorities of today's legal workforce.
Charles A. Volkert is Executive Director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada. For a free copy of the Future Law Office white paper, please visit www.futurelawoffice.com.