How have law firms been dealing with the pandemic?
Law firms have been taking a variety of measures to deal with the financial impact of Covid-19, from suspending or reducing partner distributions to reducing pay, scrapping bonuses, restricting hours, furloughing staff, delaying trainee intakes and, in a few cases, making redundancies. This is in order to shore up their balance sheets and put
What has been the effect on legal recruitment?
Since March/April this year, many law firms have placed non-essential recruitment on pause – vacancies have been removed from firm websites and often only ‘business-critical’ hires are being considered. Some hires continue to be made – usually to fill a specific (often senior) vacancy caused by a recent departure, or in the ‘in vogue’ practice areas of restructuring & insolvency, employment and litigation.
How has this affected lawyers?
Many lawyers will have noticed an impact of hiring freezes at their current firm or institution – growth at a team level, professional
development and promotion opportunities may all have been affected.
“A traditionally candidate-led
market has been flipped on its
head and become firm-led”
Those who have started looking to move may have come up against the recruitment ‘freeze’. In a nutshell – there are few vacancies currently on the market. A traditionally candidate-led market has been flipped on its head and become firm-led, meaning that during lockdown there have been fewer vacancies in the market than candidates looking for roles.
How long will this last for?
financial crisis – where many took extreme measures to survive (such as delaying trainee intakes and foregoing recruitment significantly) – and do not want to repeat those mistakes. The opportunity cost can be
huge and firms will not want staffing ‘gaps’ in the future, so many will be eager to re-commence hiring as soon as possible.
In addition, firms are aware that there are many strong candidates on the market right now, and that fewer competitors are hiring, so this is a great opportunity for them to attract the best talent.
“Firms will not want staffing
‘gaps’ in the future, so many
will be eager to re-commence
hiring as soon as possible”
How can you set yourself apart from the crowd and increase your chances?
- Now is the time to update your CV by adding in any recent transactions or matters. Choose those matters that you would be happy to talk in detail about in an interview and paint you in the best Ask a friend to provide you with objective feedback on your CV (it may not have been updated for years!).
- Consider the type of firm or institution you may want to move There are a number of online resources that are helpful – The
- Speak to a headhunter or two. Find someone credible who will listen, ask questions about your background and experience and really try to understand you as a person and what makes you Talk through your options: discuss salary expectations,work/life balance, culture, branding and prospects. Register your interest in certain types of firm or role.
- Be ready to act quickly – in a competitive market, make yourself available for interviews as early as possible. It can be tough finding time for interviews when you are flat out at work – but make sure to prioritise your job move – and remember that, currently, you only need to take one hour out of your time to join a video call, rather than travel to/from another office for an interview as well.
“Talk through your options:
discuss salary expectations,
work/life balance, culture,
prospects. Register your
interest in certain types of firm
- Speculative applications – many firms are still open to speculative applications – meaning that even if there isn’t a specific vacancy, you
can still submit a covering letter and CV. It may be more of a long shot but if you’re a strong candidate, you will often be considered, even if there isn’t technically a vacancy.
A.) Market intelligence: a headhunter’s job is to be plugged into the market and up-to-speed with recent developments. A good one will have a deep understanding of the full spectrum of firms and institutions, which ones are suited to you and whether they are hiring.
B.) A broader reach: you have a large number of contacts and
connections, but this is unlikely to match the size of a headhunter’s network. A headhunter will be aware of job opportunities that are not posted online and should be able to point you towards vacancies that are hard to find.
C.) Time: you’re busy. You can continue to do what you do best (advising your clients) and let the headhunter scour the market for you, at no cost. The service should be bespoke and tailored and this should result in roles that are a good match being presented to you.
“A good headhunter will be
aware of job opportunities that
are not posted online and
should be able to point you
towards vacancies that are
hard to find”
D.) Relationships: you want your CV to be put on top of the ‘pile’. A good headhunter will have strong relationships with firms and can understand their business needs. If they think you are a good fit for their client, they will be in your
process. Advice on tricky interview questions, culture, different personalities, things to watch out for and logistics is invaluable.
Best of luck!
Covid-19 has presented challenges to the legal recruitment market. However, law firms and institutions have learnt valuable lessons from the aftermath of the financial crisis, and will not let
opportunities slip to bring on the best talent. If you are considering a move, follow the steps above and position yourself ahead of the curve – there is no reason your ideal role cannot be right around the corner.
Charlie Harvey is a Director at Stephenson Executive Search, a multi-award-winning headhunting firm which focuses on the legal and financial services sectors. Charlie previously worked as a financing lawyer for 7 years at Slaughter and May and 3 years at Farrer & Co, and now advises lawyers on their job
moves within both private practice and in-house.