The market for legal talent is downright hostile at the moment if, that is, you are the one doing the hiring. If you are a lawyer looking for a better fit for you and your talents, it is the opportunity of a lifetime.
In the legal world, there is more work than talent. Today’s talent shortage forces law firms to reimagine how they work, organize, and pay so that they can retain top talent. Firms find themselves locked in a desperate struggle to create a welcoming environment. It’s a war for talent that is downright hostile.
For law firms, there is a push to innovate around their core values and create an environment that attracts and retains top talent.
For lawyers, there is an opportunity to find the firm that is the best fit for you.
If you don’t like where you are today, it is a good bet that your exact right perfect fit firm is hiring. In this post, we break down some of the ways that law firms are adjusting to meet the increased demand.
Salaries are on the rise
The first place to look to understand the market is salaries, and legal salaries keep testing the boundaries.
Starting associate pay has reached new highs, surging past $200,000 – a clear indicator of the tight market.
It isn’t just associates looking for a higher paycheck. A recent market study found that 59% of all legal employees plan to ask for a raise this year and that nearly a third will change jobs if they don’t get it.
The reasons why are pretty straightforward:
- 29% cited more work, both workload and added responsibility.
- 25% said that their salary was below [a shifting] market.
- 24% referred to the cost of living.
These point to underlying pressure on salaries that is unlikely to abate soon. So, this is a good time for you to negotiate a pay increase or go to a new firm willing to pay you more.
A salary increase, however, can mean more than the money transferred to your bank account – market tightness also means that you can negotiate a better deal overall and start enjoying life again.
Salary wars mean that salaries are not enough – think quality of life, a key factor for retaining top talent
As the salary wars heat up, law firms struggle to keep up and notice that money itself is not enough to attract and retain top talent.
Lawyers, especially quality lawyers, want more than money. They want to enjoy practicing law and having a life.
Perhaps you’d like to go to the school play or watch your child play baseball?
Firms realize that there is a diminishing return on increasing pay, bringing quality of life to the forefront.
To stand out and attract talent, firms must deliver on quality of life in terms of flexibility, benefits, and support team.
Flexibility to work where you are
More firms are adopting much more flexible work situations.
The word of the day is hybrid, with firms giving their office-based staff the option to do some of their work remotely. Other firms are adopting fully remote models – a practice that was virtually unheard of is becoming more commonplace.
Firms could work remotely for years but are only now embracing the practice as an option.
The past couple of years has demonstrated that productivity does not necessarily suffer due to working remotely. Firms have avoided a productivity decrease, in many cases seeing an increase. In some markets, the reduced commute time alone has led to increased billing.
At the same time, professionals have realized that remote work can make juggling family life with work-life easier.
So, in a tight market, flexible work is an easy place to give.
The question for you is, what do you prefer? Fully virtual, hybrid, or in office? The virtual firm is on the rise and firms like FisherBroyles and Scale are competing fiercely for talent.
But it isn’t only remote work – think distributed, small market, work
Sure, it may be easier to balance work and life with remote work. But sometimes you need an office, whether it is to escape the children or for a change of scenery.
In response to the need to find lawyers, provide offices and manage costs, more law firms are taking a hybrid approach. They are adding virtual staff and moving into smaller markets.
Satellite offices and remote work can allow you to live where you want to live while practicing law where you want to practice law.
Expanded benefits are finding their way into the norm as well
Benefits can include everything from additional time to concierge services to help you manage your personal life.
One issue with time off has always been being able to get away from the office.
Billable hour needs conflict with spending time on the beach, not billing. So, firms are introducing programs to count vacation time as billable time, meaning you can truly take some time off.
Concierge services are also finding their way into firms. For example, a concierge can help you handle the administrative burden of planning your time away from the office so that it is more meaningful. Sitting on hold to change a reservation or book travel is not a good use of work or personal time, and concierge services help with that.
Offerings differ by firm, and we will continue to see innovation – the point is that there is an opportunity for you to find a package that supports the way you want to work and live.
The support team is also a crucial element.
Providing the proper legal support is also essential in creating the right culture. This means having a suitable staffing model and hiring the people to make it work.
Firms recognize the need to ensure partners have associates they need to work effectively. Partners should focus on partner work; this is the only way to bill appropriately and keep clients happy.
Support also extends to administrative and paralegal support for partners and associates alike. A tight market means allowing people to specialize and focus on what they do best.
Diversity is another interesting lever in the war to attract and retain top talent.
Firms recognize that part of what makes lawyers happy is practicing in a welcoming environment. According to law.com, 80% of workers at a firm (legal and non-legal) value diversity. Firms that implement diversity programs see significant decreases in turnover.
These figures are broader than just law, but law firms are adjusting, creating a more welcoming environment for a broader range of people.
Their hostile market is your opportunity
If you read this and think that there must be a better place for you, there probably is a better place for you. Since firms are competing to retain top talent, you have options.
Yes, this is an excellent year to negotiate a raise. Firms realize that they need to keep up and can’t afford to lose attorneys.
But there is much more: this is an excellent time to find a firm that is a perfect fit for you, where you are happy, and where you feel supported. Yes, salary matters, but so does fit.
If you are unhappy where you are, then money may be an acceptable salve.
Or maybe a better way to say this is it may have been an acceptable salve.
In today’s market, you don’t need to settle for acceptable. You can have the money and the culture – you can be happy practicing law.
We believe that lawyers, that you, should love your work. If you don’t, there is a firm out there with a culture you would love, and it is a good bet that they are hiring.
Do you want help finding your exact right perfect, fit law firm? We can help; let’s talk.