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Bridging The Gap In A Skills Short Market For Law Firms

The legal industry is experiencing change at a remarkably rapid pace. The last few years have ushered in a transformative period that will come to define the future of the legal landscape in later years. Amongst the many developments we have seen emerge in the past few years, such as the gradual shift towards greater flexibility in the work life of legal professionals, the incorporation of AI technology into legal and hiring practices and the transition of the industry away from established traditional norms comes a particularly pertinent point of discussion – and contention – one that has (and will continue to) influenced how law firms will operate in years to come: The well-documented skills shortage experienced by law firms across the market.

It’s no secret to anyone keeping tabs on how the industry has fared since the pandemic from a hiring perspective, with redundancies, and a resulting candidate-led market just a few of many defining features of the post-covid era. Much has been written about its impact on business performance, and in particular, recruitment, as law firms large and small face a lot of difficulty today in acquiring the talent and expertise they need, due to a variety of factors at play.

Why is there a Skills Shortage?

Some of these said factors are simply a direct consequence of the pandemic, as businesses across the world of work have struggled to keep their head above water amidst a multitude of challenges such as economic turmoil and changing regulations, which has led to a sharp increase in client demand for legal services, one that law firms are buckling under the pressure to meet. Last year UK law firms were reported to have advertised over 2,300 jobs for London-based associates between January and November the year before – a whopping 131% increase on 2020’s numbers – but struggle to actually fill them.

And with the increasing effort to expand workforces to address this issue, comes an inevitable squabble for the top legal talent on the market, leading to stiff competition between law firms for the same candidates and consequently the difficulty in recruiting we see amongst businesses today. Chris Sullivan, head of Clifford Chance’s London private equity division echoed this sentiment: “The hires we are making are about growing our business to meet client demand…The aim is to grow our headcount and given the demand we’re seeing I wouldn’t put a cap on that. It is certainly a very competitive market for talent, there’s no question.”

Law firms are consequently plugging the gaps with an attempt to turn the heads of legal professionals with much-improved remuneration packages, including ‘retention bonuses’, offered to those wanting to leave for a rival firm, and a host of other benefits now known to be in high demand amongst candidates, such as flexible working arrangements. Such a shift from practices expected of legal employers in hiring points to another reason the fight for talent is so intense, and that is the changing needs and priorities of legal candidates.

Partly borne out of the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic, the idea of flexible working has quickly become a staple in the list of demands of candidates today, due to a greater need for better work-life balance in such turbulent periods and is now expected to be part of any benefits package worth considering from legal employers. Hybrid and remote working have been warmly welcomed amongst legal professionals, and any idea of returning to a type of culture that, according to a recent article in Bloomberg,  pushed so many to leave for the sake of their well-being is firmly rejected. The rising demand for other desirables such as development opportunities, and a real sense of purpose that provides lasting satisfaction beyond a handsome salary, makes meeting candidate expectations while fulfilling business obligations a real challenge for law firms, especially considering how averse the industry is in general to changing established practices.

Perhaps one of the biggest drivers of change in the industry today, and a big reason for the skills gap, is its movement towards digital integration and a technology-centric approach to business. The pressure of rising costs and shrinking budgets on firms across the sector has pushed many to embrace the value that digital technology holds in streamlining legal procedures, improving productivity, and bolstering efforts to comply with data protection regulations, giving rise to the need for lawyers who are digital-literate and capable of adding such expertise to their value as a professional. As the legal industry has always held fast to its very straight-and-narrow approach to cultivating legal talent in terms of culture and education, there is now a lack of ‘business of law talent’ in the skillset of legal professionals, with ‘practice’ narrowing as the ‘business of delivering legal services’ expands.

Where is the Gap?

Amongst the most desired hard skills missing in the repertoire of candidates, cloud computing and cybersecurity rank the highest, and unsurprisingly too, considering the level of efficiency (collaboration and cost-wise), flexibility, and scalability the former offers firms looking to keep pace with increasing client demand and adapt to changing workloads. Hand in hand with that comes the necessity of ensuring client data privacy and security can be maintained across cloud-based systems, (especially considering this is a sticking point with the use of such technology) explaining the high demand for competence in cybersecurity. With the world shifting towards a digital-oriented way of working over the last couple of years, the skills gap present in firms and general counsel in this area, is increasingly striking. A 2021 EY CEO Imperative Survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of respondents (which comprised of business leaders and senior legal officers) admitted that they lacked the data and technology required to respond to a data breach. Sixty-eight percent of General Counsels stated that they lacked access to accurate, real-time info on their legal entities, highlighting a real lack of confidence from GCs in their ability to handle increasingly complex corporate risk management.

With GDPR in the EU a big driver of the use of technology amongst firms, and GDPR regulations tightening the noose around businesses failing to comply, the need to ensure client data security, as well as competence in risk management, has never been more evident for employers active in the hiring market for legal talent.

However, a notable by-product of the industry’s sudden shift towards digital technology is the difficulty of younger candidates stepping into the profession during the post-pandemic era in building core soft skills essential for career success, leading to a soft skills gap in the today’s talent pool. Many will be well aware of how the divide in digital literacy has created multiple issues in building and maintaining relationships – personal or professional – over the last few years. As consultant and psychologist Kim Tasso eloquently put it, those who missed out on acquiring these key skills while the world grappled to cope with the impact of Covid and lockdown now find themselves playing catch-up.

So what exactly is missing when it comes to soft skills?

At the top of employers’ lists when looking at an ideal skillset for advancing employees is attention to detail according to research conducted by Business Name Generator, with more than a quarter of respondents within the legal industry stating it was the most important skill to have in the workplace. Self-motivation came in close second, with 22% highlighting the need for it in a new recruit’s repertoire, and this was further echoed by Kim Tasso in her piece on what soft skills legal professionals will need this year: “Set goals…and keep these goals front of mind. You will need to constantly check them against data and evidence to see if you are still on track; and know when it might be appropriate to revise or update them.”

Communication & Emotional Intelligence

One important skill, however, that atrophied in many due to the nature of the pandemic era is communication – both verbal and non-verbal. It’s no secret to any aspiring legal professional the importance of active listening, good conversational skills and confidence when interacting with peers, colleagues and clients, as it is a non-negotiable for key areas of the profession such as client and relationship management, effective networking, and conflict resolution. The ability to present cases and ideas persuasively, whether through a Zoom call or in front of hundreds of conference delegates, is indispensable for any legal professional who wants to be taken seriously.

Even more important for things like effective client management is the awareness of and ability to pick up non-verbal communication cues such as body language and facial expressions, particularly when cultural barriers are involved. As it comprises the vast majority of overall communication, it can and often is the difference between a closed deal with a client or a major career opportunity, and a failing endeavour to achieve lasting success on an individual and corporate level.

Another highly sought-after trait that comes hand-in-hand with, and actually facilitates excellent communication is a high EQ (emotional intelligence). As the single biggest predictor and strongest driver of leadership and excellence, it is also a must for employers to have among their legal teams in abundance. This can be broken down into several different skills: self-control (ability to understand one’s emotional triggers and manage one’s own emotions), empathy (ability and desire to recognise and understand the emotions of others), and the aforementioned self-awareness (ability to recognise our own emotions, and impact on others).

While these are already highly relevant and desirable, they are set to become even more so in future for employers as the industry continues embracing the value of digital and AI technology in streamlining processes and automating more mundane, non-complex tasks. With this highly likely to lead to a big jobs slash across the legal sector, ‘what will be left is the capacity to deal with human beings’, as Fuller stated in HBS’s publication Working Knowledge. Only the high value, complex or newest areas of law will need human input, among which will inevitably be client and relationship management, pointing to an even greater rise in demand for legal talent with a well-developed set of soft skills in the near future, something that Fuller also emphasises in the above publication: “Bosses will be hungry for good judgement, strong motivation and the ability to collaborate and articulate a vision.”

