The battle for the right talent in legal services

  • Written By: Giles Murphy
  • Published: Wed, 04 Jan 2017 10:20 GMT

The cost of getting it wrong

In our 22nd Annual Law Firm Survey, we asked the 109 managing partners and other senior management figures from UK based law firms ‘what is the biggest challenge for your firm over the next two to three years’. Over half of the respondents (56%) said that attracting and retaining the right people was their number one challenge.

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While we expected talent development to feature in the responses, it was surprising how strongly it scored. The next highest was ‘differentiating the firm in the market place’, which after all is probably a key challenge for all firms, so it is interesting that so much weight was placed on attracting and retaining talent.

Supply vs Demand

While the numbers of those wanting to enter the profession seems to be ever increasing, along with the number of practising solicitors on the roll, why is attracting the right people proving to be so challenging? Of course, if the demand for legal services is outstripping the supply of lawyers then competition for talent would increase. However, with the greater use of technology, in house teams and un-qualified legal support to undertake an increasing amount of the work, is demand really outstripping supply? Or is the crucial point that it is about attracting and developing the right talent?

The full package

Ideal talent these days obviously needs to be hard working and dedicated and, of course, needs the mental capacity to deal with complex legal issues. However, they also need to have client facing skills, they need to be business minded to advise clients on not just pure legal issues (and being business minded helps in their own firm) along with being role models, mentors and individuals who can develop others.

Modern day recruitment

Part of the recruitment process should be to attract individuals with these core attributes that the firm can then develop. However, this takes time and money. The latter is always a scarce resource in a law firm, not least as the pay back from the ‘investment’ is often indirect, difficult to measure and felt over a period of time. That is fine if the individual is committed to the firm in question, but how often do you hear of someone bemoaning the time and cost spent in developing someone only for them to leave and join a rival. In an increasingly mobile world, this risk is only likely to increase in the future and mitigating it becoming a key objective for management teams.

“If you think training is expensive, try ignorance” Peter Druker (1909 – 2005)

By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. This briefing does not constitute advice nor a recommendation relating to the acquisition or disposal of investments. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of writing.

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