Earlier this year we looked into the crystal ball and gave our predictions on what we thought would happen in Legal services. We’re over halfway through 2022 and a lot has happened. It’s time to reflect and look at what the latter half of 2022 has in store.
It’s a candidate-short market
The legal sector is in the midst of a labour shortage with far more job roles available than candidates to fill them, and with recent figures showing that 1 in 5 junior lawyers under the age of 40 are thinking about leaving the legal profession all together, this labour shortage seems to show no signs of letting up.
Law firms in the UK advertised more than 2,300 roles for associates based in London, and one lucrative magical circle firm had 103 roles to fill (Financial Times).
As a result firms are having to think outside the box, and more obscurely than ever to retain and attract high quality candidates.
Sign-on bonus’ are at an all time high in order to get around budget constraints, and internal politics around salary brackets, and counter-offers remain rife in a bid to keep key team members – despite the stats showing that two thirds of people who accept counter offers end up leaving their jobs anyway in the 12 months that follow.
We predict the war on talent will rage on.
The remote working debate will continue
The hybrid working debate has created a chasm between business leaders and employees, and we suspect this conversation will continue throughout the latter half of 2022.
Across most levels of PQE, solicitors want to continue to work from home, but senior leaders and Partners see real value in having them back in the office.
As long as there is a thought through and systematic approach applied to remote and hybrid working, firms offering this are going to continue to come out on top.
According to a recent survey by IDEX Consulting, 43% of legal professionals admitted they’d like to work from home more than they currently do and if firms don’t accommodate this, lawyers will look for alternative employment at practices that can offer more hybrid & remote working alternatives.
However, working in the office does have its benefits. From junior associates learning from senior colleagues in a fast-paced environment, to managing career development and wellbeing in person.
If firms want to keep hold of high-quality talent, new perspectives need to be adopted around autonomy and empowering team members whilst encouraging accountability. They must rethink ways in which they will manage factors such as career development, training, isolation, division, employee engagement, and the overall mental health of legal professionals in the industry
The ‘dog-eat dog’ mentality will slowly change
As conversations surrounding mental health and well-being become more commonplace, we’re seeing a shift with less emphasis places on individual targets and more consideration given to team targets and collaborative ways of working.
Whilst individual billable targets are still the norm, firms are opting to focus more on the team target to create less of a ‘dog-eat-dog’ working culture, finally recognising the benefits that non-billable work such as business development, mentoring and some forms of legal research bring to the team.
Junior lawyers and those not used to the pressure of high targets will surely welcome this approach, but ambitious professionals who thrive in target driven environments, might feel unsure about this more ambiguous tactic.
Firms adopting this approach will need to ensure they still have robust and structured development plans for all ambitious lawyers, to ensure they are kept motivated to progress in other ways. In addition to a review on bonus’ which are governed by individual targets taking place.
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For more insights on what’s in store for the Legal Services industry this year, take a look at our 2022 Salary Guides.