It is therefore concerning that, despite efforts to attract the candidates of today, businesses are failing to hire on a permanent basis, and are at risk of becoming oblivious to the gold mine of talent right beneath their feet due to the issue of inflexibility still present in the hiring practices of many firms today. It’s one thing for a skills gap to be present due to a lack of candidates available in the current talent pool with the desired kind of profile, and another thing entirely for such a profile to be the actual reason there is a perceived skills gap in the first place. According to a report from Harvard Business School and Accenture, there is a huge pool of skilled hidden workers shut out of employment by inflexible working requirements established by companies.

Just under a third of respondents of a survey conducted by Managing the Future of Work stated that they are only able to work part-time due to caregiving obligations, a reason highlighted as the ‘single biggest driver’ of hidden talent by Fuller in HBS’s publication. With 91% of that number being women – who are said to have better social skills in general – and this preference for flexible working set to only grow amongst candidates, the inability to show ample flexibility when it comes to working arrangements in the legal industry poses a major threat to the hiring efforts and overall success of firms unwilling to budge, especially considering what the future looks like from a business perspective.

In light of this, it is, although expected, prudent to ask oneself: How do employers combat the ongoing skills shortage to avoid a grim trajectory and futureproof their tomorrow? To answer that there are a few things you must consider:

Work-Life Balance: The Cornerstone of Individual – And Corporate Success

Starting with the most obvious but perhaps least straightforward aspect of the solution, the relaxing of stringent rules around working arrangements is very much the way to go for any law firm serious about standing out to today’s candidates. This isn’t just a matter of policy, but a cultural shift that should be embraced internally. With research increasingly indicating that employees able to achieve a better work-life balance are more productive, the priority a firm places on its workers’ wellbeing is evidently inextricably linked to the level of corporate success they see. This is the first step any business is advised to take when struggling to recruit, as it not only makes your accessibility to talent looking for a supportive culture far higher but also enables you to better facilitate their success.

What will determine the amount of value you get out of these decisions, however, is the prep work you do internally – that is, the commitment you show to building that kind of culture in your firm. Yes, what this will look like will differ slightly from individual to individual and it is multifaceted in nature but the most important rule to follow is communication with both your employees and leadership team. You should aim to have regular, frank and open conversations about what kind of culture you wish to establish and what every employee can do to help the business do that. This might be easier said than done, but there are steps you can take to make every candidate sure that you are an accommodating employer when it comes to culture.

This doesn’t just apply to working arrangements. Candidates are more discerning about where they work when it comes to career development and work culture, as this plays a large part in career satisfaction and work-life balance. Considering the nature of the problem at hand it is in your best interest to prioritise and invest in an employee development plan to upskill your workforce and ensure they are well-equipped to thrive in their roles in order to shield your business from the impact of a skills shortage and mitigate the problems it can cause down the line.

Setting Your Employer Brand Apart

Once these boxes have been ticked, the groundwork has been laid for your employer brand to shine. Taking a proactive approach to changing the culture and practices of your firm ensures it has the platform it needs to position the firm as one that values and invests in its workforce. In an age where the candidate experience is more important than ever, it’s imperative that you not only have an established employer value proposition but are also capable of communicating it effectively and convincingly to candidates. We break down how to build a winning employer brand in this guide here.

Your Personal Reservoir in a Talent Drought

The value that a specialist legal recruiter holds for firms running dry in their search for talent cannot be understated. With access to a wide pool of candidates, active or passive, a profound insight into current market trends and changes at every level, and a commitment to understanding the hiring needs of your firm, they are your ultimate ally in navigating a talent drought and staying competitive in a harsh climate. By simplifying what is often such an expensive and time-consuming process for hiring managers, they help to save your firm two of its most valuable resources, while ensuring you get the skills and the talent your business needs to thrive and excel.

That’s why our team at Clayton Legal are on hand – we take the stress and complications out of recruitment for your firm so that you can focus on what really matters. If you feel that the time has come to make an important hiring decision regarding your team, get in touch with us here.

Next Steps

If you would like to speak to us confidentially about market conditions, opportunities in your practice area or geographical region, or if you are actively looking for a role and would like us to help give you that competitive edge, we would love to speak to you – especially if you have your heart set on a new challenge for the new year.

Click here to speak to one of our experienced Legal specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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Are You Failing to Plan for Growth in Your Law Firm?

  • October 18, 2023

As a successful legal professional, be it a Senior Partner, Managing Partner, or on the Board, you are a primary driver of success for your law firm, determining its growth. Ultimately, you are pivotal in creating your firm’s story and building a pathway to its goals. Hopefully, you are experiencing current success and business is doing well – but don’t fall into the trap of overlooking areas where you could improve. It’s easy to become complacent, and before you know it, you will start to slip backwards. So how can you ensure you don’t fail to grow? In the current climate with market forces, as they are, you must strive to remain successful – and the key to that lies in planning. 

Sometimes it’s natural to overlook areas where you could make improvements if the firm is experiencing overall success. It’s easy to miss opportunities to progress. Alternatively, you may feel that your business is suffering due to market forces out of your control and you’re unable to take a step forward in the current climate.

However, there are always ways to improve and move forward – and that involves taking a step back, first of all, to review your law firm holistically; its customers, systems, processes, and people to reassess your goals and ensure you are making the most of your business. 

Talk To Your Clients:

It doesn’t matter how qualified your employees are or what specialist services you provide if you don’t focus on customer service first. Customers define your firm, so your priority is to ensure you understand their needs (and indeed challenges).

You can do this by conducting surveys and research – both quantitative and qualitative –  to gain valuable insight. Just ensure that your surveys facilitate honest feedback, or you’re wasting your time, and theirs. Having a spotlight on your customers’ thoughts about your service will allow you to leverage the elements that you’re already doing well, as well as focus on any hot spots where you need to reflect and make improvements. It’s essential to take the extra step to make your customers feel valued and unique, so make sure you talk to them and listen to (and address) any problems they have. That way, you will inspire loyalty – and loyal consumers won’t just come back to you – they will recommend their friends and colleagues to you too.  

Come Out Of The Bubble: 

In a volatile market – where the economy is impacting all facets of running a business,  one of the quickest ways for a firm to stunt its growth and cripple its potential is to conduct business blindly. By that, we mean lacking awareness of what your clients’ needs are, how they have changed over time, and how your competitors have responded to such needs to stay ahead of the curve. It can be tempting to get wrapped up in the business-as-usual of today, respond to immediate needs, and push anything deemed important but not urgent – however this can have disastrous consequences for your firm. Opportunities to capitalise on market changes, strike deals with highly after clients or scale business operations can pass you by if you fail to pay attention to how your competitors are conducting their business in the market. Coming out of your ‘bubble’ to look at other firms in your practice area and/or region can really impact how you trade competitively. As the saying goes, ‘no man is an island’ and if you’re looking to increase market share, you need to fully understand where and with whom that market is buying from.

This makes the presence of a regularly updated and detailed target persona an absolute must in your business strategy as it will ensure you have a Unique Selling Point that is consistent. A target persona consists of who your clients are, where their interests lie, what pain points they have, what they want from your services, and much more. Having this level of insight into your target market enables you to not only address their problems at the right time, but it also allows you to make your marketing and specifically your branding effective by communicating your USP at every touchpoint of the buyer cycle. This helps to create a strong brand that utilises both its position and performance in the marketplace to develop a reputation for being an excellent firm to do business with. 

Lack of an EVP: 

Going back to red flag number one, a firm’s culture, people strategy, and EVP (Employee Value Proposition) live or dies by its values as that forms the foundation for its competence in attracting, retaining, and developing top legal talent. As legal professionals are now becoming increasingly demanding in their search for the ideal employer, one of the biggest mistakes any firm can make in today’s market is failing to consider the priorities and preferences of its employees or jobseekers they are looking to attract. Without such a foundation, it is incredibly easy for a firm to slip into reactive mode and allow external factors such as economic pressures, market changes, and consequently, business performance to dictate how it treats its employees.  

