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Firms spend average of $12,000 to recruit and train each entry-level lawyer

Newly minted associates may see employers extend more job offers, research indicates. Nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of lawyers recently interviewed by Robert Half Legal said their law firm plans to increase its hiring of first-year associates in the next 12 months, while 67 percent indicated no change in hiring activity and 7 percent plan a decrease.

Not only are law firms recruiting new associates, they are also investing in their professional development. Aside from salaries and bonuses, lawyers who were surveyed said that their law firm spends an average of $12,000 recruiting and training each first-year associate hired, while respondents among the largest law firms (250-plus employees) said their organization spends $62,000 on average.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Legal, a legal staffing and consulting solutions firm specializing in lawyers, paralegals and other highly skilled legal professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on 175 telephone interviews of lawyers with law firms in the United States and Canada. All respondents have hiring authority within their organizations.

Lawyers were asked, “Does your law firm plan to increase or decrease its hiring of first-year associates in the next 12 months?” Their responses:

Increase significantly


Increase somewhat


Neither increase nor decrease


Decrease somewhat


Decrease significantly


Don’t know/no answer




“Job opportunities for recent law school graduates are on the rise as firms look to expand legal teams to support high-growth practice areas, such as litigation, commercial law, and real estate,” said Jamy Sullivan, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “New associates who were ranked at the top of their law school class and possess in-demand attributes such as technology proficiency, business acumen, interpersonal abilities, and team collaboration skills are highly marketable.”

Research conducted by Robert Half Legal for its 2018 Salary Guide revealed average starting salaries for first-year associates at the midpoint of $68,000 in the United States and $62,750 in Canada. The Salary Guide is available for download at

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