The legal recruitment market has undergone considerable changes in the last 18 months. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was harder than ever for legal professionals to find new roles, with firms pushing to reduce costs and in some cases even withdrawing job offers they had already made to applicants; now, the situation has changed completely, and candidates are finding themselves in high demand.
As the pandemic eases, legal firms are actively pursuing growth once again, leading to a growing backlogs of roles in many areas of law, and the number of vacancies outstripping the availability of candidates. The result is an increasingly candidate-driven recruitment market, giving the very best applicants plenty of opportunity to weigh up multiple offers from competing employers.
For ambitious professionals who are interested in taking on a new role within the legal sector, this provides a rare chance to pick and choose between the available vacancies, pushing for improved terms and conditions in order to secure their ideal position. Even if you have not been actively considering switching jobs, now may be a good time to take a look at the options that are on offer.
Here, Sellick Partnership provides some key pieces of advice to help legal professionals take maximum advantage of the current recruitment market conditions:
Research the options available in your area
At the moment, all areas of legal recruitment are unusually busy, but the availability of better roles and salaries will depend on your region, your level of post-qualified experience (PQE) and your particular legal specialism. If you are seeking a move, it is advisable to check how many roles are being advertised in your area or specialism to gauge what kind of demand exists for your talents.
Salaries may be more negotiable now
Legal employers are making a real effort to provide a better offering for staff in order to stand out in this competitive market; if your skills are in demand, this means you may be in a good position to negotiate a better salary. This may not always be the case if the firm has clearly-defined salary brackets based on PQE, but it is worth trying to negotiate for a better offer, especially if you have multiple options available.
Do not worry about moving on from a new role
Typically, employers will be wary of candidates who are looking to move on having only recently taken on a role elsewhere, but in the current market this is less of a concern. It is widely understood that many people will have accepted less-than-ideal job roles or below-market rates in the last year due to the pandemic, meaning there is less stigma than usual around the idea of moving on from these roles after less than a year.
Speculative applications may be worth trying
You may not need to limit your job search to firms that are actively advertising a new role. Many employers that were not previously interested in considering speculative applications are much more open to it at the moment, so if you would like to put yourself forward, you can ask your recruiter to make an enquiry and see if they are interested in your skills.
Expect to work your full notice period when changing jobs
One of the less convenient consequences of the current boom is that if you intend to change jobs, it is likely that you will be asked to work the full three-month notice period to deal with busy caseloads, rather than being able to leave early. In most cases, your new employer will be aware of this, and will not put pressure on you to leave early, but it is nevertheless something to be aware of.
Now is a good time to look for a new role
Even if you are relatively satisfied with your current role, it is still worth taking this moment to review the legal jobs that are currently available and make sure you are in the best position you could be for your career. Attending interviews is relatively easy at the moment as most are still being conducted virtually, so attend as many as you can - many of these roles may not still be available in a few months’ time, and you have no obligation to take up an offer if the terms do not suit you.
If there is a lesson to be taken from the last 18 months, it is that the legal recruitment market can be fast-moving and unpredictable during times of uncertainty. With the pandemic still ongoing and its long-term impact still unknown, legal sector candidates would be well-advised to strike while the iron is hot, and make sure they are making the best decisions for their careers at a time when their talents are in such high demand.
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