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What do Legal professionals value most?

  • Publish Date: Posted about 1 month ago
  • Author:by Sershen Ingram

  • Flexible working is the top priority for candidates in the Legal industry when considering their career options

  • Remuneration takes a back seat as Legal industry workers say they value career growth opportunities and flexible working are more important

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve observed a marked shift in the requirements of candidates across the Legal sector when evaluating their career options. Where once remuneration used to be the main motivating factor, we’ve since witnessed how other aspects of the role are taking priority.

In order to investigate further, Sershen Ingram, our Principal Consultant and resident Legal recruitment expert, took to LinkedIn to ask his extensive network of Legal professionals what it is they prioritise most when considering their career options.

Sershen’s network extends throughout the Financial Services sector, as well as Commerce & Industry. Respondents to his poll sent a clear message: flexible working options are most important to them.

More than one-third (34%) of our poll respondents felt that flexible working was paramount to them, meaning it topped the list of priorities by a significant margin. This is indicative of how influential the move to remote and hybrid working has been.

Over one-quarter (26%) said they valued potential for career growth, which is possibly influenced by the fact that opportunities to train and upskill were put on hold as offices closed and a significant proportion of workers were placed on furlough.

Third on the list at 22% - and highlighting that it’s no longer the main priority - was remuneration, which is a clear reflection of the shift that has occurred in recent times of people valuing work-life balance over financial gain.

Meanwhile, workplace culture came bottom at 18%, which could be down to how accustomed people have now become to working remotely and apart from their colleagues.

Let’s ask our expert to explore these results in even more detail…

Sershen, who is experienced in the recruitment of in-house lawyers, mainly within the Financial Services sector but also across C&I as well as Private Practice, reflected on the results, drawing on his years of expertise in the industry.

“There are two main driving forces around this shift in peoples’ expectations; the first is that the pandemic has changed working norms and traditional patterns, and the second is that we’re currently facing a candidate shortage and businesses need to be prepared to dig deep to attract the best talent.

“There’s little doubt that a clear desire for flexible working comes as Covid-19 brought with it a shift in global working trends, with large corporations ditching the office and governments introducing new remote working legislations. There is now an opportunity for employees to drive change and put their personal lives before work in ways that haven’t been possible before.

"The option for remote work has quickly evolved from being an occasional perk to an essential element in recruiting the best talent.

“This comes in tandem with the overall market undergoing a dramatic change. At one time, there was a limited number of jobs and a considerably large pool of candidates vying for them. Now, it’s the opposite. This shortage has come about most likely because very few people wanted to move jobs while there was so much uncertainty during 2020. Compounding this is the UK workforce’s increased loyalty to employers who supported their staff through the height of the coronavirus pandemic. This makes seeking out suitable candidates all the more challenging and why, in the fight for talent, businesses have little choice but to offer flexible or hybrid working on a permanent basis to position themselves as an attractive employment prospect.”

The figures speak from themselves

In fact, new research into the extent of the skills shortage, as reported in The Lawyer, found that around three in five (58%) organisations within the Legal industry are currently feeling the strain from a lack of skilled workers.

The research also looked into the causes of the skills shortage and the impact it is having on businesses. Of those surveyed, a third of managers cite a lack of qualified candidates and an inability to retain staff as a cause for concern.

As a result of the skills shortage in their industry, 42% of managers say that staff are working longer hours and are becoming disengaged, with over a third (36%) admitting to unfulfilled work. 30% of managers are also missing deadlines as they do not have the staff.

These stark figures highlight a real need for firms to review their employment offering. Having a flexible working option will not only attract the interest of current jobseekers, but also improve the morale and motivation of existing employees.

A step-change in attitude

It’s worth noting that the combination of a surge in demand and a shortage of candidates would ordinarily lead to a jump in the remuneration on offer. However, due to uncertainty over future lockdowns, the unknown impact of Brexit, and the knock-on effect for the economy, the response has been uneven.

In fact, many organisations have put a hold on salary reviews until they feel comfortable that the economy is on the upturn. In turn, the rise of remote and flexible working has led candidates and firms to question traditional remuneration packages.

The impact of Legal industry salary restrictions

There has also been a restriction in salary increases resulting from early stage redundancies and furloughing, which meant that many employees felt lucky to have a job amid such market uncertainty. Combining this with the mutual acceptance that firms might have needed to reduce overheads resulted in people being less inclined to request a salary review or increase.

Candidates who are now willing to seek new opportunities have leverage due to the higher demand in hiring as the market bounces back. Most firms have retained their higher quality, value-for-money staff during the initial rounds of redundancies and budget cuts, leaving the market for more experienced lawyers tipped in the candidates’ favour, resulting in them being able to make personal demands, such as higher salaries or specific flexible working set ups.

What the Legal sector must do now

Firms and companies must take steps to attract the best professionals by building their business based around employee choice, wellbeing and satisfaction. Giving lawyers the trust and freedom to work how and when they want will help employers to attract skilled candidates as well as retain existing employees.

Our previous research supports Sershen’s recent findings, as we discovered that 76% of candidates said they would not be interested in an opportunity if the hiring business required full-time in-office working. While these results are not Legal industry specific, they reflect the true feelings of the UK’s Financial Services and Banking workforce.

Sershen concludes: “When the pandemic first struck and companies implemented recruiting freezes, the future looked bleak. However, the jobs market has boomed in recent months as economies have reopened and businesses now look to grow. At MERJE, we’ve experienced our most successful year-to-date of our 10-year history.

“There is still a large portion of the UK workforce that is looking for a new role and we have to harness this. They’re keen to move, it’s just that organisations need to be mindful that these candidates are reviewing the entire package. It's not just about money anymore, it’s also about the lifestyle that a hiring business can offer.”

Sershen recently celebrated his one year MERJE anniversary, catch up with him in his Q&A session here.

If you’re planning to expand or improve your in-house Legal team, or if you’re looking for a role such as General Counsel, Company Secretary, Legal Counsel or Private Practice Lawyer, get in touch with Sershen: singram@merje.com

Related Articles:

Hybrid Working: The rise of workplace flexibility

How employers can overcome the challenges of hybrid working

If you’d like to discuss this, or any of the topics covered in our articles, please get in touch.