And even though you will hopefully have ironed out your values as a business at this point, it does not guarantee immunity from making such blunders. The key to a strong EVP is the ability to create and sustain a positive, productive workforce, and that is only made possible through a regular, honest, and thorough review of your people strategy, to ensure your firm culture and environment remain the focus of it, and not the business goals – no matter the external or internal situation at hand.

According to Brett Minchington, who coined the phrase Employee Value Proposition in the first place, this comes down to largely five elements:

  • Fair pay

  • Personal development and growth

  • Meaningful work, making a contribution

  • Good reputation

  • Working with friendly colleagues

Your work environment should have employees feeling valued, respected, and motivated and should regularly facilitate open communication, effective collaboration, and a healthy work-life balance. We have seen a big shift in the market in recent years towards flexibility, hybrid working, and employee satisfaction so ensure that your EVP focuses on these areas while remaining aligned with your goals for business growth. 

Consider Your Leadership Contingent – Are They Suitable For That Role? 

The last few years have been challenging for the legal sector. Dealing with the fallout of the pandemic, increased workload, and the impact of overworking on employees’ well-being means that many firms also now need to uplevel their leadership skills alongside recruiting new lawyers into their teams to lead their firm moving forward.

In turbulent times, everyone looks to great leaders for guidance. Leadership resonates throughout a business, and the quality of your leadership can be the difference between your firm’s ultimate success or failure.

A successful law firm requires leadership that is transparent, emotionally intelligent, resilient, empathetic, focused, and inspiring.

If you believe your leadership could develop in some of these areas further, take steps now. Training in personal development and upskilling where needed will enable you to lead from the front. Failure to invest in leadership will result in good ideas coming to nothing, so start at the top. 

Invest In Building A Top Team 

A high-performing team is what any employer would want. A high-performing team of solicitors that is efficient, drives profits and gets results is no doubt the utopia that business leaders strive for, which requires excellent leadership, support in their development, and constant engagement (even before any recruits join the firm).

Developing a high-performing team that works collaboratively will enable your law firm to achieve its goals, both short and long-term. It will create a positive mindset and ethos of encouragement and positivity that will allow your firm to excel and grow, keeping you ahead of the pack in the competitive legal marketplace and making your law firm attractive to further top talent.

As part of this, professional development should play a significant role in ensuring your team keeps ahead of trends. Training and development of both hard and soft skills will not only instill a sense of pride in specialist knowledge and ability but also make employees feel valued by the firm. This, in turn, will lead to better staff retention saving you the costs of hiring and onboarding new employees. Additionally, happy staff are more productive, so you will see positive developments in the bottom line. In a working environment where individuals are part of a capable team, the quality of an individual’s sense of purpose in understanding big goals is enhanced. They feel ‘included’ in decisions, and their ideas and concerns are listened to and acted on. 

Keep On Top Of (And Ahead) Of Tech  

The legal sector is growing at a rapid pace. If you’re standing still in terms of digital ability, then you might as well be going backwards. Using digital strategies to grow your law firm allows you to reach a much larger number of potential clients than ever before. As well as building your client base, if you regularly post industry articles online, you will develop a reputation as being an authority in your specialist areas – attracting both top talent to want to work for you as well as establishing you as a credible law firm in the eyes of competitors. Your website should also reflect your forward-thinking by embracing new technology. Refining your online platform will make it more responsive, and maximizing your SEO will enable you to reach more viewers online, as well as offer you the opportunity to connect and network with others – crucial in moving forward. Additionally, a social media strategy will enable you to reach more clients, develop relationships and strengthen existing ones, gain insight into competitors, and demonstrate your industry knowledge. 

Plan For Headcount Growth Early 

As firms consider their strategy and business objectives, whether that’s on a quarterly basis as a checkpoint, or a typical 1-, 3- and 5-year plan, any kind of compound growth inevitably goes hand in hand with the need to increase headcount and upskill where required.

Firms may have their own Hiring Managers whose remit is to attract new talent to the firm, or this may fall to HR or even practising Solicitors and Partners in some cases. Either way, reaching out to a specialist legal recruiter as those strategic discussions are taking place will undoubtedly pay dividends in the long run to get a true birds-eye view of the market, your competitors, the movement of talent (and scarcity which may impact your plans) – invaluable insight that you can readily tap in to.

Ultimately, a strategic plan is the tool that will enable you to move forward and grow your legal firm. Using your knowledge of what has worked well previously, you can build a pathway to achieve your ultimate goals, avoiding strategies that have failed in the past. A good plan will move you from where you are now to where you want to be. Including milestones, and achievements will keep you focused on the end goals and provide you and your team with motivation along the way. Make your strategic plan achievable (but aspirational) and timely – and don’t be afraid to amend it as you progress if your law firm’s requirements change.  

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Your Legal Employee is Leaving – Should You Make a Counteroffer?

  • June 9, 2023

Whether the news of your soon-to-be ex-employee leaving represents a big blow for your firm or a possible weight off your management team’s shoulders, the reality of employee turnover is and has always been an unavoidable part of business, come rain or come shine. But like all inevitabilities, how it is prepared for and dealt with determines what it brings for a company, and this rings true for any firm looking to thrive in a market filled with unpredictability. 

So, if you’ve just had your talented and likeable Senior Conveyancing Solicitor come and tell you they are leaving to go and work for a competitor, how do you react? Do you panic and wrack your brain for a way to make them reconsider their decision? Or do you perhaps treat the issue as something to avoid losing time and resources over, and wish them the best of luck as they depart for pastures new? 

 Do you make keeping them a priority, and should you even try? 

 If that individual is a big asset to the firm – reliable, motivated, hard to replace (or expensive), and now planning a move to one of your biggest competitors (and perhaps with a time-sensitive caseload on their plate) you will be tempted to offer them the moon to stay. Additionally, the true cost of losing an employee can be prohibitive – hiring fees, recruiting time, onboarding and training – not to mention the nose-dive in morale for other employees who see a valued and talented colleague walking out the door. 

 But a word of warning. A counteroffer may not be the solution it initially appears, as all angles of the situation need to be looked at before going down that route.  

Why Employees Leave 

What you should be wary of when looking to convince the employee to reconsider their decision, is going into the conversation with a financial incentive in mind as your bargaining chip. Research states that 50% – 80% of employees that accept counteroffers end up leaving their employer within 6 months due to the same issues that led to their initial decision. The fact is that it’s rarely a salary issue that sees employees leave to take up another job offer, so the chances that an offer of increased salary will keep them at your firm are slimmer than you might think.  

Rather than an issue of compensation, the following are the biggest reasons employees typically begin embarking on a search for pastures new: 

Lack Of Career Progression

If an employee feels they have climbed as far up the career ladder as they can with your law firm, they are going to start casting their net elsewhere to discover better opportunities. A survey last year conducted by Go1 discovered that 60% of employees that were found to consider leaving their job in 6-12 months’ time, cited a lack of career prospects as their main driver. When a promotion has long been deserved but is not forthcoming, employees will begin to look for it elsewhere.  

The same can be said for job satisfaction from a more micro perspective. When an employee’s work doesn’t provide the necessary stimulation for growth or progress that it should, it leads to the dangerous drops in work ethic that the resulting boredom brings. Perhaps your Conveyancing Solicitor has been dealing with the same clients doing similar work for several years and yearns for a new challenge. Or your Portal Fee Earner has been hoping for promotion to Team Leader for some time but hasn’t been successful. If an employee doesn’t feel stretched or challenged in their job, they become disinterested and disengaged. Then disinterest quickly transforms into boredom, and this eventually manifests in a search for something else to extend their capabilities. 

Poor Management 

People don’t quit their jobs; they quit their bosses, and this remains the case today for law firms. Poor management practice can do a lot of damage, – killing employee morale and impacting engagement levels – and consequently make the work environment a barrier to, rather than a catalyst for employee success. A workplace that doesn’t encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking or is inflexible with its staff is not going to facilitate success on an individual or collective level, and this is especially the case with legal professionals today, with whom working with an employer that shares and lives out similar values to theirs is now much more of an expectation than a luxury.  

