TRU Staffing Partners’ 2024 Legal Technology Job Market Predictions
In 2023, the legal technology job market experienced a massive recalibration, adjusting to a variety of post-pandemic new normals related to return to office, contract vs full-time hiring, and new variables like the introduction of artificial intelligence, fears of a recession that never happened, and more. 2024 promises to be better than 2023, with a steady stream of hiring throughout legal technology, but with more opportunities and accelerated competition at year’s end. Here are the top ten trends that all hiring managers and job seekers should anticipate in 2024.
A.I. Jobs Get Defined
2023 was a year when a vast number of professionals in a variety of different industry verticals began to brand themselves as having A.I. or A.I. governance experience. But 2023 bore very few externally hired full-time or contract opportunities aimed at capturing A.I. specialization within ediscovery, cybersecurity, or data privacy. 2024 will not be an explosion of A.I. job opportunity, but rather the beginning of a standardization of role definition as it relates to A.I. in the legal technology community. Roles most likely to evolve first are A.I. attorneys in two varieties: attorneys who understand current and future legislative and regulatory rules and requirements related to how a business can or should leverage A.I., and lawyers who have begun experimenting successfully at wielding and integrating A.I. technology into their legal practice. Additionally, expect to see the emergence of governance, engineering, prompt and project management, and C-Suite positions gaining visibility, credibility, and accountability for how organizations integrate artificial intelligence.
Privacy Contractor Staffing Reaches All-Time High
In 2023, privacy programs in corporate America struggled to get the budget and buy-in necessary to meet all their business’ demands and ambitions related to privacy compliance, risk, and opportunity. Over the course of 2023, there was a growing appetite to hire contract talent within the data privacy sector and a growing pool of diverse available candidates. In 2024, hiring managers will continue to face challenges regarding full-time direct hire headcount approval, but many will get permission and budget to hire contractors—some in a fractional capacity. Whether the role is for a strategic leadership position, a privacy engineer or analyst, privacy operational talent, privacy attorneys, or lawyers with some A.I. governance experience, the job market will be flush with both short-term impact and long-term perpetual contract jobs. TRU anticipates for the first time ever privacy contract augmentation will breach 50% of privacy jobs filled over the course of 2024 in the Fortune 1000 and Am Law 200.
Chief Privacy Officers (CPOs) Evolve
Among the hundreds of Chief Privacy Officers that TRU represents, more than three-quarters committed up to 30% of their time in 2023 to addressing questions, concerns, curiosities, and action items related to A.I. within their organizations. In 2024, CPOs will begin to consider negotiating for changes in title and/or compensation to reflect the expanding nature of their roles and responsibilities. In some organizations, this will lead to a completely new role for an existing chief privacy officer, creating much-needed vertical opportunity to promote from within, or companies will hire externally for an impact player with strong privacy leadership to backfill. Other CPOs whose responsibilities expand but titles do not may be the most likely to hire contract privacy talent in 2024 to handle the 30% (or less) of their job for which they no longer have bandwidth.
Three Days or Fewer In-Office Requirement is the New Normal
Requiring three days or fewer in an office from your staff is the new normal. The more fully remote an opportunity, the faster the search, and the more candidates will be available at the employer’s desired salary level. The more in-office an opportunity, the longer the search, and the higher the potential cost for talent acquisition. In 2020, there was an instant shift and subsequent adoption of hiring employees in a hybrid capacity by requiring three days or fewer in an office. In 2015, 94% of jobs filled by TRU required four or more days in an office, but by 2023, 92% of offers accepted required only three or fewer in-office days per week.
The shift to three days or fewer as the new normal has had a dramatic impact on how hiring managers must approach talent acquisition and retention. The top motivator in 2022 and 2023 for job seekers was wanting to primarily work remotely from home—typically triggered by increased in-office requirements at their current employer or the desire to work even more remotely than their current employment arrangement. TRU anticipates the top motivator for job seekers in 2024 to be either more money or burnout, replacing working remotely in the number one slot.
Ediscovery Salaries Go Down, Volume of Jobs Goes Up
In 2023, hiring managers in ediscovery were less willing or able to pay the salary requirements to attract talent in the 6+ years of experience bracket. Instead, employers that successfully filled positions in 2023 asked for fewer years of experience at lower base compensations.
