This year, firms will be busy considering their recruitment strategies as we once again embrace normality. As ever, to stay competitive, legal firms must continuously attract and retain the very best talent. This requires an awareness of industry developments such as changing workplace expectations, shifting demographics, technological advances, and potential obstacles to growth.  

By developing employment policies that reflect industry trends, firms will be able to stay one step ahead of the curve and ensure that they are investing intelligently in their teams. We’ve compiled a few trends to keep in mind.

Employee wellbeing 

The pandemic brought mental health into focus, and these attitudes are here to stay and discussions around employee wellbeing are becoming commonplace. Firms should expect to include policies in their recruitment plans that focus on employee wellbeing and mental health support.

Many law firms have already taken steps to introduce support programs and invested in staff mental health training, but there is still a long way to go.

The International Bar Association has published a report on wellbeing in the legal profession and concluded that 41 per cent of respondents believed they could not discuss their mental health and wellbeing with their employer without worrying about the potential impact on their career. This is a troubling trend, not just for employees – the wellbeing and satisfaction of employees is intrinsically linked with retention. In short, if workers are not happy, they will not stay. 

What’s more, a healthy workplace has the potential to make you stand out in an increasingly competitive and highly saturated legal market and might just be the reason a candidate picks you over your competitors.

The changing role of technology and automation

The rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) has already had an enormous impact on finance and accounting and as legal professionals look for ways to streamline processes, the nature of a lawyer’s role is expected to change. Deloitte’s legal technology insight report has predicted that nearly 100,000 jobs are likely to be automated by 2036.

Automation needn’t be something to be feared, however. Technology can go a long way in making legal staff’s jobs more manageable, minimising tedious and time-consuming tasks, and improving work/life balance. It also ensures that lawyers can concentrate on providing legal expertise without being side-tracked with administrative tasks. 

Evolving roles

As a result of automation, the skillsets that law firms require will shift. Expertise in areas such as data analysis and experience in navigating the new technology will become highly sought-after, which may involve developing non-legal roles and hiring business professionals to assist in the management, operations, and technology side of the firm. 

By hiring non-lawyer roles, firms will likely benefit from multi-talented candidates with varied backgrounds and skillsets, which is bound to breathe energy into the organisations.

The important thing is that legal firms continue to adapt and cater to people’s needs when recruiting. We are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic ways of working, so to appeal to the best talent, firms must be willing to keep up with the ever-changing industry. 

Cybersecurity

With the increase of remote-working practices during the pandemic, one concern which has reared its ugly head is that of cyber-attacks. Cybersecurity has snuck onto the radar of law firms as a genuine risk to their growth.

In its annual survey, PwC found that 90 per cent of the top-100 law firms were ‘extremely or somewhat concerned’ about the impact of cyber threats on their ability to achieve their ambitions over the next year.

Law firms are an increasingly attractive target for attacks – they regularly handle a wealth of sensitive client data and carry out numerous online activities, such as bank transfers, not to mention the lure of significant financial gain from such a highly lucrative market.

It doesn’t help that firms are often sitting ducks for hackers, with many still operating on outdated IT systems with a tendency to adopt cybersecurity practices at a slower rate than average. The 2020 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report revealed that only 43 per cent of respondents use file encryption, and less than 40 per cent use email encryption, two-factor authentication, and intrusion prevention.

To combat this, a complete system overhaul may not be necessary however and there are simple safeguards that can be put in place in the first instance, that will fit even within limited budgets. Practices such as enabling two-factor authentication on frequently visited websites, using a password manager to strengthen passwords, and encrypting your email and files are a great starting point. The good news is that there are now plenty of resources and help available, as well as an abundance of cybersecurity analysts who specialise in finding workable solutions.