The legal sector has undergone a remarkable transformation, shed its traditional image, and embraced technology to become a dynamic and exciting field that attracts top talent worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of new technologies in the legal sector, such as video court proceedings, online meetings, cloud-based document storage, and intuitive workflow software. However, the UK is currently facing a skills shortage, posing challenges for law firms in recruiting the talent they need.
Dubbed the 'Great Resignation,' many experienced legal practitioners left the profession in search of more fulfilling careers. According to our Advanced Trends Survey, 87% of legal professionals struggle to attract new talent or replace departing staff. Insufficient numbers of applicants are reported by 39% of firms, while one-third (33%) face difficulty finding suitably qualified candidates. Despite promising prospects for aspiring lawyers and law graduates, competition for the best talent remains fierce. Therefore, aspiring lawyers must equip themselves with sought-after skills to seize attractive opportunities in the field.
Attraction & retention strategies
To attract new talent, firms are offering higher salaries to cope with inflation. In fact, 32% of firms are providing salary increases, with some offering up to £100k for newly qualified professionals. Leading corporations are even extending enticing £150k deals to secure top candidates. This represents a significant leap from the average solicitor's full-time salary of £62,000 in 2018 (£88,000 in London).
Regional and small firms also face the pressure of offering competitive wages to secure the best talent, as they risk losing out to better-paying competitors. In addition to salary increases, 38% of surveyed firms have expanded package options, such as gym memberships, private health insurance, and mobile phone provisions. Moreover, over one-third (35%) of firms are utilising training programmes as a specific strategy to attract and retain employees.
Hybrid & flexible working
Flexible and hybrid working options have become vital for aspiring law professionals. Our trends survey reveals that 37% of firms offer flexible working as the standard to attract new staff. The pandemic challenged traditional long hours and poor work-life balance in the legal field; the pursuit of better work-life balance and more fulfilling roles was only emphasised during the 'Great Resignation.'
Technology has played a crucial role in embracing digital solutions that enhance communication with clients and colleagues. Cloud-based technology allows for real-time document access and collaboration, enabling seamless remote work from home, client offices, or courtrooms. Some UK companies, including law firms, are even trialling a four-day working week, resulting in increased productivity and a shift towards autonomy and trust.
Technology has a transformative impact on the legal sector, as recognised by 87% of legal professionals in our survey. Automated processes save valuable time, allowing for higher-value tasks such as applying expertise with clients and colleagues. Additionally, 40% of firms report that their technology ensures compliance and security, safeguarding sensitive data and avoiding penalties and reputational harm. However, user resistance remains a barrier to digital adoption, highlighting the importance of newly qualified and aspiring lawyers embracing technology for streamlined workflows, improved productivity, effective communication, and robust cybersecurity and compliance measures.
Commercial awareness is crucial within the legal profession due to rising costs and demands for increased salaries. Technology solutions are essential for driving efficiency, reducing costs, and increasing productivity. Our survey reveals that 85% of legal professionals work outside of their allocated hours. To achieve greater profits while maintaining work-life balance, working smarter is key. Technology, including cloud-based solutions, facilitates seamless collaboration, transforms billing processes, and enables real-time reporting to address late payments efficiently.
Diversity is gaining importance in the legal profession, with employers seeking talent beyond the top 5 Russell Group university graduates. The use of technology for remote work has reduced the significance of geographical location, allowing for engagement with candidates from diverse backgrounds.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives are being implemented by 30% of recruiting law firms, with 33% prioritising diversity at all levels. Leveraging D&I credentials is a strategy employed by 58% of firms to attract and retain a more diverse workforce. To reduce unconscious bias in hiring, 47% of firms surveyed have implemented strategies such as removing identifying information from application forms and implementing aptitude tests.
Successful hires stick
While mastering new technology is important, lawyers still require traditional skills such as broad thinking, understanding client implications, and effective communication. Finding the right firm with aligned values and working culture is crucial for long-term career satisfaction and salary security. This alignment benefits both the recruit and the firm, allowing more time to focus on delivering exceptional legal services to clients. By finding the right fit, extensive advertising, interviewing, and onboarding can be minimised, enabling firms to concentrate on helping clients achieve their goals.
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