Employees need to feel valued and respected. They need to look forward to coming to work and enjoying their job. Having these aspects of the work culture in place enables them their drive not only their own career progress but that of the firm too. 

Opportunity To Join A High-Profile Law Firm 

Blinded by the dazzle of the prestige that comes with working for a top law firm, an employee might feel the urge to leave just to be part of a highly-reputable business. While it’s hard to argue with this one, they (and you) should be warned of the possible pitfalls. Does the firm have a good reputation? Does it have a high staff turnover? Both parties should weigh the pros and cons involved.  

Better Work Life Balance 

Some things money just can’t buy, and this is one of them. Even in a period where flexibility and healthy work-life balance is high on the priority list of legal professionals, burnout remains common among many today. The nature of the work life involved in the legal profession – as well as the prevalent workaholic culture that pressures many into sacrificing their own well-being for their firm’s success – inevitably drives many employees to look towards leaving a position to try to claw back some time for themselves and their family.  

Asking The Right Questions

The best way to approach the conversation is by asking a few questions to get a good indication of why your employee is considering leaving. Keeping them general to begin with is best, as not everyone will be willing to discuss their reasons for leaving a job.  

A simple “What’s go you thinking of leaving’’ followed by a question asking whether they’d like to discuss it is a good way to get the conversation started. Asking questions can help you understand the underlying issues that have gotten your employee to the point of seriously considering leaving. Ideally, discussing these concerns can help you identify problems that you have the ability to address and  retaining your employee. 

And, even if they remain unconvinced, you will at the very least have learned  from their experience and can make improvements for future employees. Regardless, by addressing the issue and doing your best to find a resolution, you have ensured that you’ve done everything you can to take appropriate action.  

Making Your Counteroffer 

If you intend to make a counteroffer, start by asking your employee the following questions:  

  1. Do they enjoy working at your law firm 
  2. Can they envision a future there? 

 If the answer to both questions is yes it is worth considering a counteroffer. Begin by offering non-financial incentives to encourage them to stay, as we’ve already that these are unlikely to solve the issues at hand. Instead, consider the following alternatives:

  • Foster a workplace culture that embraces diversity and inclusion. 
  • Explore flexible working hours, including options such as flexitime for employees experiencing stress or other options, such as working from home. Employers who are more open to alternative working arrangements tend to be more respected by their teams and see better levels of staff retention. 
  • Assign them a role that plays to their strengths. Is there an opportunity to move the employee into a position that better suits their skillset and ability? Is there a project/case they could lead on which would challenge them? 
  • Provide mentoring opportunities – a great mentor can provide invaluable insight, support and guidance to an employee who is struggling with their career. 
  • Address management issues promptly, as there’s no excuse for poor behaviour in the workplace at any level. Bullying, harassment or just downright rude bosses or staff need to be dealt with ruthlessly. 
  • Consider hiring additional staff to alleviate workload pressures. If workload overwhelm is the issue, then a temporary or permanent staff addition can reduce pressure on current employees, and lead to an increase in productivity, as well as fewer absences due to stress. 
  • Establish a clear progression pathway. Everyone wants to feel they can achieve their career ambitions through their work and see tangible progress.  
  • Develop an employee development plan that shows a clear training, development and progression route for each employee. This will give individuals something to aim for and ensure they are more likely to stay and grow with your law firm. Remember that taking tangible actions is crucial for the success of your counteroffer.  

Potential Pitfalls To Be Mindful Of 

Even more important to consider than the pros of a counteroffer are the potential drawbacks involved. The following should be considered before proceeding:  

  • Could offering a salary increase create imbalance across the team?  
  • Will other team members pressure for a salary rise when word gets out – and if so, can you manage expectations? 
  • Will you get a reputation in the market for overpaying that could lead to unsuitable candidates clamouring to join your law firm for the wrong reasons? 
  • Can you even afford an increased financial offer in the first place? 
  • Is there a real chance of the employee taking your offer for granted? Could they continue performing at previous levels or become complacent, even arrogant, because they got their way?

Moving Forward

Whatever the outcome, you may want to consider ways to improve staff retention going forward; improving firm culture, opening lines of communication to provide transparency and most importantly, valuing your employees. Using conversations around why an employee wants to leave can be a strategic opportunity to reflect and make improvements internally. 

As a Manager of Business Leader in the Firm, you should always be on alert for the signs that key individuals may be a ‘flight-risk’. In today’s changing legal landscape, issues like disengagement, burnout, and even “quiet quitting” are becoming increasingly common. But if you can recognise these signs ahead of time, there are still things you can do to re-ignite your staff’s passion for your firm and prevent them from seeking other employment options…hopefully long before the conversation around resignation and counteroffers is even on the table. 

Moving On?

If despite reasonable negotiation, the employee still intends to leave, it is best to agree to part ways amicably and wish them well. Remember, life is about change. If it’s time for them to move on, let them resign gracefully. Don’t be tempted to behave childishly – that will only get the rest of your team thinking about starting their own covert job hunt. 

Instead, consider celebrating their contribution with a kind Thank You gesture. That’s the best way to build trust and successfully manage your legal team. 

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

Click here to speak to one of our experienced Legal specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

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Top Hiring Strategies for Law Firms that are working now

  • August 17, 2022

Though some of the challenges of hiring in the last couple of years are beginning to diminish, the legal sector is still a skills-short market. Trends like the “Great Resignation” and an increasing demand for global, remote work are leading to massive turnover for all kinds of companies.

Since any law firm can’t thrive without the right employees, it makes sense for every business leader to think about how they can improve their hiring strategy in this new landscape. Ensuring you have the right plan in place can help you to attract the most sought-after talent, improve your chances of employee retention, and strengthen your employer brand.

Here are some of the hiring strategies generating powerful results for law firms.

1.    Adapting to Your Candidates’ Changing Priorities

The first step in ensuring you can successfully hire and retain legal talent, is knowing what your candidates really want from their employer. In the last couple of years, the evolving workplace has led to the development of new priorities for many staff members.

Today’s employees still want to get the salary they deserve, but they also want:

  • Empathy: A focus on respect, empathy, diversity, and inclusion will be crucial to attracting candidates in any environment. Showcasing your empathetic side will help you to attract employees who share the same values as your business.
  • Flexibility: Today’s employees want more flexible roles. With the rise of cloud technology, it’s possible for some legal jobs to be more hybrid, remote, or flexible than they once were. Some companies are even exploring concepts like the 4-day work week.
  • Development: Your employees want to see a future with your company, and a path for them to improve and enhance their skills. Have meetings with your team members to identify their current and long-term goals, and how you can help them reach them.

2.    Leveraging a Specialist Legal Recruiter

Recruiters are one of the most valuable tools you’ll have in your hiring strategy, particularly when they specialise in your industry. An experienced legal recruiter will be able to help you identify the most important things your candidates are looking for when you’re writing your job descriptions and interviewing potential employees.

Recruiters can also save you significant time in collecting applications from a diverse range of backgrounds. Their existing presence in the industry means they already have access to various environments where they can find people to fill your talent pipeline.

With a recruiter, you’ll also have access to support and guidance to help you with everything from improving the interview experience, to making your job listings more impactful.

Just remember, to get the most out of your legal recruiter, you’ll need to walk the line between clarity and flexibility. It’s important to be clear about the things you really want from your candidate, but don’t get lost in the search for the perfect unicorn employee.

3.    Enhancing Your E.V.P.

In today’s digital world, employers have endless opportunities to learn more about their potential candidates by looking at their social media profiles and personal brand. However, it’s worth remembering your candidates also have the same opportunity to evaluate you.

