Home Looking back at 2022, looking ahead at 2023: the legal labour market

Looking back at 2022, looking ahead at 2023: the legal labour market

Federgon already mentioned it in their review on 2022: the start of the new year is an ideal time to reflect on the past, and above all look ahead to the future.

After the two turbulent years when the corona pandemic was all-consuming, a new year arrived in 2022. With corona in its wake, new (economic) crises arrived : rising energy and commodity prices, purchasing power crises…

How do these crises relate to today’s tight labour market? Are we noticing any trends?

As a specialised firm in legal advice,  legal interim management and the recruitment & selection of legal profiles, we would like to give you a few of our insights into a number of trends that we ourselves were able to observe on the legal labour market anno 2022.

Summer 2022: a difficult time

In the summer of 2022, we noticed some setback in the legal labour market. This was a trend we had noticed before, but it peaked in the summer of 2022. On the one hand, on the candidates’ side, we noticed that they were less inclined to take up new opportunities. In our sector, most profiles are willing to engage in discussions with a headhunter but this actually turned out to be  more challenging. Uncertainty, due to the war in Ukraine, after already difficult corona times, and with new crises in the making, seemed to have part in this context. Lawyers, generally speaking are professionally active in identifying or eliminating risks and liabilities. For some, difficult times sometimes have more impact. This is noticeable  in a recruitment context. Some candidates are a lot more reluctant to take changing steps in their career.

We saw something similar on the client side. We noticed relatively few new vacancies being published. Towards the end of the year, existing vacancies were put on hold or even withdrawn. This was also caused by economically uncertain circumstances, which meant that certain vacancies were postponed to the next year.

A signature completes the recruitment process

Much more than before, we found that candidates go through a complete application process, may or may not receive a job offer and yet – at the very end of the cycle – decide to drop out. Usually completely unexpected for the company (client) and us as headhunter. Even after a verbal commitment in the final stage, candidates still drop out. A good lawyer knows: a signature completes the process.

Reasoning can be very diverse:

  • An overstrained labour market where a candidate has several options and is keen to know all details of each salary package that is being offered
  • Employees are hesitant to switch employers (because this is a big step after all)
  • Candidates can use a salary offer from another potential employer to (re)negotiate their current salary and raise

Very often it is also a confluence of reasons or it remains unclear.

As a headhunter, we try to capture as many doubts and questions as possible during the application process. Not to persuade you, but to try to think along. Perhaps we conclude that the job is not for you after all. Of course, that is completely fine and it is better to find out during the process than after signing your new employment contract. However, it remains remarkable that so many candidates drop out in the final phase of an application process. This also makes it more challenging for companies to meet candidates’ ‘desires’.

Not all vacancies are the same

Whereas we know certain legal vacancies are difficult to fill, some are even more difficult than others.

Paralegal profiles and also profiles that (want to) be active in the notarial profession turn out to be very difficult profiles in the current job market. Among paralegals, many of the bachelor law graduates go on to pursue an additional, university education (master law or other). As a result, they are not available on the job market. As for the notarial profiles (both bachelor and master profiles), many of them are open to a new challenge, but seek it outside the notarial profession. Common reasons are  the high workload and limited growth potential. If one cannot or does not want to become a notary, few growth opportunities are available. This sometimes makes people seek their career luck elsewhere.

Medior profiles (between 3 and 5 years of experience) appear to be the most sought-after. This seems logical because , on the one hand, these profiles have already gained experience, but on the other hand, they are not yet “stuck” in certain patterns. However, these profiles are usually not keen on changing employers. Often they are in a position within a company where a next step is possible and they do not want to jeopardize their chances by moving to another still unknown organisation.

Vacancies for senior profiles, or solo legal counsel positions, these are mostly profiles with 10+ years of experience, seem to be more popular. These profiles tend to be more willing to get in touch with us to discuss future opportunities. As these types of positions are less common on the job market, often those profiles are already quietly looking for the right opportunity. These profiles have already made the decision to change jobs, so it is “merely” a matter of finding the right match for this next step, both in terms of content and budget.

Flexibility and a good work-life balance: a must in today’s labour market

Employers who can offer a good work-life balance have an advantage. Being too rigid in flexibility often makes a search for the right hire even more difficult.

Flexibility manifests itself in different ways. We take 3 examples that candidates frequently ask about and thus consider carefully:

  • Work-from-home options (if working from home is not possible, many candidates immediately drop out)
  • Flexible working hours (flexibility in arranging your own work (and avoiding a morning traffic jam for example) creates trust and is a big plus)
  • An attractive holiday package (vs. the legal minimum of 20 leave days).

Transparency is key. Evasive answers can create wrong expectations. For example, if working from home is not possible within your organisation, be transparent at the start of your search for the right person.

Questions on the company car

Often candidates assume that a company car is part of the salary package (especially for Master profiles). As we all know the  government wants to make the company car less attractive and wants to explore other options. . As a result, company cars are often no longer included in the salary package. As a “green” and “ecological” company, it becomes more important to offer alternative options. Putting together a balanced package to compensate for the company car, is a challenging ordeal.  Some profiles explicitly ask for a company car and do not want to deviate from this. Companies are trying to tackle this hurdle by means of a cafetaria plan or mobility budget.

Corporate social responsibility

Companies primarily focus on economic performance (Profit), yet some try to do so with respect for People & Planet (https://www.mvovlaanderen.be/wat-mvo ). A very attractive factor for some candidates.

Green energy and innovation, fair business, a healthy working environment, partnerships with non-profit organisations…. There are several possibilities  and we note that many candidates appreciate that innovative nature. In a tight labour market where some legal profiles do get asked daily if they can be open to new opportunities, such elements can be convincing.

Looking ahead to 2023

Looking ahead to 2023, we expect a number of trends to continue and, fortunately, the market is also picking up:

– Innovation and corporate responsibility will continue to gain importance;
– Flexibility and work-life balance (and especially work-from-home opportunities) remain key elements to attract candidates;
– Legal vacancies are picking up again. Some firms were reluctant to launch new vacancies, but now they notice that business is continuing as before, causing them to see the need for legal support again.
– Candidates are also more open to contacts and opportunities.

The abovementioned trends are elements that companies can use to make their recruitment strategy more successful.

We at Nonzerosum also try to respond to these trends. We emphasise trust and (cost) efficiency. For instance, we recently introduced our new business line on outsourcing paralegal profiles. By doing so we meet the shortage in the labour market for paralegals and we can support our customers with short-term or long-term solutions.

It remains relevant to continue to listen carefully to candidates and thus maintain their trust. It is precisely because of this bond of trust that candidates count on us to think with them to make the right match and guide them transparently through a job application process. This is where we like to make a difference with Nonzerosum.

With nonzerosum, we like to help you in your search for the right legal profile, both for temporary and permanent support. Our Recruitment Consultants are happy to assist you in these challenging times.