Businesses in general are struggling in today’s hiring environment. Though Americans have adjusted to the challenges of living in a post-COVID-19 world, other factors have contributed to nationwide staffing shortages. As Momentum Legal founder Jane Pollard noted at the 35th Annual Legal Seminar on Ad Valorem Taxation, the U.S. had seen 126 months of economic growth and an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent at the end of 2019, both record-breaking numbers.
In 2021, 47 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs largely due to retirement, relocation, and reconsideration of professional goals. And though Reuters reported that “the May [2022 legal job] total is nearing the historic high of 1,179,500 legal sector jobs reached in May 2007, shortly before the Great Recession hit,” challenges still remain.
In this article, we will describe seven legal-hiring challenges faced by firms in the Austin, Texas, market and provide suggestions as to how to best manage them.
Navigating a candidate’s market
Because of the dearth of qualified candidates, one of the greatest hiring challenges involves firms having to navigate what has become a candidate’s market. In essence, candidates can set their terms when applying for law firm jobs and other legal positions, enjoying far more clout than they would have just a couple of years ago. Those terms go beyond simply desiring greater pay and focus on added benefits, the ability to work from home, and other non-financial advantages.
In order to successfully reach these candidates, firms must do more than merely post open job positions. They’ll need to show how working with their organization serves applicants. This might include emphasizing flexibility with remote legal jobs or describing how the firm’s prestige and company culture is a boon for workplace lawyers.
Finding lawyers when the demands on employees are high
One of the great hiring challenges today involves trying to find legal talent when employee demands are soaring. Stressed workers do not make for an inviting environment when trying to entice fresh talent. One solution to this dilemma involves hiring contract attorneys. If short-term, project-specific hires enjoy the work and the firm’s culture, they may stay on full time. If not, your firm will have lightened its workload.
Finding the right fit for candidate and firm
Fit is a challenging qualification for many firms to measure. As much tacit knowledge and gut feeling as quantifiable metric, fit remains nevertheless important. Potential hires must be able to work within a firm’s culture, possess a certain level of professional and educational achievement, and share common goals related to the acquisition of clients, an acceptable workload or caseload, and the manner in which business gets transacted.
Part of the way in which firms can help find employees with an acceptable organizational fit it to make company culture an essential part of job postings. Discuss the firm’s focus and industry accolades. Highlight services provided and noteworthy cases (if applicable). Mention educational opportunities and potential advancement paths.
Increased desire for flexibility
Though the COVID-19 pandemic placed significant strain on many business sectors (the legal sector included), it sparked new interest in work flexibility among professionals. According to the United States Census Bureau, 61.7 percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher switched to remote work during the pandemic. Far from being a burden on those unable to make it into the office, remote work has become a boon for those engaging in it. Owl Labs reported that 84 percent of those who worked from home during the pandemic reported that they were happier, 79 percent said they were less stressed, and 75 percent claimed such flexibility made them more likely to recommend their company to others. Additionally, the group found that 56 percent of employees would quit their current job or actively look for a new job that provided them with flexibility in how they could work.
Legal firms must take into account this increased desire for flexible working arrangements when seeking new employees. While increased salaries may draw some applicants, the ability to better manage home and work life balance will increasingly factor into their decision making. When creating job postings, talking with legal recruiters, or conducting interviews, your firm will benefit if you’re willing to allow for remote work and you highlight that fact.
Another common issue in legal hiring or recruiting is the expense involved in the job search process. Posting open positions, finding qualified applicants, vetting said applicants, and guiding them through the onboarding process after a hire involves major investments in time and finances. However, such expenses aren’t unavoidable. Recent strides in automation technology have greatly simplified the submitting of applications, sorting of forms, and various clerical matters. These items can be largely handled through software, and while the acquisition of applicable suites and employee training will constitute additional expenses, they will significantly decrease costs in the long run.
High demand for specific roles
Many legal positions aren’t intended for generalists. Instead, they are specialized roles requiring unique training, significant job experience, or both. The candidate pool for such openings is limited by their very nature — and economic pressures have only exacerbated that scarcity. However, the market for legal talent also offers unique opportunities.
While it’s true that applicants have much more clout than they have in previous years and that the general shrinkage in the pool of available workers has translated into the legal field, the legal sector has continued to enjoy growth. Increased opportunities are meeting with a pool of newly credentialed applicants, meaning that opportunities exist — but only for flexible firms with a significant amount of hiring savvy.
Hiring law students and interns
This final point is less of a challenge and more of an option in these highly competitive times. By combining automated and online recruiting with a focus on younger legal talent, firms can often fill some of the gaps in their company.
However, when you need top-tier legal talent, turn to Momentum Search Partners. Since 2011, we’ve helped employers hire the best legal talent in Texas.