Before considering whether to accept a job offer or even send in an application, most of today’s candidates will research your brand. It’s important to make sure your offer and E.V.P. (Employer Value Proposition) stands out.

Start by assessing your current employer brand, and what you communicate to potential staff members. Are you active on social media, constantly sharing valuable information about your company culture and the growth of your team members? Do your employees talk positively about you on social channels and review sites?

Next, consider your job offer and how it compares to roles available from your competition. Are you delivering the same level of flexibility for your new candidates? What can you provide that your team members can’t get elsewhere? Remember, organisations who implement a successful employer brand cut their cost-per-hire in half!

Your legal recruitment professional will be able to help you with cultivating the right employer brand.

4.    Upgrading the Candidate Journey

In today’s changing landscape, employers need to make sure every stage of the candidate journey is as convenient and engaging as possible to avoid losing the attention of top talent. With the help of your legal recruitment agency, look at every touchpoint you’ll have with your candidates, and how you can update them to suit the current trends.

For instance, are you posting your job listings on social media, so they’re easy to find, and making sure it’s easy for your candidates to learn more about the role on your website? When candidates apply for a role, how will you interview them?

Video and remote interview processes are becoming increasingly common, particularly for remote and hybrid roles. You may also need to think about:

  • Following up with candidates: How will you keep your candidate engaged by following up and providing insights into their progress?
  • Onboarding: How will you onboard your team members when you decide who to hire, and how can you make them feel like part of the team as quickly as possible?
  • Diversity: How will you ensure you’re making hiring decisions without bias, and you’re respecting the concept of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

5.    Planning a Comprehensive Strategy

Finally, it’s worth remembering that being prepared will save you a lot of time, effort, and money in today’s skills-short market. Rather than just rushing to fill gaps in your legal team when someone leaves your workforce, it’s worth thinking about your long-term talent strategy.

Work with Clayton Legal to build a talent pipeline, filled with diverse professionals from different environments, who can add something valuable to your team. When creating this pipeline, don’t just think about the skills you need now, but the expertise you may need in the future.

A good talent pipeline will mean you always have somewhere to turn to access crucial talent when your company needs it most.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 3,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Facing Redundancy – What Next for Your Legal Career?

The last few months have been a precarious time for the vast majority of people in the UK. And with significant changes in the legal sector, many employees have felt a degree of uncertainty around the future of their career.

The realities of the rise in inflation and the cost of living is now being realised, and for some legal employees, this will, unfortunately, mean redundancy. A new study has shown that nearly 1 in 5 employers are likely to make redundancies over the next year, including law firms and legal services.

But while some areas and some practices have been hit hard, others are flourishing.

Today, we look at what legal employees who are currently facing redundancy should be focusing on now and how to navigate the new situation you could be placed in.

Let’s start with some positivity.

The New Job Mindset

A positive mindset is critical when job seeking, so the first thing that it is essential to remember is that it’s not you that is being made redundant; it’s your role.

There has been so much change, contraction and growth in different areas that there will be inevitable redundancies in some practices as employers try to make sense of the new market.

Legal employees who ‘go it alone’, rather than work with a recruiter, run the risk of losing momentum. This can leave you feeling isolated and discouraged, especially when your job applications aren’t garnering you many responses.

My first piece of advice for a legal candidate facing redundancy is to start working with a legal recruiter as soon as possible. They will be able to provide the career support that you need right now.

So if your position has recently become redundant, there is good news – there are opportunities out there – let’s look at where they are.

What To Do If Your Training Contract Is Terminated

The Law Society have a great article that discusses what your options are if your training contract is terminated before you complete it. Find out more here with guidance from The Law Society and the SRA.

“The SRA states that trainee solicitors are common law apprentices, which means that you cannot be terminated as part of a redundancy process. This gives you enhanced protections under employment law and you should have reference to the SRA’s authorised training provider information pack (2019 regulations)”.

Retraining

One of the first things to consider is if you can retrain in a different legal specialism.

While this might not be the easiest path or the first choice for some individuals, for those that take advantage of the opportunity now could enjoy great benefits.

For example, you might have specialised in personal injury law, and have been operating in this field for some years.

But the market is now changing.

Legal firms are increasingly in need of employees trained in the areas which have boomed since the pandemic struck – property, family and employment law being the main three.

And this isn’t a short-sighted career move. Adding another string to your bow is always a good idea career-wise, and it makes perfect sense to do it now when there are talent shortages in these critical areas.

If you are thinking about changing your legal specialism, there are a few ways you can get started.

First, look for a mentor in your chosen field – this can be a difficult task, but once you find someone who you trust and who can help you shape your career path the way you want, they will be invaluable to you. This can be someone from your chosen field within your current company, or you can reach out to sector specialists on LinkedIn or during trade webinars or seminars, with physical networking not a possibility at this time.

Then take advantages of any courses you can enrol in to bring you closer to your chosen specialism, you can also self-study and work on extra certificates outside working hours – there are lots of online courses available.

If you feel comfortable discussing your chosen career goal with your current employer and feel that they will support you in your chosen field, you can always ask them if they will allow you time to train on the job in another department of the firm.

So let’s look a little closer at the areas in where the opportunities are right now.

Property

As with many unprecedented situations the pandemic caused, the mortgage and rent holidays that were put in place by the government created a boom in property law that hasn’t slowed down.

There is going to be a vast increase in roles in practices that deal with property disputes. And this is set to continue for many months and possibly even years.

Staying with property, the backlog of conveyancing that was caused by the house-move ban has yet to be cleared, which has created more opportunities for growth in this sector.

This, coupled with the fact that the pandemic seems to have inspired many people to move house – a rise of 15.6% in August 2020 – practices with property specialisms have never been busier.

Family

Family law is another area where we have seen a significant increase in opportunities.

There has been a so-called ‘divorce boom’ fuelled by the lockdowns and changes in economic circumstances. The Citizens Advice website saw a 25% increase in divorce guidance searches in September 2020 compared to the previous year.

The BBC spoke to family lawyer Georgina Chase, who commented that 30% of matrimonial enquiries she had received had been from couples separating because of relationship issues being exacerbated due to lockdown which we think will continue to increase as the cost of living continues to squeeze on those relationships.

A new survey by Scottish Law firm MHA Henderson Loggie has predicted lawyers specialising in commercial dispute resolution and family law are anticipating an increase in workload due to Covid-19.

MHA Legal director Christine Rolland commented “It is not known how the courts will cope with the backlog of cases on top of the expected number of new cases over the next 6 months.”

So family law is another area that is crying out for legal talent right now.

Employment

Employment law is another area which is seeing a drastic increase in the wake of Covid-19.

There have been changes to employment law due to the pandemic, with many issues in this field yet to be resolved.

As of late August 2020, there were 39,000 individual employment claims waiting to be heard according to the Ministry of Justice figures.

Barry Clarke, the president of employment tribunals in England and Wales, said he expects the backlog to continue to rise. He said this “would pose huge challenges to the ability of the [employment tribunal] to deliver justice within a reasonable time, which deeply troubled him”.

Conciliation service Acas received 33,000 calls in regards to redundancy in June and July 2020, an increase of 169% on last year.

As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done in this area of law, and practices with this specialism are looking for talent to help clear the backlog.

Private Client

During this time, if you haven’t before, it might be time to consider working with private clients on cases to start to build your own private client portfolio.

Private clients are an international growth industry which can be an extremely good career move for a solicitor to consider.

If you have excellent interpersonal skills, and it is your ambition to work closely with your clients to provide the best outcomes for individuals you have built an excellent relationship with, then becoming a private client solicitor could be for you.

Private client opportunities are currently booming, so now is a great time to make a career change into this area of law if you think you’ve got what it takes.

Looking at the Positives

Facing redundancy can feel daunting, but it is crucial to think of the opportunities that a new role can bring.

You have the chance to work with a legal recruiter to find a role that fits exactly the direction you want your legal career to be going in.

If you aren’t sure about the direction of your legal career and would like to explore the options that are available to you right now, get in contact with us here.

