Legal recruitment in 2021 and into 2022 has been very buoyant. Law firms and in-house legal teams have all been looking to recruit. These organisations have, however, struggled to fill their vacancies as soaring demand for legal services continues and competition for good lawyers increases. These factors alongside workplace changes due to the pandemic have resulted in a real shortage of permanent legal staff.
This demand for permanent staff has filtered down to the interim market where there has been a marked increase in the need for interim lawyers, often driven by the difficulty to hire permanent staff quickly. At least 50% of the instructions I’ve taken in the last 12 months has been for interim legal contractors to assist in the period where an organisation has been looking to recruit for a permanent member of staff.
We have had instructions from law firms of all sizes, from Magic & Silver Circle to smaller boutique and High Street firms across most practice areas. We’ve also had instructions from in-house legal teams in many sectors, including retail, telecommunications, banking and finance, mining, and manufacturing, to name a few. Many of these instructions, particularly in-house, have been from new clients looking to reach out to agencies, having struggled to find candidates from their normal sources.
The good news for lawyers is that there’s never been a better time to consider entering the interim legal contractor market. The contractor market was growing steadily pre-pandemic as firms recognised the benefit of being able to ‘flex’ their legal teams, but we’re finding the demand has really accelerated in the last 12 months.
Why is the interim option so attractive for many lawyers?
In summary, it offers:
- More flexibility to work when you want and take time off in between assignments or for extended periods, if you’re lucky enough to be able to do so
- The opportunity to broaden and develop your skill and experience across various industry sectors and legal roles
- The opportunity to gain experience of working for a variety of organisations with different cultures
- The chance to work from home and part time. Almost all our clients are offering hybrid working arrangements or, more often, exclusively from home. They’re also considering part time candidates, where previously they may not have. Contractors who prefer to be in the office are also considered.
- Great rates of pay. Contractor daily/hourly rates will more often come with an uplift compared to a permanent member of staff.
What law firms/in-house teams need to remember when considering an interim hire:
- Firstly, can you offer “working from home” or a hybrid home/office model? One of the biggest changes the employment market has seen, certainly in my career within recruitment, is the move to this type of arrangement. If you’re able to offer a remote working model, then you’re likely to have access to a much larger candidate pool than if limited to a geographical area. 100% of my placements in 2021 were working from home exclusively, which was largely due to the requirement to do so. However, as restrictions are removed there will be a push for permanent staff to return to the office on a part time basis, but if this isn’t required of a contractor, or only infrequently, then it will greatly help your ability to hire.
- Do you need someone on a full-time basis or could part time work? I’ve had a few occasions this year where a great candidate has been keen on a role but just not available on a full-time basis. When presented to the client it’s been felt that this arrangement could work. If a full-time contractor is required then we will endeavour to find one, but it’s worth considering a part time worker if you’re struggling to find someone. Flexibility is the key.
- Post-qualified experience (PQE) is often a problem. Most requirements we receive are for the elusive junior to mid-level lawyer (2-6 PQE). Even pre-pandemic, this was a tough area with high demand and low supply. You could perhaps find the contractor you’re after by considering a senior lawyer who is willing to work to your budget - perhaps even under it.
- Speed is key. The current interim recruitment market is moving very fast, I’ve had multiple occasions this last year where I’ve made an offer to a candidate only to find out they have already had one or more other offers to consider. On a number of these occasions, the situation could have been avoided if the recruitment process had been faster. A speedy recruitment process from the receipt of a CV is appreciated by the applicant and ensures as a client you’re doing your best to avoid competitive situations, disappointment and, most importantly, filling your recruitment need as quickly as possible.
In summary, I don’t see 2022 slowing down - it’s an exciting time to be considering interim opportunities. If you are looking for your first or next role on the interim market or if you’re a client who may have an interim need, please contact us to discuss how we might be able to help you.
Chris has more than 17 years of legal and financial recruitment experience. Since he joined Chadwick Nott, he has worked within the interim legal team, providing support services to both clients and lawyers in the London market.
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