A recent survey by Robert Half Legal found that after years of retraction, legal hiring is in the midst of a modest upswing, especially for lawyers with several years of experience in litigation, commercial transactions, and health care.

Ballard Spahr Chair Mark Stewart said that while some practice areas have improved, such as corporate and white-collar defense, the overall market remained tepid. "I would not use the word robust," Mr. Stewart said. "It is much more modest than that."