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2023 hiring trends for the legal profession

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The legal profession can often be perceived as slow to change, especially when compared to other industries which are typically fast paced and reactive. However, with the myriad of changes brought on by socio-economic, political and technological advancements over the past couple of years, law firms are adapting at a much faster rate than ever before.

In the UK, more so than other countries, businesses are focusing on the quality of their relationship with their legal advisers, with the reputation of a law firm no longer enough to keep it top of mind for a client. With businesses looking for additional value from their legal advisers, it’s becoming increasingly important for law firms to demonstrate how they can act as a true business partner and deliver long-term value.

A key component of this is attracting and retaining top talent with the right hard and soft skill sets, expertise, but more importantly commercial knowledge. A report by Thomson Reuters on the ‘2023 State of the Legal Market’ showed that businesses are increasingly looking for their legal advisers to have commercial knowledge of the market they operate in. “Whilst legal expertise is the top driver, it is not sufficient on its own. Law firms [need] to give advice that is commercially valuable and practical…This means not only knowing the legal issues facing the client but also understanding the commercial drivers, market position, growth prospects, customer base, and supply chain involved. Too many law firms still see industry sectors as a marketing vehicle rather than a means of truly understanding the dynamics of the client’s market.”

With this in mind, it’s extremely important for legal employers to ensure their hiring strategy is right, not only for attracting skilled talent but to ensure professionals have the commercial knowledge to meet client demand.

We spoke to Emma Delli-Bovi, Business Director for Legal at IDEX Consulting, to get her thoughts on current hiring trends for the legal profession and how employers can attract top talent.

What hiring trends have you seen in the first part of 2023?

Compared to the past couple of years, which has been pretty crazy for recruitment, 2023 has been much calmer as we’ve seen more stability in the market. With no urgent need to recruit, employers are taking their time to find the right candidate for the role, instead of recruiting quite simply to try and get more resources in place. From a candidate perspective, employees are able to focus a lot more on what they want from their career, taking into consideration how a job might affect their lifestyle and wellbeing, as opposed to holding onto multiple offers at a time. 2023 has seen and will continue to see a shift from candidates being motivated by money, to taking a more holistic view of opportunities.

Candidates increasingly want clearer information around role expectations at certain levels, especially with regards to chargeable hourly targets, which is of course the easiest way to understand what a position will demand from them. From a client side, employers are recognising this change and the response is positive – some firms are removing chargeable hourly targets entirely and choosing to place more emphasis on good client service and relationship building, which is certainly what businesses are looking for. Additionally, in terms of bonuses, some firms are moving away from it being based on individual performance; they are now focusing on business development, client relationships, collaboration and being a good “team player”.

What should Legal employers focus on when attracting candidates?

There is still a big need for employers to make sure their salary is competitive. Whilst there has been a shift in mindset and less focus around securing the highest salary possible, candidates still need to ensure they are earning a certain level of income due to the cost-of-living crisis. Because of this, it’s extremely important for employers to gather market intel on salaries and benefits to make offers as competitive as possible.

Mental health and wellbeing also remains a hot topic, and being silent around your strategies which relate to this is no longer acceptable. Employers are being asked more than ever what they offer to support mental health and wellbeing, and so they need to answer this comprehensively with facts and examples.

Finally, flexible working is here to stay and employers not offering flexible or hybrid working opportunities will lose out. Attrition rates are higher in firms that cannot offer this.

What’s your advice for employers trying to attract top talent?

In order to attract the top talent in the current market with the right expertise and commercial knowledge, employers need to do a couple of things.

  • Firstly, employers need to communicate well that any role they are seeking to fill is because they have a genuine and well thought out hiring strategy. This means showing that they’ve assessed team capacity and reviewed demand, skills and knowledge. It’s well known that many lawyers are risk averse and so in order to attract top talent, employers need to do as much as they can to alleviate concerns – especially in the current economic climate which offers some challenges.

  • Secondly, it’s advisable to partner with a good recruitment company - ideally just one or max two based on the role. A clear brief with details on the remuneration package, benefits and opportunity is essential. This means employers can go to market with a clear and consistent message about their hiring strategy and the opportunity. One of the biggest issues most employers face when looking to recruit is brand awareness. Partnering with a good recruiter who understands a company’s brand, vision and employee value proposition will help to increase brand awareness and ensure the company is articulated effectively with relevant messaging that resonates with their target audience.

How does IDEX attract and engage top talent?

Earlier I mentioned how brand awareness can be one of the biggest challenges for employers when they’re recruiting; IDEX provides solutions to this. In the legal profession, markets are really small and so candidates are often reluctant to move onto a competitor, as they’re sometimes unable to see what they might gain – this is where communicating business brand and purpose comes in. Employers need to market and communicate their key differentiators externally, to showcase how they are different from their competitors i.e. do they provide free external accredited training? How are they fully embracing work flexibility – perhaps they offer an early finish on a Friday? Are there personal stories current employees can share on social media on what they love about working for the company? How are they prioritising wellbeing and ensuring employees don’t burn out?

At IDEX, we work with our clients on exactly this – helping them to authentically communicate their brand and culture. We spend time understanding the history of a business, what motivates their employees, and what it truly means personally and professionally to work there. We then design bespoke marketing solutions to bring this to life through a range of multimedia. The employers that will stand out in the market are those who invest in marketing and brand awareness and become the forefront of everyone’s mind when considering their options. We provide strategies and practical tools to help clients do this.

Partnering with us, is not just about working with a good recruitment agency (and we are really good!), it’s about working with a full service professional services company who can offer everything from marketing and brand awareness, to day to day hiring needs, to business growth advice and M&A acquisitions.

If you’re looking for support with your hiring strategy or would just like an informal chat about your options, get in touch with Emma Delli-Bovion 07879 764 003 or