A Different Location?

Finally, expanding your job search is another way to increase your options.

In your legal career so far, your work might have focused around one particular town or area, and this is understandable if you have family ties.

But for anyone with the opportunity to do so, looking to expand your job search into areas you hadn’t previously considered is a great way to increase your job prospects.

If you are searching for a new legal role in the North West – get in touch with us today by calling 0121 259 121, click here to view our current vacancies or click here to send us an email with your legal career enquiry.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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Legal Sector Hiring Trends: What Is Happening In The Market

The last few years have certainly seen monumental shifts in the hiring landscape from talent shortages to remote and flexible working.

There is more to come. The impact of the war in Ukraine and rising inflation due to fuel costs and supply chain issues will undoubtedly impact even more candidate decisions to move for more money as the year progresses.

At the end of 2021, there was a record 1.2 million vacancies according to the O.N.S. across all sectors in the U.K. More than fifty per cent of companies reporting staff shortages said they were struggling to fill vacancies.

Unemployment continues to decline, falling to 1.4 million in the three months to October 2021. While unemployment is still above levels before the pandemic, it is now below the average level in the five years before the beginning of quarter one of 2020.

Before we dive into the legal landscape, let us look at recruiting across other sectors first, which naturally will impact the business growth of the legal sector.

The Hiring Trends Index

The hiring trends index reveals that vacancies reached a record high in quarter one, although the growth rate is slowing down compared to the end of last year.

In the recruitment sector, this is known as a candidate-driven market. This is demonstrated by the fact that over forty per cent of businesses have increased their recruitment since the start of the year.

Most companies plan to keep hiring this year, with only 4% planning to decrease recruitment in Q2 2022.

A few points of note from the index, which are present across many legal firms in the U.K., is that companies are seeing an increase of over 20% in hours worked, resulting in one in ten employees leaving because they ‘feel’ overworked. This is connected to over a quarter of employers being concerned about their staff’s mental wellbeing.

All parts add to a complex hiring equation playing out for legal firms across the U.K.

The War For Legal Talent Will Get Worse

In a recent Law.com post, several U.K. law firm leaders were interviewed about their predictions for 2022. The war for legal talent was a key area for discussion on the back of an increasingly dynamic legal landscape in 2022.

Though several leaders predict a slowdown of the transactional surge that occurred in the last half of 2021, they anticipate a rise in restructuring, insolvency, and dispute work, which will continue to fuel what many call an “unsustainable” war between firms to attract the best.

In today’s marketplace, firms need to consider their benefits package overall. Though increased pay rises and higher salaries will carry on, law firms will have to focus more on aspects such as their company culture, the quality of clients they work with and how they look after and develop their staff.

This was backed up by a recent post in The Guardian, where Jon Boys, the labour market economist at the C.I.P.D. confirmed what is happening across the country. Employers are working harder than ever to keep their staff ‘happy’ and do more for them, be that better clients to work with or the option for flexible working.

As a result of market conditions, many firms are coming to the Clayton team seeking advice on how to improve their employer value proposition in the market, from salaries to looking at alternative working patterns that offer greater flexibility.

Work-life balance is no longer simply a buzzword in the H.R. departments of law firms that want to attract the right legal talent for their growth. Working hard is a given in most law firms; however, many legal candidates are actively considering moving to a more empathetic firm that will allow them to create some balance in their lives.

Alison Brown, an executive partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, a respected international firm, when interviewed by Law.com, also commented that firms need to create a culture that appeals to people. Giving people the best work with work-life balance would be the differentiator when legal candidates choose their next employer.

In summary, candidates are willing to move firms, but with an abundance of choice in such a competitive market, it remains a challenge for employers to truly stand out and offer compelling job opportunities in a Firm that has an already strong employer brand, and is able to articulate it’s vision, culture, and wider employer value proposition.

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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What Are The Key Challenges for Law Firms in 2020?

  • February 14, 2020

Specialist legal recruiters, Clayton Legal, conduct an annual salary survey of over 4000 law firms across the UK. This gives us insight into the challenges law firms face and enables us to provide a comprehensive, streamlined and relevant service to our candidates and clients in the legal sector.

Salary surveys capture the detail of the legal marketplace in terms of remuneration offered by law firms of diverse sizes and disciplines. These surveys also highlight the current challenges faced by many firms – from small family-run solicitors to major household legal names.

In a time of political turmoil, with Brexit uncertainty, a skills shortage and a candidate-driven legal marketplace, the information available from such a report offers value and insight that can positively impact your hiring strategies, as well as provide advice on successful methods of ensuring retention of the very best legal talent in your firm.

Whether your law firm is a small family business on the high street or one of the legal 500, this information is critical to your firm’s success and will keep you ahead of the curve.

In this article, I will address the main challenges illuminated by the recent Clayton Legal salary survey that I hope you will find useful when planning your strategies for 2020.

Challenges Overview

The overall challenges for law firms as we enter 2020 lie around recruitment and retention of employees. Sourcing, attracting, hiring and retaining your legal team in a competitive sector and against a skills shortage background remain the priorities for most law firms.

A key challenge for law firms is that legal candidates are seeking higher salaries, and are often attracted by larger firms who can provide higher levels of remuneration. Consequently, many smaller firms are finding the retention of their top professionals challenging. The impact is not just in the loss of a star performer, but an inevitable increase in workload and mounting stress for the remaining team members.

Additionally, for many firms, there is a desire to expand and scale while balancing staff numbers, continuing to provide excellent service and keeping a cap on overheads. Not an easy task.

With these facts in mind, let’s take a look at the challenges exposed by our recent survey, and offer solutions to manage them successfully.

Skills Shortage

One of the main issues the survey highlighted was the current skills shortage in the legal sector.

Across all disciplines, law firms nationwide are finding it problematic to recruit to specialist areas; property, in particular, is still experiencing significant skill shortages.

Although there is a sufficient number of law graduates per se, not many have any previous experience, and there is a specific gap in the market for candidates with more than three years of PQE.

In addition, a drop in the level of general background education of candidates is reported. Firms describe inferior standards of written and verbal communication skills, including grammar, spelling and vocabulary.

With many disciplines struggling to recruit in specialist areas, law firms need to review their strategy for hiring to be able to combat this situation. So, what is the best way to attract the top legal professionals to your firm?

Attracting Talent

Securing the right legal professionals for your firm is a challenge many currently face. In a candidate led marketplace, how can you stand out above the others as a preferred employer?

Even though competition for candidates with talent and specialist experience is fierce, there are ways to attract top talent to your firm.

Although salary remains a critical factor for legal job seekers, benefits packages add value to your firm. In addition to the traditional pension contributions, flexible working and staff will-writing schemes, there has been a rise in recent years of firms looking to attract candidates by thinking ‘outside the box’.

Hence, many firms are adding additional offers to their benefits package, including duvet days, free fruit or other healthy snacks, enhanced maternity pay, and sabbaticals to attract and retain legal professionals.

Which leads me on to the third challenge.

Skills Retention

High staff turnover, a mobile workforce and increased competition from other firms are factors that you can’t ignore. So, here are three suggestions for ensuring your critical talent want to stay and grow their career with you.

Wellbeing

We know it’s not just about salary. Wellbeing is cited as a growing area which can attract and retain talent by offering a supportive environment, excellent workplace culture and better work-life balance.

Also, with recent emphasis placed on mental health in the workplace, by cultivating a culture of wellbeing and inclusion, you will gain happier employees and consequently, higher retention rates.

It’s worth noting that a wellness programme not only builds camaraderie, but research has shown the significant benefits of regular exercise in helping to increase happiness levels and lower stress.

Learning Opportunities 

 Creating a supportive environment means actively seeking to support and nurture your legal talent throughout their career. Feedback, mentoring, recognition of achievements and a focus on lifelong learning opportunities will demonstrate investment in your employees.

LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report showed a huge 93% of employees would stay with their employer longer if an investment were made in their careers.

