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Facts & Figures: Litigation driving hiring at law firms, legal departments

From hiring prospects to a surge in patent litigation, an inside look at the numbers that count

Sobering Statistics

Newly minted law school grads don’t just have each other to fight for jobs. According to a new employment report from the National Association for Placement, a sizeable percentage of graduates from the class of 2012 still hadn’t found jobs nine months after leaving their alma maters. Alums who did find jobs, however, saw their starting salaries jump from the previous year.

12.8% Unemployment rate among 2012 grads as of mid-February, up 0.7 percent from stats for the class of 2011

58% Graduates who have held full-time jobs requiring bar passage for more than a year, up 2 percent from last year

$61,245 National median salary for new graduates, up more than $1,000 from last year

Hiring Hopes

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for unemployed law school grads, though. A new survey courtesy of Robert Half Legal shows that a significant percentage of law firms and corporate legal departments plan to expand in the second half of 2013.

These planned staffing increases are at least partially driven by an increase in litigation work, although employers anticipate difficulties finding lawyers with the necessary skills.

31% Lawyers surveyed who said that their law firm or company plans to add new positions

50% Respondents who said they plan to maintain staff levels by filling empty positions

2% Companies and law firms that plan to reduce the number of jobs

55% Respondents who expect litigation activity to fuel hiring

53% Respondents who reported difficulty finding skilled legal professionals

Litigation Leap

Patent lawyers could find themselves in high demand in upcoming years, if the 2013 Patent Litigation Study from PricewaterhouseCoopers is any indication. According to the study, the number of patent litigation filings jumped significantly in 2012—along with the number of damages awards totaling more than $1 billion.

Part of that increase is attributable to a portion of the America Invents Act that limits the number of defendants that can be included in a single suit. Non-practicing entities, also known as patent trolls, were responsible for more than half of 2012’s patent suits.

5,189 Patent litigation filings in 2012

29% Increase in these filings between 2011 and 2012

3 Total cases with damages awards exceeding $1 billion prior to 2012

3 Cases with damages awards of more than $1 billion in 2012 alone

Rising Rates

Slow and steady does it for law firms emerging from the recession. A joint report from Ceb and TyMetrix shows that law firm rates increased between 2011 to 2012, even managing to outpace inflation. The increase didn’t  quite match up to the jump law firms saw between 2007 and 2008, but it was comparable to the increase between 2010 and 2011.

The lucky practice group experiencing the largest rate jump in the past three years? Real estate lawyers.

4.8% Increase in law firm lawyers’ hourly rates between 2011 and 2012

8.2% Increase in those rates from 2007 to 2008

8.1% Increase in billing rates for real estate lawyers over the past three years

4.9% Increase in rates for law firm partners

Merger Metrics

M&A activity this year hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, and Deloitte may have an explanation. The firm’s fourth annual Corporate Development survey shows that just one-quarter of executives are very confident that the financial forecasts they use to support M&A decision are accurate. The survey results demonstrate the uncertainty of the M&A field and the difficulty predicting the success of deals, Deloitte reports.

Respondents continue to predict an increase in mergers and acquisitions activity, and many reported using social media for M&A deals.

75% Respondents who think they could improve the accuracy of their deal analyses, but are not sure how

43% Respondents who cannot see any pattern in their forecasting mistakes

34% Respondents who use social media for mergers and acquisitions

56% Executives who think that social media can help to identify M&A targets

Alanna Byrne

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