2020 / 2021 has been an unusual time for all businesses, with some very unusual peaks and troughs – lockdowns and uncertainty have been a part of everyone’s life – so how has the legal sector fared and what’s in store for the next 12 months?
Firstly, I have seen plenty of challenges in the Legal sector over my many years in the market, but I can genuinely say that I believe the sector has coped very well and is now in a stronger position than ever to grow!
What's changed this year?
Overall, firms have embraced flexible and agile working models, with larger proportions of managers, Lawyers and support staff working remotely. The biggest benefit here has been, the fact that firms have been able to look for talent further afield, opening up new markets for talent and allowing firms to bring in quality staff that they previously would not have had access to.
Furlough and COVID 19 has resulted in firms looking at their culture and addressing the traditional hours worked. Working from home has enabled people to spend less time commuting and adapting their working day to fit in with family/lifestyle needs – resulting in a balanced work/life equation. As we come out of restrictions, Lawyers will be looking to maintain that clear balance of home/office work, that has enabled them and firms to thrive & grow.
Associate level recruitment remains challenging, however firms are continuing to become more flexible in their approach in terms of work/life balance, utilising home working and overall renumeration packages to retain the best talent. However, it’s still very important to be aware of the new threat of “out of area” firms being able to access your best staff – we have already seen “London wages” spreading further afield to Birmingham and Manchester and this could soon be a threat in Scotland, if firms don’t adapt their remuneration packages.
With competition increasing, many firms are having to think about their unique selling point to make them attractive to candidates. They are having to be far more transparent with what they have to offer and are having to ‘sell’ themselves as they would to a new client!
Most of the worst hit areas of the legal sector such as Construction, Corporate and Real Estate are moving forward and the outlook is positive. Many firms were reluctant to move forward with business plans made at the beginning of 2020, but that uncertainty has vanished, and they are now moving forward swiftly with these plans.
Mergers & Acquisitions
In 2019 & 2020, mergers and acquisitions was a growing market because the pressure on profits forced firms to look outside of the normal routes to drive profitable growth. Increasingly, this involved acquisitions or mergers with non-UK based law firms and international growth to bolster their bottom line. This will intensify significantly in 2021/22 as many firms will be looking to enhance profitability, increase their service offering and drive growth. This will also enable them to service clients from different geographical areas or handle cross border transactions more easily.
Small to medium sized firms are also embracing merger opportunities and are joining like minded / sized firms which complement and enhance their current practices.
What can we expect to see in the next 12 months?
As we finish 2021 and move into 2022 many firms have shown their adaptability and versatility, so they are in a good position to maintain and build upon this. They are, I believe, equipped to deal with whatever next year throws at them!
This preparation now is absolutely key as the market begins to stabilise after a traumatic period and move into a period of significant growth potential. Here at IDEX, we have already seen many firms looking to hire senior individuals to take firms into new practice areas or geographical regions.
Make your next move with IDEX
2022 is set to be a big year for the Legal market, with a job-rich, candidate short ecosystem that puts power in the hands of jobseekers. Find your next legal job here or speak to us about how we can help your organisation fulfil your legal requirements. For more insights on what’s in store for the Legal industry this year, take a look at our Legal Salary Guide 2021. Download your complimentary copy here.