Offering the opportunity to develop additional skills and qualifications will demonstrate your commitment to your legal team, resulting in higher productivity and establishing your firm as an inclusive and invested employer.

Diversity

Workplace diversity was one of the critical trends last year – with no signs of stopping as we head into 2020.

Proactively hiring for difference in gender, race, age, ethnicity and outlook will contribute to making your law firm diverse and encourage your legal talent to stay.

Diversity also brings in more clients, spurring economic growth as well as leading to increased innovation. Creating an excellent company culture that embraces diversity will result in a dynamic workplace that helps sow the seeds of creative ideas. Your legal team will feel valued and more likely to want to grow their career with your firm.

Implementing these benefits will improve employee engagement and heighten your chances of holding on to top performers, even against the lure of bigger salaries from the competition.

Conclusion

Despite the recent election win, the stark reality is that there is still a considerable number of unanswered questions in relation to the UK’s economic future, the impact of which are likely to be felt by law firms up and down the country as we go forward in 2020.

In the face of continual changes, the pressure to exploit growth opportunities while remaining agile is high – but for those law firms that can adapt and hone their attraction, hiring and retention rates, 2020 could prove the most successful year yet.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking to develop your legal team, or you would like a copy of our Salary Survey 2020, please call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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How to Handle The Legal Employee Who Isn’t a Team Player

  • November 1, 2019

In the legal world, as everywhere, teams come in all shapes and sizes. Getting the right people into your legal team can be challenging. When you onboard, you are looking for a good team ‘fit’ – attitude as well as aptitude to do the job.

For the most part, if you have followed due process when onboarding, your team should ‘gel’ well and work collaboratively.

But what happens when one of your employees isn’t a team player?

For example, you have a new, big client. You want your top team to work together on a case this client has given you. It will involve much collaboration, sharing out the tasks, visiting the client, days in court, etc. Everyone is excited to be part of this.

Your Compliance and Risk Manager will handle the case review and ensure call listening is carried out; your corporate paralegal will review all documentation, maintain the files and attend meetings; even the graduate trainee is looking forward to experiencing being part of an exciting case.

But your new Corporate Solicitor, who is in a pivotal role, is not engaging with the project at all. In fact, they are looking distinctly as though they wish they were somewhere else.

Are they just not team players, or is it something else?

The Pitfalls of Not Engaging Your Team

It’s a fact that people grow your law firm. If one or more of your team are disengaged, it will affect productivity and performance across the whole team.

Collaborative working may not be top of the priority list for everyone, but the job of a team is to move the firm forward to success. The bottom line is that it is part of everyone’s job description – and that means working together.

TEAM – the rather cheesy acronym of Together Everyone Achieves More, does ring true. Handling a member of your team who doesn’t believe that collaboration and communication are the way forward can be a major challenge and one that you need to address – quickly.

So, what are the best ways to deal with your legal employee who just won’t join in?

Look for Hidden Reasons

As Stephen Covey advised, “Seek first to understand”.

It’s easy to leap to conclusions about other people who aren’t playing the way you want. You could dismiss your new solicitor as just lazy or being deliberately awkward in their unwillingness to work with the team.

But maybe there’s something else?

It could be that they don’t believe they have the necessary skills for the project in hand, or that they have a personal problem at home that no one at work is aware of.

They are only human – and problems can manifest in many ways.

So, check-in with them and give them the opportunity to explain if there’s a problem that’s stopping them from getting involved.

Check Your Communication is Clear

Make sure you are clear with your instructions and communications.

Is it possible that the individual has misinterpreted your intentions? Have you been clear?

Especially if you have more than one disengaged member of the team, it could be that you need to communicate your intentions more clearly.

So, make sure your expectations are transparent so that each individual knows exactly what their role is and what is expected of them.

Listen

It can often be the case that an employee feels disengaged because they don’t believe they are being listened to. So, consider talking less, and allowing them to voice their opinions, concerns and ideas.

By practising active listening, you will gain valuable insight into what makes them tick, and where the root cause of their disengagement lies.

You will also empower them, and they will be much more likely to see themselves as part of the bigger picture with a role to play. By engaging them in this way, you can also encourage feedback and offer support.

Acknowledge Their Work

Do you remember the last time a senior member of staff said ‘thank you’ to you for a job well done?

Receiving praise and acknowledgement is a sure-fire way to instil a sense of passion and willingness to do more in an individual employee.

The ‘win’ doesn’t have to be major; it could simply be a thank you for staying late to help finish a case or write up a report. But it indicates your appreciation of the employee and the part they play in your law firm.

Offer Development Opportunities

Whatever job role you have, sometimes the daily grind can seem just that. Let’s be honest, we all have moments where we feel bored at work; stuck in the same routine every day.

Mixing it up, where possible, will reignite enthusiasm in your team. So, send your Paralegal out to visit clients with a Solicitor, or allow your Legal Secretary to work on an extra project where they have autonomy.

Coaching or mentoring is a great way to get individuals involved and build up their confidence and skills.

By offering opportunities, either official training and development or just something a bit different in the daily workload will help re-engage disinterested employees.

Embrace Inclusivity

Inclusivity into a team and the law firm as a whole will ensure that each individual can see how they fit into the overall aspirations of the firm and make them feel that they are contributing to its success.

As part of that inclusivity, it’s crucial to ensure that all staff are kept in the loop with the firm’s news – whether that’s good or bad.

Good news will, of course, help engage and inspire, but not so good news is also important. Delivering bad news is never easy. But sweeping it under the carpet is a source of frustration for many employees – it can lead to a feeling of being kept in the dark by employers (and consequently a feeling of not being important) as well as leading to the rumour mills springing into action.

So, deal with news, whatever kind it is, by engaging your team, so you can all move forward together.

Be Aware of Social Styles

Finally, remember not everyone absorbs information in the same way.

The way individuals interact is known as their preferred ‘social style’, a phrase coined by David Merrill and Roger Reid in the early 1960s. It explores how people behave in social (or work) situations to ascertain how to predict managerial, leadership and sales performance and therefore how managers can get the best out of their team.

Spending time with your team will enable you to understand how each member prefers to interact and contribute. You can then use that information to moderate your behaviour towards them, making them feel more comfortable to make their contribution.

So, bear in mind that a disengaged employee isn’t a lost cause.

By utilising one of two of the suggestions in this article, you can help foster a culture of inclusivity where individuals are inspired, encouraged and motivated because they feel part of a bigger team and can see the role they play in contributing to growing your law firm’s success.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking for the next move in your legal career, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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Suffering End Of Year Career Blues, Is It Time to Leave?

  • September 15, 2019

Here we are, over halfway through the year already, and if you’re currently on a sun lounger sipping a cocktail (lucky you) enjoying a well-earned break, you may be thinking about your return to work and whether you’re currently happy in your career, or if it’s time for a change.

We all get the mid-career blues. And it can be for several reasons.

Perhaps you feel you have plateaued in your legal career, reaching a certain level of achievement but you can’t seem to break through to the next level?

Or you may be feeling a bit jaded in your current job role and looking for the thrill of something different?

Or maybe you really do think it’s time to up sticks and seek out a new career with a different law firm?

Spending some time asking yourself what the cause of your dissatisfaction stems from will enable you to make a rational decision on how to progress so that when you return after your summer break, you’re one hundred per cent committed and sure of your next steps.

So, let’s take a look at some of the things that could be stalling your career.

Have You Become Static in Your Current Law Career?

If you feel you have reached a plateau in your legal career, it may seem that there’s no way you can progress. Asking yourself what you ideally want to accomplish at work will help you decide the best way forward in this scenario.

There are several options to consider:

Make a lateral move. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for you to do a similar job elsewhere in your law firm but working in a different area. This would give you new day to day challenges and prevent you from feeling you are stagnating in the same job role.

Using the soft and hard skills you have already acquired in your career will set you up for success in a slightly different position as you will be able to adapt quickly to different tasks.

