5 Hiring Trends Affecting Careers in The Legal Profession

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Dec 9, 2021

Dec 9, 2021 • by Rebecca Smith

The labor market is undergoing one of its biggest periods of disruption in decades. The demand for labor has so outstripped supply that many industries are sorely understaffed. Added to that, the Great Resignation has taken millions of people out of the traditional job market, as they exploit the possibilities of the internet and its ability to resolve the matching problem of pairing the right person to the right job or income desired. These factors add up to create a job-seeker’s market. Companies are not in the driver’s seat they once were, and they have to come to grips with the new era, adapting to conditions by offering better working conditions, remuneration, and work-life balance. These are the five most important hiring trends affecting the legal profession right now.

Base Salaries Are on the Rise

The opening introduction makes it clear that legal professionals have options. These options are not just competitors, whether it is locally or globally. That businesses compete on a global scale for talent is something that’s old news. The internet makes matching legal professionals directly with clients easier than ever. The Great Resignation is occuring not just because workers want to work for other companies. They are realizing that they can make use of the internet to work for themselves.

One area companies have improved is base salaries. According to the Robert Half 2022 Salary Guide, compensation across the board is expected to rise 3.8%, with salaries for first year lawyers, for instance, rising to between $66,250 and $104,000 depending on relevant experience and skills.

Almost half (49%) of workers believe they are underpaid, with Gen Z professionals (57%) and women (52%) feeling especially underpaid. As the Great Resignation has shown, workers feel empowered to leave roles that they find unfulfilling or for which they think compensation is inadequate. Around 1 in 3 (31%) of workers report being willing to leave their jobs at the end of the year if their salaries don’t get a bump, with working parents (36%) and Gen Z workers (48%) more likely to move for reasons of inadequate salary.

Searching for More Meaningful Work

We spend, like it or not, significant periods of our life at work. It’s not possible to dive in and out, and treat it as something distinct and apart from yourself. It matters what you do with your time, especially when work can take up a third or more of your day.

Money may improve how we enjoy our time, but it does not lead to better emotional well-being, at least past the first $75,000 per year. Whether you are working as a securities attorney or other types of lawyers, you will be increasingly satisfied by having more meaningful work experiences. According to the George Washington Law Review, satisfied law professionals report feeling a sense of “autonomy, relatedness to others, [and] feelings of competence.” As important is an ability to work at things that emanate from “internally motivated reasons,” rather than commercial pressures.

Technology Is Still Eating the World

A decade since venture capitalist Marc Andressen declared that “software is eating the world”, it continues to do just that. Technology is mediating more and more of the processes and outcomes of the legal profession. Many law firms are now reliant on cloud solutions, e-filing, mobile apps, video conferencing and other technological solutions, to drive down costs, optimize pricing and legal offerings and manage their day-to-day operations. This has led to a democratization of access to legal professionals, with the profession closer to its clients than ever before and able to work at a lower cost and greater effectiveness.

Consequently, demand for law professionals who are comfortable with technology is at an all-time-high. Not only is there a demand for such professionals, but companies are investing in training their staff to keep abreast of technological advances.

Hybrid Workers Are Here to Stay

Clients and law firms are demanding more from legal professionals and the result is the rise of multifunctional law professionals, or hybrid workers who perform a variety of tasks. For instance, the industry has embraced paralegal-legal secretaries, with 64% of law professionals saying they are more common today than just two years ago, according to Robert Half’s study.

Law firms should lean into this and look for legal professionals comfortable with technology, and eDiscovery, while also possessing a law degree, some experience and American Bar Association certification. If they can support four to six law professionals, then paying them more than you would a specialist, will pay off.

It’s Not Just About Money

Although we spoke about the need to adequately compensate workers, money is not the only driver of resignations in any business. Often, and especially during this moment in time, professionals leave an organization because of poor work-life balance, or barriers to advancement within the organization, or a desire for new challenges. So responding to a notice of intent to leave with a monetary counteroffer won’t get the job done. Even if the worker accepts the counteroffer, because the underlying causes aren’t addressed, they will ultimately leave. The solution is to accept their resignation, unless you believe that you can dramatically address their concerns. Typically, the ship has sailed and the worker just doesn’t have the patience to wait for things to work out. Take it as a gift, a lesson for future hires.