As a result, most jobs in the first half of 2024 will be best suited for ediscovery professionals with fewer than five years of experience. This is good news for junior ESI job seekers, as the high demand and low supply for their skills enabled them to increase their salary by 25–32% over the course of 2023. That means that an ediscovery job seeker currently making $100K in base compensation could negotiate a base salary at a new employer at $125–132K. A job seeker making $80K could easily command $100K+.
There will still be opportunity for job seekers in ediscovery commanding base salaries north of $150K per year. TRU anticipates those opportunities will be scarcer in the first half of the year, but in Q3 and Q4, there will be increased demand for higher levels of experience and a willingness from employers to pay for that experience as macroeconomic conditions improve relative to 2023.
Interest Rates Go Down, Salaries Go Up
With Federal Reserve Chairman Powell signaling that interest rates are not likely to go up any further in 2024, salaries across all industries are likely to begin going back up as interest rates start to come down. So long as interest rates stay the same, job seekers should anticipate that the hiring appetites and salary levels—particularly out of corporations—will also stay the same. The likely decline in interest rates toward the end of 2024 will usher in an acceleration of employers’ approval for headcount spend, budget for contract resources, and greater degree of flexibility to expand salary ranges to capture more experienced talent.
Data Processing Goes Back in House
In 2023, law firms and corporations began firmly making moves to cloud technology adoption for ediscovery. As new cases begin to populate in RelativityOne, DISCO, etc., law firms will begin committing to talent acquisition to leverage cloud technology to generate revenue or decrease costs for their customers. Skills in processing ediscovery data—specifically in RelativityOne—will be in high demand in 2024 and will provide opportunity for ediscovery professionals early in their career to move from vendors to law firms or from small firms to large firms. The diminishing profitability of processing and hosting data for ediscovery vendors is increasingly placing the value of using third-party service providers on their project management and customer service capabilities.
Customer Service Becomes Competitive Differentiator Again in ESI and Cyber
As the ediscovery and cybersecurity software community continues to consolidate in 2024, access to the same tools and technology will become even more democratized. Service providers in the ediscovery and cybersecurity spaces will be forced to focus on elevated customer service and client experience to compete. Law firm and corporate customers of service providers will place increasing pressure on their vendors to deliver an experience that not only yields positive outcomes, but also a positive feeling that engenders confidence along the way. A continued industrywide de-emphasis on “who has the best black box technology” will shift expectations for law firms and corporations toward who has the best people and process.
Privacy and Security Engineering Jobs Regain Momentum
Unlike the ediscovery software ecosystem, the data privacy space is highly fractured with an array of ever-changing options from SaaS providers. More corporations will be investing in integrating new third-party privacy software within their enterprise in 2024. Additionally, big tech’s massive rally in the stock market in 2023 should lead to internal job creation for privacy engineers as profit predictability stabilizes and demand for products increases. The passing of global legislation that continues to regulate privacy, security, and now A.I. will also create demand for talent in the engineering sector. Corporate America, but specifically Big Tech, had never experienced the volume of reduction in force layoffs of engineering talent that occurred in 2023, especially at more senior levels. 2024 will offer much more opportunity, but for engineers it may be in the form of contract or contract-to-hire modalities to start.
Be Fast, Be First, Win Talent
In 2024, how quickly an employer extends an offer to a candidate could be the most important variable in ensuring acceptance. In 2022, only 45% of job seekers accepted the first offer they received. Conversely, 75% of job seekers accepted the first offer received in 2023. 2022’s manic job market created so much opportunity that candidates of all experience levels had multiple offers at the point of hire. 2023 and much of 2024 will leave job seekers with fewer options than 2022, making the value of making the first offer more impactful. At the end of 2024, and for much of 2025, employers will be forced to hyper-accelerate the interview and search process as increased opportunity shifts the job market back to the candidates and candidates apply pressure to potential employers to present offers while they are entertaining offers from others.
Jared Coseglia is the founder and CEO of TRU Staffing Partners, an award-winning staffing company representing talent and opportunities in the data privacy, ediscovery, and cybersecurity verticals since 2010. Coseglia has successfully placed more than 3000 professionals in full-time and temporary positions at the Fortune 1000, Am Law 200, and throughout the global consultancy, service and software provider community. Learn more about TRU Staffing Partners at www.trustaffingpartners.com.