New tasks could also lift you up from a wellbeing point of view, improving your mental health and outlook and enabling you to feel positive about the future.

Become an expert in your area. If a move is not possible, you could consider becoming the ‘go-to’ person for information and expertise in your specialist area.

For example, if you are a Dispute Resolution Legal Secretary you could enhance your knowledge of IT so you are able to help others with IT-related questions.

Or if you are a Residential Conveyancing Fee Earner you could hone your customer service skills and knowledge to become an in-house trainer for colleagues.

By expanding your understanding of a specific area and developing your personal profile, you can soon become the name everyone thinks of first for advice or guidance.

Additionally, with your expertise, you could offer to train up new employees, giving both yourself and the firm a boost.

Consider an alternative to a salary increase. If there’s little chance of a pay increase in the foreseeable future within your law firm, have you considered other non-material rewards instead?

As well as the options of adjusting your working hours, having more flexibility with working from home will improve work-life balance – giving you more opportunity for activities outside the office: going to the gym, socialising with friends or spending time with your family.

It’s also worth remembering that by staying with your current firm, you could also enjoy less stress in your day to day job as you know what you are doing and what the firm’s goals are already.

This avoids the stress and anxiety that a new job can bring.

Are You Feeling Jaded in Your Current Role?

If you feel you have exhausted all opportunities within your current career specialism, it may be time to look for a new challenge.

Changing jobs is always a daunting prospect – especially if you have dependents, rent or mortgage repayments to think about, or even just a step outside of your comfort zone.

The Law Society offers practical advice on changing specialisms.

Although not for the faint-hearted, it is possible to take on a new challenge. This could be a move within your current firm from Property Law to Personal Injury, for example.

If you do decide to go down this path, being prepared is critical. Make sure you do the necessary research and be focused in your approach.

It takes courage to choose this route, but it could reap dividends in the long run.

Are You in Danger of Burn-Out?

The dangers of over-doing things at work and suffering burn-out, as a result, are very real.

There’s a lot of pressure on all employees these days, and especially on Senior Partners and Managers within a complex and competitive legal marketplace.

It’s crucial to remember that it’s vital that you remain mentally at the top of your game at work – you can’t run a legal firm with employees who are trying to burn the candle at both ends.

Something is going to crash and burn.

So, look after yourself.

Daily exercise, yoga, meditation, socialising with friends – whatever is your preferred way to relax away from your desk.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day (or by one person!)

Stop trying to do everything and make time in your life for relaxation to ensure you are in peak form physically and mentally when you are in the office.

Is It Time to Break Away and Look for Something New?

If you really can’t see a way forward in your current law firm, then perhaps it’s time to consider a move.

If you are considering this option, here are a few tips to help you plan your move:

  • Set up job alerts. Make sure you have registered with relevant career search sites online.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile as recruiters and hiring managers will be looking here to find out about you.
  • LinkedIn also provides the opportunity to seek employment and new challenges but beware of making this visible on your page unless your current manager is aware of your intentions!
  • Talk to colleagues you can trust at work and ask them to let you know of any opportunities. They can also provide an excellent sounding board for interview practice.
  • Contact a specialist legal recruiter to help you navigate the job market. They can offer valuable advice and have many contacts to help find the right job for you.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking for the next move in your legal career, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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Is Your Strategic Plan Still Fit For Purpose?

  • September 1, 2019

How long is it since you wrote your strategic plan?

Some Senior Partners and Managers in law firms write their plan and then place it with some reverence in a dusty file somewhere, never to be reviewed again.

I know that’s a bit extreme, but it does happen.

It’s best to consider your Strategic Plan as a working document that you can refer to as you move from where you are to where you want your firm to be.

You may have incorporated long- and short-term goals in your plan. You may have mini-milestone achievements to celebrate along the pathway. And you may even have referred to the plan to make sure you are still following it.

But is it still relevant?

Things can change, and your law firm may have different goals to those in the original document. A Strategic Plan should not be something that is set in stone; it’s an honest, relevant and significant document that reflects your firm’s current state and how you plan to achieve your aspirations.

Therefore, you shouldn’t be afraid to review it and ask yourself the question, “Is it still fit for purpose?”

If it is, then that’s great. You can go back to work and don’t need to read further!

However, if you have an inkling that perhaps it could do with a few tweaks here and there to make sure it’s current and reflects your law firm’s ambitions as they stand today, then read on…

Is It Realistic?

So many strategic plans fail, and the main reason for failure is that they are not achievable.

It’s fine to set yourself high goals, but if you make them impossible to achieve, you only serve to demotivate your entire firm as they struggle in an uphill battle that they can’t win.

So, while your goals should be something to aspire to, they should also be realistic.

Conversely, it may be that when you wrote the original plan, your end goals were something you considered as something to strive for in the future, but now you know they are easily achievable in a shorter time frame.

In this case, you may want to move your original overall goals into ‘milestones’ and set yourself another ultimate goal.

Just make sure it’s realistic too!

Is It Still Aligned to the Firm’s Ethos?

Depending on when you wrote the strategic plan, it could be that the ethos of your law firm has changed.

For example, you may have improved workplace well-being; by embracing diversity and inclusion in your law firm and implementing recognition and reward schemes for employees.

Celebrate and reflect this by adjusting your plan to accommodate these admirable factors and set milestones for more of the same!

Are the Timelines Still Relevant?

Additionally, check your timelines and deadlines. Are they doable?

It could be that you have more – or fewer – staff in your law firm than previously. This could impact on your ability to achieve deadlines and may need some adjustment either way.

Or it could be that your employee numbers are the same, but your workload has increased dramatically. In which case, you may want to allow yourself a little longer to hit deadlines.

Who is Leading the Projects?

Initially, you will have assigned individuals to lead specific projects within your strategic plan.

Are the personnel in charge still the best people to lead on projects?

It might be that they have moved on, retired or even been promoted to a role which doesn’t allow them to focus on the initial area assigned to them.

What about the new talent within your law firm?

It may be that you have a new, gifted IT Manager who would be perfect to take over the reins of developing an improved in-house IT system, or that your recent Practice Director hire is ideal for overseeing the firm’s expansion plans.

Have You Communicated Goals to Your Team Recently?

Are your employees all up to speed on the strategic plan?

If you have had several staff changes, now may be a good time to go over the plan again, taking into account the new talent within the firm who can help you achieve long and short-term goals.

Revisiting the strategic plan will also embed a sense of belonging and ownership within the law firm as a whole, encouraging everyone to play their part in its achievements, celebrating milestones and working collaboratively to achieve the aims set down.

I can’t overemphasise the importance of transparency in your communication with your team – you need to get them on board with your strategic plan; otherwise, that’s all it is, a plan with no-one engaged and willing to take it forward.

And trying to take anything forward in those conditions will prove difficult.

Has the Marketplace, or Your Clients, Changed Significantly?

Finally, take some time to consider the legal marketplace around you.

It may have expanded or decreased in your area, both geographically and in terms of specialisms; talent may have become more challenging to find and hire. It may be that you should consider revisiting some of your plans.

Have the requirements of candidates changed since you wrote your plan? Is it worth reconsidering your hiring, onboarding and expansion strategies?

Do you need to rethink company culture and the part it plays in helping you grow your legal team?

Additionally, what about your clients? Has your client base changed? Does your geographical location still work in terms of serving those clients?

Does the service you offer reflect their needs? Do you offer more specialisms, or has the firm decided to go more ‘niche’?

In either case, do you need to revisit any of your original goals?

What Next?

Revisiting your Strategic Plan and ensuring it’s still fit for purpose will enable you to make sure you’re on the right track for success in your law firm.

It will enable you to move forward with relevant goals and strategies in place, and help with employer branding by positioning you at the front of the pack.

So, it’s crucial to see your Strategic Plan as a working document in order for it to be useful.

Don’t let it sit in a file any longer!

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking to grow your legal business, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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