Law firms generally recruit more lawyers for two reasons. First, they are looking to grow their existing practice areas or add new ones and second, they want to replace retiring partners or recent leavers. These reasons create good opportunities for those in sought after areas.
How can you tell if your practice area is “sought after” these days?
From our own knowledge of the market and supported by feedback from some of our candidates, there are two indications when certain practice opportunities are in demand. In particular, our “sought after” candidates tell us:
(1) They have been approached by firms directly; and
(2) They have been approached on numerous occasions by recruiters.
From them, we have learned that some are being approached on a day-to-day basis with one local person even stating they had been approached on four occasions by the same firm (admittedly not the same person) and also by 13 recruiters for the same job! This is not a rare event; in fact, many lawyers experience the same level of interest and are getting calls and LinkedIn approaches on a daily basis. And these contacts are not just limited to East Anglia; London firms are approaching staff here in the regions so London firms must be struggling to recruit too.
Is a firm’s job opportunities or growth always a good thing for your career?
Generally when firms are growing, your career tends to grow simultaneously. Because you are likely to be doing well when your practice area is busy, you become more valuable to your firm and in the market in general! As a result, you may receive and even expect recognition in terms of salary increases and bonuses or maybe early promotion.
However, too much growth in one or more practice areas of a firm can be negative because it can result in:
Staff stress. When staff are working hard and over long hours (for example up to 40% over and above their contracted hours to keep up with client demands) and with no end in sight, it can be frustrating and highly stressful. One local person described the culture in their firm as “working London hours for regional pay”. Unfortunately this is not unique: many lawyers in the region are working far in excess of their hours which all adds to their stress levels. Hopefully most firms will recognise and act on stress issues.
- Staff instability. Too much growth can mean resignations in one team can lead to more resignations over the following months. This is particularly true if a firm is not competitive in areas lawyers care about such as career development. (On one occasion we were instructed by a firm to search for one lawyer and by the end of the week it was for three lawyers!) So staff instability can be a problem for some firms as they will likely find when they start the process of re-hiring and that hiring is not easy – especially in “sought after” areas. And in some cases, if they do not attract any suitable applicants, they will have to substantially compromise on the type of candidate they are willing to accept and/or even pay a much higher salary than desired to new staff.
Should you consider a move?
We have discussed various factors around one’s career in times of growth from being in a “sought after” segment of the market to stress in the workplace. So when should a move be considered? One example is solicitors – especially ones who are around 3-7 years PQE in their careers and who don’t need supervision and have a good track record of billing.
They might consider a highly advantageous move if there is a short supply of candidates in their “sought after” area. In making a move, they should:
(1) Secure a much improved salary offer over their current job
(2) Secure a promotion; and
(3) Secure other things (within reason) in an offer of employment which matter to them. For example, it might be to be home by a particular time every day, or have some guaranteed home working or to take up specialist qualifications.
However, it is worth noting that any move a person makes should be very carefully thought through. Obviously, it is a life-changing decision to move firms and history indicates many lawyers only move between one and three times in a 10 year period. But, making a move right now can mean a substantially improved trajectory, and that’s particularly true if a person joins a lean team where there is significant opportunity to develop their practice area.
Get in touch
So if this has made you pause and wonder about what opportunities currently exist for you, then do get in touch.
We have some excellent opportunities in private practice (but also some in-house) in and around Norwich and Cambridge. Mostly these are at partner and senior associate level.
We have also been instructed by a well-known consultancy law firm who have a fee-earning arrangement at 80% (i.e. you start work and immediately receive 80% of the income you generate). This is suitable for any lawyer (or team) with a portable practice or who is able to self-generate work.
If now feels like the right time to explore the market or discuss your situation in confidence, feel free to call anytime including over the weekend. You can always text or WhatsApp if you want to check in before you call.