Two Ways That COVID-Era Sentiment Creates Hiring Challenges for Law Departments

Watershed moments like the pandemic influence every aspect of our lives, right down to the motivations behind our career decisions. Yet the impact is not always felt in the immediate wake of the events themselves, often taking years to register.

Consider these examples: The Great Depression changed views about frugality among a generation, prompting people to seek out and hold onto stable careers when such opportunities presented themselves. World War II brought women into the workforce to help the war effort and convinced many to pursue careers of their own outside of the home.

Today, the ripple effects of COVID-19 are a catalyst for millions of workers worldwide to reconsider their employment situations. This makes it harder for companies to apply the same worn-out tactics while attempting to hire candidates. What has the last year done to change the career motivation across the legal industry? Additionally, what can you do to persuade high-quality attorneys to join the ranks of your corporate law department? We’ve looked at new and emerging information on the subject to find some answers to these questions.

Desire for Remote Work

Though remote work was compulsory for many people, a sizable portion of the workforce has come to treat this working arrangement as an employment touchstone, embracing the concept with open arms. In fact, an ABA report entitled “Practicing Law in the Pandemic and Moving Forward,” shows that 66% of attorneys believed their companies would remain mostly or entirely remote well into 2022. In ABA’s
Profile of the Legal Profession 2021”, 79% of attorneys said they were extremely to somewhat comfortable with new technology they learned to use last year. The transition has not only taken root but has also resonated with the workforce.

The advancement of video conferencing and enterprise legal management (ELM) tools have proven attorneys can complete their work from anywhere. Long commutes and outside-the-home expenses were not necessary to remain productive. Plus, as some attorneys readjusted their childcare or elder care arrangements, they appreciated the ability to remain in the workforce while working from home. The general life reassessment in the wake of COVID has made remote or hybrid work options more appealing to attorneys who are realizing they crave more of a work/life balance.

Even with changing employee sentiments, there are worries about leadership’s expectations remaining static. At least 13% of attorneys in the “Practicing Law in the Pandemic and Moving Forward survey said they were very or extremely concerned about whether working remotely would be perceived as having a lack of commitment. Law departments that can show their receptiveness to remote legal practice management or advertise their remote legal jobs will make their opportunities more attractive and, as a result, hire more people going forward.

Feelings of Stress and Disengagement

Though this may be more of a temporary factor, the turbulence over the last year has heightened disengagement, stress levels, and attorney burnout. As we’ve discussed in the past, a study conducted by the University of Minnesota and Krill Strategies revealed as many as 50% of attorneys struggle with mild to moderate anxiety and depression. Another ABA survey indicated that feelings of disengagement across law firms and law departments reached 49% of attorneys after a year of stringent measures.

In some cases, the cause of dispiritedness across the workforce might be the ineffectuality of the transition to remote work and heightened workloads. Within the “Profile of the Legal Profession 2021”, 51% of workers felt it was difficult to keep home and work separate, which falls under the obligation of General Counsel and CLOs. In other cases, people might be suffering from the malaise of an extended pandemic, needing extra energization at work. Using an ocean analogy, there has been no horizon with the rolling waves of COVID hospitalization rates, media messages, and the intermittent stances on vaccine and mask mandates , making it hard to recharge.

Corporate law departments need to be a rock in the storm if they’re going to hire more attorneys. After weathering the uncertainties brought along by the pandemic, many professionals are craving tangible support from an employer, and a bit of respite whenever possible.

If your organization can demonstrate a commitment to the mental wellbeing of employees and their work life balance, you’ll have an advantage as attorneys deliberate over their career options. Highlighting your willingness to help attorneys navigate Lawyer Assistance Programs or even take PTO will distinguish you as a career destination worthy of the shifting sentiments of our times.

Are you looking for further insights and strategies to help you motivate attorneys to join your team? Download our latest eBook the “2022 Guide to Hiring and Retention for In-House Corporate Counsel.

 

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