Despite the early hit to market confidence as a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic, from a recruitment perspective the legal market has quickly bounced back to perform exceptionally well over the past twelve months.
As highlighted in the 2021 survey, talent acquisition remains one of the key challenges for law firms across the spectrum in New Zealand. Whilst the market has benefited somewhat from a swell of returning talent (from overseas due to the pandemic), the candidate-short nature of recruiting quality legal professionals and support staff has not got any easier.
The big question in the next period will be surrounding the effect of relaxing border restrictions as vaccines are rolled out and the global Covid-19 situation improves. Will this lead to a brain drain of top legal talent, as top talent heads back overseas?
Fluid Legal Recruitment has a number of clients who have ear-marked employees as flight risks, potentially fleeing when allowed, with the prevailing strategy being seen to err on the side of being slightly over-capacity rather than the inverse, in preparation for an exodus of talent in the traditional mid-level demographic. This approach, paired with a resilient level of confidence and optimism among firms, continues to drive demand for quality recruitment solutions and likely explains the 44% increase in staff employment across firms in 2020.
One of the key trends we have noticed and welcomed is the increasing propensity of firms to partner with recruitment agencies on an exclusive or retained basis. This was corroborated in the survey, with more firms listing vacancies exclusively with one agency and less firms multi-listing with several.
We expect this movement to continue, as the most successful consultants in the industry continue to push away from more traditional contingency models and place more weight on the value of enduring partnerships.
With a high level of current and predicted demand in the market on the client side (82% of respondents looking to hire lawyers in the next twelve months), it is crucial that firms avoid a dilution of effort and market message when engaging with agency. Likewise, it is equally essential that as recruitment professionals we dedicate our time and resource to roles where we have a strong client mandate and the credibility to represent a firm to the market with integrity. The report shows that most firms have a reactive recruitment strategy, seeking to advertise only when the need arises. From our experience a more proactive approach that law firms could quickly adopt is to partner with a Recruitment firm more closely throughout the year. For example, many of our clients have ongoing standing briefs with us, this means, that throughout the year we will ensure all candidates know about opportunities within their firm.
The prevalence of candidates seeking improved flexibility and workloads has been the most notable shift in recent candidate conversations. It is now easily amongst the most common reasons for candidates to be considering change. We are seeing many more regional relocations within NZ than previous years, for various reasons, such as, to be closer to family, seeking housing affordability or simply realigning to key lifestyle objectives. Given the pandemic has now highlighted, in many respects, the ability for work to be successfully completed outside of the traditional office environment, and that alternate working arrangements deliver increased lifestyle and wellbeing benefits, it will be fascinating to see how this dynamic unfolds over the coming year. This increase in desire for alternate working arrangements has been seen through our conversations with lawyers and matches the top two HR challenges identified by firms in 2021.From a talent retention, recruitment and employer branding perspective, the ability of firms to adapted and manage these challenges will ultimately determine its success.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all the firms and legal professionals that we have worked with over the past twelve months. It is with enduring excitement that we find new ways to solve complex talent acquisition challenges and match talented professionals with our partner clients.
We always welcome new inquiries from firms across New Zealand as we continue to grow our presence as a specialist legal search team. If you would like to discuss any of the insights in this report, or our search model more generally, please feel free to reach out and contact Eden Brown on the details below.
Fluid Legal Recruitment is ALPMA's 2021 New Zealand Research Partner