Not long ago, law firms or law departments with enough capital had little trouble hiring any attorney if the candidate’s salary and compensation expectations were met. Now, even organizations with an extensive corporate law department budget struggle to find enough attorneys to fill their open positions.
More than just a blip on the radar, this trend is a long-term shift in the motivations and career objectives of attorneys, primarily when it comes to on-the-job flexibility. Industry leaders, researchers, and our own recruiters are seeing a growing desire for non-traditional work arrangements from attorneys of varying experience and walks of life. What’s the cause, and how can you respond to the rise in flexible legal talent? Here’s what you need to know.
What’s Causing the Change?
A recent story in Bloomberg Law illuminates a possible explanation of this issue. During their interview with Jon Ballis, Chairman of Kirkland & Ellis, he mentioned that the once monetarily competitive offers he made to leading attorneys were no longer attracting his desired team members. “I know this sounds insecure, but I hear often that you are a tough place to work, and it’s not worth it,” said Ballis.
The writer also had this to say: “[Ballis] wants to address head-on the thing he thinks is limiting Kirkland from reaching even greater heights: Too many recruits think his firm is a den of wolves, where “sharp-elbowed” lawyers work grueling hours while looking out for their own good.” This doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident. Many attorneys are tired of the grind and aren’t motivated by the same carrot as before.
The pandemic accelerated changing sentiments about work in the legal profession. Attorneys and other legal professionals are reevaluating their work-life balance, stress levels, and their desire to work in excess of 40 hours a week. As a result, we’re seeing more experienced attorneys who are willing to become flexible legal talent, striking a healthier balance in their lives.
Why Now is the Moment for Flexible Legal Talent
For attorneys who want work-life balance, the timing couldn’t be better since options are expanding across the legal ecosystem. For example, there has been a boom in expert witness consulting services, which can include attorneys with expertise in niche areas of the law. Since we opened in 1992, more temporary legal staffing firms entered the market, providing attorneys with varied work arrangements.
Plus, many attorneys are in a position in their lives where temporary and flexible legal jobs make more sense. As a result of the pandemic, many Baby Boomers who envisioned staying fully employed for another decade are more receptive to early retirement. Even if they resign from full-time positions, some will choose temporary legal jobs to generate fresh income and keep their minds sharp.
As we mentioned before, many attorneys who are tired of the grind might choose flexible work arrangements after their own priorities shifted, sometimes due to workplace frustration. We’re seeing a trend in law firms specifically where it’s taking longer for attorneys to complete their partnership track. Even then, 64% end up becoming nonequity partners. Consider this delay, high lawyer burnout, and other factors, and it’s easy to see why attorneys with intermediate experience are abandoning the traditional career track in favor of non-traditional options.
Temporary Attorneys Help Law Departments Run
This change in employment arrangements is not a one-sided benefit. Incorporating flexible attorneys into your workforce is advantageous to your business, especially in an era where GCs are expected to do more with less.
Many organizations are finding that engaging flexible legal talent has the potential to maximize their budgets, even as the amount of money allocated to in-house legal teams rises. Rather than hiring practice area specialists full-time to complete sporadic needs, you can engage attorneys on a provisional basis to review contracts, handle litigation management, or complete other transactional projects.
Another key advantage is that organizations willing to explore remote legal practice management can often overcome shortages of any practice area expertise in their region. If you’re willing to forgo on-site requirements, you can enlist temporary attorneys who know how to thrive in a remote environment for the project duration you need them.
Though change is often intimidating, this is one instance where it very well may benefit the entire legal industry. Rather than sticking to hiring practices that no longer work, why not try a strategy that can enhance the capabilities of your corporate legal department?
Are you looking to manage your in-house staff and flexible legal talent in an increasingly remote workforce? Check out our eBook “How Corporate Law Departments Can Thrive in a Remote World”