The Current Legal Recruitment Problem – With a Focus on the Private Client Sector
Despite not being a niche area of the legal sector, Private Client Solicitors are becoming much more sought after following the pandemic. COVID made a large impact on every industry, including the legal sector and as private client law surrounds issues in later life such as death, estate administration, lifetime gifts and intestacy, COVID has meant this area of law has had to expand and adapt since early 2020.
COVID and Its Effect on the Private Client Sector
The increased concern for individuals wanting to get their affairs in order has meant Private Client Lawyers have become more necessary than ever. A study in September 2020 stated the practice area of estate planning has seen some of the highest growth – over 330% compared to pre-pandemic. Carole Cook, a Partner at Forsters mentioned “The pandemic has focused clients’ minds on succession planning.” Due to COVID, what happens to your possessions after death has been in the minds of more people. However, according to a recent IRN Wills and Probate Research Report, only 4 in 10 adults in the UK have a will, despite owning property.
The Private Client Sector
As one of the sectors I mainly focus on, this has meant Private Client roles have been appearing much more often at some of the most prestigious firms in the UK and internationally. Private Client Solicitors must have a very specific skillset and aptitude for navigating a multitude of rules and regulations. This is not unlike most Lawyers, however, knowledge of foreign markets and rules can also be necessary as many testators hold assets in foreign jurisdictions. This means firms have had to be thorough with the type of Solicitor they hire.
Furthermore, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit Lawyers. According to The Guardian, the UK is experiencing a labour shortage akin to the shortage in 1997. Many factors have impacted this, including COVID and Brexit. Brexit caused a large quantity of skilled labourers, including Lawyers and other legal professionals, to return to their country of origin. Some Magic Circle law firms have been advertising far more roles than normal and struggling to fill them as the market has a lack of suitable candidates. It could be argued law firms cannot afford to be overly picky with their choices of candidates currently but considering how competitive and prestigious the legal profession is, law firms shouldn’t have to lower their standards in order to fill vacancies. This is forcing law firms to ask themselves how to adapt to the new norm. Many Lawyers have even quit the profession after the pandemic as it made them realise what’s important to them.
Currently, with the market being more candidate-driven than ever, law firms cannot simply attract candidates with good salaries and a prestigious office anymore. Lawyers have more of an emphasis on work-life balance, desiring fully remote or partially remote roles. Many Lawyers have even been willing to sacrifice chunks of their salary to achieve this, with some firms offering fully remote roles for 20% less in terms of remuneration for full-time roles. This isn’t strictly a result of COVID and the flexibility it forced on the profession. I believe the new flexibility most firms offer has been a long time coming, with many Lawyers happily settling at mid-tier firms that offer more flexibility than tier 1 elite firms.
Flexibility is now expected in the legal profession and should be offered in order to attract candidates. Some firms have introduced reduced billable hours and put a higher emphasis on mental health, preventing junior Solicitors being worked to the bone. Previously, this was a large problem in the sector, as junior Solicitors being paid less were forced to work long hours with the idea that they are simply paying their dues to succeed in the future. It is important that all Lawyers, especially those in teams that are experiencing increased demand for their services, receive the support and conditions required to make their job easier.
In order to recruit successfully in this sector, we must accept that the market is highly competitive, and embrace the changes that the last few years have created. Firms reluctant to change may find themselves in a predicament in a few years where most competitors have adapted.
If you are a Private Client Solicitor looking for new opportunities in London, contact Sam Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential discussion about the options available to you.