Blog and News

Recruitment and retention trends – how law firms are winning the battle for talent.

  • June 23, 2022

Across the UK talent market, there’s been no shortage of disruption when it comes to recruitment and employee retention over the past few years.

A global pandemic, changes to work environment and working patterns and ‘The Great Resignation’ have all affected the candidate market, and that’s before we understand the full impact that inflation and the rising cost of living will have.

These are issues that have affected almost all businesses, irrespective of size or sector.

Looking back over the past 6 months within the legal sector, we’ve highlighted some of the trends we’ve been seeing when it comes to recruitment and retention and what law firms are doing in response.

The majority of legal firms have come through the difficulties posed by the pandemic over the last two years, with employee growth, or at the bare minimum, employee retention, high up on their agendas.

At the start of the year, confidence was high in terms of executing growth plans, with research from MHA citing that 85% of UK law firms planned on adding to their headcount in 2022.

Further to the growth plans in terms of the number of staff, a resounding 93% of UK firms stated they had no plans to make any staff reductions at the time the research was gathered.

However, as the year’s progressed, the candidate market has become increasingly competitive and the pool of talent has begun to diminish.

Whether it’s been a result of employees turning to in-house roles for greater job security, a response to the demand for greater flexibility, or of them stepping away from the sector altogether, UK law firms have a battle on their hands to secure and attract top legal talent.

Salaries have also continued their upward trend, and with the recent rise in inflation, there’s a good chance these increases will continue throughout the second half of the year and beyond.

It’s not, however, all doom and gloom when it comes to talent attraction and many firms are working hard to overcome the current recruitment challenges.

For a number of candidates, the pandemic has altered the relationships they have with their employer, and indeed, any future employers.

No longer is one’s job all about the money. Instead, a business’s employee value proposition (EVP) has become more important to candidates who want to work for a business that stands for something worthwhile, that values its people and that focuses on their wellbeing.

It’s those firms that are focusing on their EVP and communicating it well to the candidate market that are going a long way in attracting top talent in a competitive market.

Likewise, many firms are doubling down on their efforts to create an environment and culture that’s going to appeal to both candidates and help to retain their existing staff.

Again, how they communicate this both externally and internally is hugely important if they are to cement their position as an attractive employer and many are doing it effectively.

In addition, since coming out of the pandemic, more and more candidates are looking for firms that offer flexibility in their working practices.

Naturally, hard work and dedication to the job is a given in the legal sector, however, increasingly candidates are looking for more balance between their work and home lives and are seeking out firms that offer the opportunity to strike this balance.

With this, there’s been a real push by firms to accommodate more flexibility in the hours their staff work and offer part-time contracts to employees looking for a more flexible work experience.

In essence, many of today’s legal candidates want more from their work than they did previously.

When money is no longer the biggest motivating factor, candidates are placing a company and culture that values and includes them and that offers greater flexibility higher up their list of wants and needs than ever before.

It’s essential therefore that UK law firms make serious efforts to meet these needs and to stand out in a competitive market and get ahead.

Those that do, will no doubt continue to successfully grow and reap the rewards.