The Battle for Legal Talent Intensifies

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Legal talent acquisition has long since been a phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of managing partners. Recruiting efforts have continually registered as high on the legal leader agenda, but equally high on the list of most daunting activities. 

Last year, Clayton Legal identified retention as a key priority and challenge for the majority of over 4,000 UK law firms surveyed.

And this year, PwC’s Annual Law Firms’ Survey placed “people” in the top five key themes of the past year, with a particular focus placed on recruitment in the guise of diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives.

The predicament of talent procurement perseveres because of the need to assess potential candidates against an exhaustive list of criteria. 

From hands-on legal experience and LLB, LPC, and bar qualifications to salary and progression expectations – both in the long- and short-term – the list of things to consider when in the throes of legal talent acquisition is nearly endless. Add to this malaise the intensification of talent acquisition as in this hot market, the battle for brilliance is just beginning. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Silver linings and golden opportunities 

While the pandemic has had an indescribable impact on global industries (the legal sector being no exception), one of its few silver linings has been the global shift to remote working.

Previously, a firm’s effort to recruit was concentrated on candidates located near one of its offices or those willing to relocate. But in an age where geographic barriers are evaporating, the catchment area for firms just went global. 

This has opened up a golden opportunity to recruit the best and brightest irrespective of geographical location. But, as ever, with great opportunity comes great competition. 

Law firms the world over have realised they possess a new-held ability to dip into global talent pools. In fact, many U.S. firms have already seized the initiative, reportedly “declaring war” on the UK’s Magic Circle by offering gargantuan pay packets to entice top talent across the pond. 

Today’s crop of young lawyers, quite literally, have the world at their feet. So, for your law firm to compete in a post-pandemic world where borders are no longer a consideration, upping your recruitment game is a must.

The path to success? 

It lies in understanding who you’re appealing to and demonstrating how you intend to meet their needs.

Express (and progress) yourself!

As articulated above, junior lawyers are in high demand. Junior lawyers, therefore, negotiate high demands.

Conventionally, law is an institution governed by tradition. At many firms, unwritten rules state that for lawyers to progress upwards on the career ladder, a date with the admin doldrums is a necessary first rung. 

In the recent past, junior lawyers were routinely expected to spend their early years wading through waves of legal documentation manually on behalf of their more senior counterparts. These activities have been richly defended as a necessary legal exercise, whereby the excuse of “getting to grips with the material” was enough to extinguish the revelry of many a conscientious objector. But amid more digital-focused legal practices, such excuses are beginning to fall short. 

Junior lawyers do not wish to engage in the so-called “character building” activities their predecessors had to endure. Instead, they want to cut their teeth in the art of real lawyering. They are hungry to express themselves. And hungrier still to prove their value and progress their career. This is the golden thread on which your law firm must pull to win the war of wunderkinder.

How to attract talent to your team

So, increased demand for talent, increased demands from talent, and increased competition to attract talent have made the task of attracting and retaining top talent extremely challenging and time-consuming for legal leaders. 

For firms wishing to compete effectively in the modern age, the ability to demonstrate a path of progression for young and upcoming recruits is imperative. You must exhibit that your priorities are on their development and that the days of admin-heavy tasks have been left in the analogue past and won’t play a role in their digital future. 

The best way to convey this message? Embrace a solution that solves the admin burden and builds marketable skills that can be transferred or used for junior attorneys' own business development efforts. 

Don’t be shy; embrace AI 

AI and automation technology remove the laborious nature of admin tasks and free up younger lawyers to focus on making a real contribution to your firm. 

As an added benefit, this technology also supports quicker and better decision-making for your more senior associates to deliver faster results and value for your clients in shorter time frames to increase billing, making your firm yet more attractive to potential recruits. 

Embracing AI in your law firm will send a clear signal to prospective recruits that when they join your institution, they will have opportunities for growth and that the firm is prioritising technologies to enable junior associates to have the time and opportunity to develop the skills necessary to advance in the near- and long-term. 

What’s more, this intense focus on innovation and flexibility towards new technology will also prove to be an attractive differentiator for your firm. This is especially valuable at a time when almost half of young lawyers see resistance to innovation by their firms as the biggest threat to the profession. 

Take the AI movement and be triumphant in the battle for brilliance in your firm. Find out more about the magic behind AI and automation legal technology today – talk to DISCO.

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Tripp Hemphill

Tripp Hemphill is the Vice President of Enterprise Markets at DISCO. Over the course of his nearly two decades in the legal technology industry, he has advised leading corporate legal departments and law firms in their evaluation, implementation, and optimization of practice-focused technology at both matter and enterprise levels.