All change in legal recruitment

Jacob Thomas, Senior Recruitment Consultant07 May 2019

Recruitment in the legal sector continues to be challenging. Despite the fact we’re over a decade on from the recession and there’s plenty of market positivity out there, finding the right candidate for a role still isn’t as easy as it once was. But the dark days have led to a new way of working, driven also by client demand, which is seeing a shift in the way firms hire, retain and promote.

Skills gaps post-recession

The impact of the global financial crisis in 2008 meant that law firms were forced to cut back and be more strategic. These steps were necessary to survive the turbulent times and in the face of adversity, proved to be a good exercise. However, the price is still being paid today for the lack of experienced lawyers across many practice areas. The unstable market naturally hit graduate confidence and the legal profession to this day suffers from this period of decline.   
But - we are now seeing those graduate recruitment opportunities resurface. Last year saw training contract numbers at their highest since pre-2008. The numbers are still much lower than pre-recession, but they are on the up; and if we compare today to ten years previously, there are plenty more routes into the profession than the traditional one. Hence why I am keen to share how law firms have changed their strategies to ensure they continue to deliver the highest quality legal services.

Northern hubs
Some might say the recession has shone a guiding light on the legal industry, with clients pushing for clearer understanding of fees and improved efficiency of service delivery. Take this into account with the need for reduced headcounts and tighter recruitment budgets; hence the big global law firms started to look North. Building legal hubs in the North of the country which are predominantly staffed by Paralegals, being run by Senior Associates, offers firms the opportunity to take advantage of not only lower office costs, but salaries too. The ‘northshoring’ effect has been a significant development in the way law firms operate, not just for cost savings but to allow access to a richer pool of talent. This diversification of core business support services has seen the emergence of new job opportunities, including technical, data and support roles. Cities with strong academic links and flourishing business communities like Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool are welcoming these legal hubs and their success is already prevalent. As legal meets commercial, we are seeing opportunities for not only those looking to break into law as a legal professional, but for those with other attributes, who can bring value to the changing world of legal.

Staff retention
Never has there been such an important need to keep hold of the best members of your team as there has been today. If we think that last year, ten years on from the recession, was one of the best years for law firms in a decade, but recruitment was one of the biggest worries, it’s clear to understand why. The legal sector is growing, there are lots of vacancies but it’s still a massive candidate short sector.
We are seeing firms do a lot more to keep their staff across all levels. Staff retention is vital as it’s so difficult to find people to replace those that leave; it can literally take months to find the right candidate.
To prevent not only a recruitment headache but disruption in services, firms are offering a lot of different benefits now, making the decision to move on difficult. The biggest and most popular being the opportunity for flexible and remote working. Roles offering homeworking opportunities are hard to walk away from, regardless of the salary. There’s a greater investment in staff training and development too, which helps staff feel valued, and many firms have career development programmes in place for better transparency of staff progression. All in all, firms are doing their utmost to avoid risking the loss of their key assets. In a sector still short of the required talent, it’s a gamble that can’t be taken.


Jacob has over five years’ experience working with legal professionals across the Manchester region. He’s worked with those at the start of their legal career through to Senior Associates and Partners. He’s currently keen to speak with newly qualified solicitors who are looking for private practice opportunities across the growing Manchester legal scene. Give him a call on 0161 834 0225 or drop him an email – jacob@interlinkrecruitment.com


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