Interviewing with face masks

The changes Covid-19 has made to the hiring process for lawyers

 

Expectations have changed

 

During the pandemic many people’s positive work life balance or alternatively lack of it became apparent. In turn employees’ expectations have changed and with the power of Microsoft Teams/Zoom, many employers have seen into our homes and met our families. In many cases they now have more understanding of their employee’s personal circumstances and challenges they face, which may have not been apparent in the office. 

 

Since returning from furlough leave last year, we have witnessed changes with many clients and what feels like a shift of the power balance between the employer and employee. Historically, a job offer to a candidate conformed to what the employer needed. It is now a very candidate driven market with the candidate often in the driving seat. In such a competitive market, employers are looking to adapt their expectations in order to attract and secure the candidates with the best talent. Candidates are putting their needs first and in turn this is being reflected in the job offers and the selection process.

 

Moving forward, it seems that there is little doubt people will expect some element of remote or flexible work to continue. For many law firms, the long-term solution appears to be most likely a hybrid model, a mixture of remote and in-office working that benefits both employees and the firm. Many lawyers we are working with are looking for and agreeing to some form of agile working.

 

The acceleration of the move to home working

 

We have seen the normalisation of remote working with so many of us enjoying the benefits and the increased flexibility this brings to our lives. Lawyers from all practice areas have seen remote working shift from a hypothetical perk only enjoyed by a few, to a practical part of life - a vital tool for keeping people safe. Many law firms have thrived during the lockdowns, and it feels now that the focus is more when the work will be done and the location of where the work is done is becoming much less relevant. 

 

Recently, Richard Simmons in Horizon by The Lawyer discussed this – “back at the start of Lockdown One, almost as soon as it became clear home-working was both possible and here to stay, people started to speculate about the opportunities for recruiting remote talent” – but it wasn’t entirely clear how this model would pan out in the long run.

 

He wrote that the speculation has become a reality referring to a managing partner who commented “The City is rubbing its hands with glee. All our people are getting phoned up: it’s easy to go to a job interview on Zoom. We are losing junior lawyers to City firms who are saying work a couple of days a week in the office, and we’ll pay you 30 per cent more.” 

 

Richard also referenced Leeds firm Walker Morris also working hard on the remote hiring front, with six new joiners spending a significant proportion of time away from the office (some coming in once or twice a week, for others every few weeks). They include two partners – London-based Sarah Ward (from BCLP) and West Midlands-based Sally Mewies (from Gowling).

 

Home workstations have less of a temporary feel about them than they did a few months ago. Many law firms have assisted lawyers setting up at home with desks and chairs when needed, embracing the whole home working as a long-term fixture.

 

The pace of work, skills needed and career progression

 

The pace of work has in some firms increased with client expectations being even greater and timescales shorter. No one must wait until a face-to-face meeting to progress matters – they can jump on a Teams call. We are also undoubtedly witnessing a big recruitment drive by many firms with the number of lawyer vacancies skyrocketing in most regions.

 

Some roles are also evolving faster than ever and in some cases the skills that are required have changed forever. Employees have been asked to adapt roles - for example a global law firm we are working with are now offering a fully remote role to qualified litigators from a wide range of backgrounds. This is a fantastic opportunity to those in the personal injury field to transfer their skills and with the flexibility to work from home.

 

Gartner (the world's leading information technology research and advisory company) suggest the change in roles will also encourage change in career progression. They have suggested that the traditional career frameworks will be adapted and in the ‘new reality’ career paths will need to be more fluid and unrestricted by traditional roles and skill requirements. The world of work is changing, law firms will need to work in a more dynamic and adaptable way, ready to change course as and when they need to.

 

A growing talent pool


Thanks to the strong adoption of remote working and the growing number of ‘work from anywhere’ policies, employers are no longer limited by borders and geographies, when hiring new people. This freedom allows law firms to source the best candidate with the
best skills for a role, not just find the best candidates in a specific location.

 

Although we are feeling candidate short with so many registered jobs, we are starting to see the candidate pool is growing in many areas. 

 

The Lawyer has reported on The Reignite Academy, which has put nearly 50 ex-lawyers back on the City partner track, of whom nearly 85 per cent are still in position. In 2018, only six firms (CMS, Macfarlanes, Orrick, Reed Smith, Sidley Austin and White & Case) were brave enough to sign up to the scheme; now 18 firms have taken candidates. The vast majority of ‘Reigniters’ are working full-time or four days a week and have joined many different of teams in all sorts of firms. The perfect role may have been available before, but perhaps the lawyer could not commute to a location or required a bit of flexibility in their schedule. Now, with the right approach, there are fewer barriers to hiring the right person.

 

From my experience as a Recruitment Consultant, I would say that there are only a few people who genuinely enjoy a lengthy commute. With law firms now lifting the restrictions of limiting applicants to candidates living within a commutable radius, the candidate pool becomes wide open. Having a more flexible attitude to how people carry out their job allows a far broader, more diverse pool of talent. This is great news for innovation and productivity, enabling firms to tackle problems with a much wider resource.

 

Interview and hiring process

 

This is the most obvious and publicised change in the last 18 months, with so many interviews taking place remotely for at least one of the interview stages. The process is therefore easier and quicker, especially if the individual is working from home.

 

In a similar way that hybrid working is becoming the new normal, it’s the same story for hybrid hiring, whereby the recruitment process will involve both virtual and in-person stages. Law firms are working hard at ensuring the candidate experience remains at the heart of the process and the human touch is felt regardless of the medium.

 

With the move to remote interviews, there are of course different considerations for both sides to consider, including:

 

  • Using and testing the right technology. Some of the most popular include: e.g. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp
  • Choosing the right space/background - you need to choose your interview space to be clean and tidy and free of anything distracting (or confidential).  
  • Remember body language which is just a crucial online as in person
  • Do your preparation – again it may seem more informal interviewing in your own kitchen but both sides need to be as prepared as if you were sitting in a boardroom

Please do see my tips on successful remote interviews.

 

This year has accelerated the evolution of work in ways we wouldn’t previously have thought possible. Adapting to these changes are challenging, requiring an open mind and some procedural upheaval. But the potential benefits for businesses and employees alike are striking and that can only be a positive thing going forward.

 

Finally from a hiring point of view, if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s that the world is always going to need talented people. It just seems at this present time Covid has to a certain extent changed why and how we hire.

 

If you are considering a new opportunity or would like a confidential discussion about the North legal market, please contact Helen Veitch on 0161 507 7267 or helenveitch@chadwicknott.co.uk

 

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