Legal Departments Are Growing, According to Survey

Corporate Counsel Weekly™ helps corporate lawyers get the big picture on the legal challenges facing corporations today. Practitioners can discover trends on the horizon and stay alert to the full...

By Susan Bokermann

March 31 — The legal and compliance industries experienced hiring growth in 2014 and expect it to continue, according to the “Global Legal and Compliance Salary Survey” conducted by Laurence Simons International.

“That is fantastic to see after the long, dark days of 2008-2010 where percentages were abysmal,” Danice Kowalczyk, Laurence Simons' managing partner, North America told Bloomberg BNA March 27.

The March 2015 survey compiles responses from more than 2,500 legal and compliance professionals in more than 70 countries.


At least 49 percent of respondents expect a headcount increase in 2015, Kowalczyk said, adding that it isn’t going to be “crazy growth,” but a measured, consistent growth of 1-5 percent. “But those are quantifiable job numbers.”

Kowalczyk said there is “every indication” that this growth will continue in coming years.

She also said that with this type of growth comes “salary wars,” where employers are vying for top candidates. She said that in-house legal departments need to be aware of these wars or “they simply cannot position themselves effectively for hiring today.”

Hiring Changes

Due to these “closely-fought talent grapple[s],” in-house legal departments are learning valuable lessons about hiring, according to the survey.

“There is a real need to increase efficiency within global hiring departments,” Kowalczyk said.

The in-house departments with the strongest commitment to recruiting are often first to make an offer and hire the best candidate. These departments are learning that “the early bird gets the worm,” according to the survey.

The survey found that more hiring successes were going to those in-house departments who “noticed the air had changed” and were running swifter hiring programs.

Kowalczyk said one of the biggest impediments to hiring is “getting the green light on an actual compensation offer.” One thing legal departments are doing is preparing ahead of time, including what the compensation package might look like, she said.

Legal departments are also streamlining their interviewing process, Kowalczyk said. Namely, they are working in partnership with recruiters and vetting candidates, rather than seeing the recruiters as vendors.

Experts in the field have supported this type of change and innovation in legal department hiring. Jeffrey W. Carr, chief executive officer of One Degree Law LLC and former general counsel of FMC Technologies Inc., has said that traditional approaches to hiring the best candidate will not always result in a legal department getting the best fit for the company.

Being Competitive

Streamlined legal departments allow companies to “do more with less,” according to the Laurence Simons survey.

To be effective in this environment, in-house legal departments can use the survey results to assess whether their base compensation and bonus percentages are on point with the market, Kowalczyk said. Companies also can use this information to gauge their own hiring growth, or lack thereof, as compared to those surveyed, as well as assess whether their practices are structured competitively.

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Bokermann in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan Tuck at

The survey is available upon request at