Law firm managers struggling to fill roles as demand for lawyers continues: recruiter report

Employers looking for lawyers with 2-3 years experience

Law firm managers struggling to fill roles as demand for lawyers continues: recruiter report
Michelle Dunnill, Robert Half Canada

Law firms are struggling to find skilled talent, and managers say they plan to hire more contractors in 2024, according to the latest data from recruiting agency Robert Half Canada.

The report says lawyers and other legal professionals remain in high demand in Canada.

Robert Half’s recently released “Demand for Skilled Talent Report” found there is still a lot of mobility in the legal sector. Many are currently looking or planning to look for new positions, and most employers are hiring for permanent roles. However, suitable candidates in high demand, most organizations also plan to use contractors.

The highest demand is for lawyers with two-to-three years of experience.

“In any industry – and that's also specific to legal – companies need to understand that to attract and retain talent, flexibility continues to be a high priority for workers in 2024,” says Michelle Dunnill, Toronto regional director at Robert Half Canada. “Work and work-life integration really has shifted through 2023.”

Workers know that many employers have shifted their workplace model to become more flexible, she says. That included work-from-home days and fluid schedules where employees are only required to attend the office for client-facing activities and meetings. This type of flexibility is in high demand in the legal sector, says Dunnill.

According to the report, only 46 percent of legal professionals are not considering a job search. Eighteen percent plan to look for a new job and 36 percent are actively looking.

Sixty-seven percent of law firms and legal departments are hiring for new permanent roles, and 31 percent are hiring for vacated permanent positions. Among those employers, 84 percent are facing challenges in finding skilled talent. In the first half of 2024, 90 percent of lawyers and managers will recruit contract workers – lawyers, legal administrators, office managers, administrative assistants, and file clerks. Legal departments plan to use contractors for administrative tasks, corporate in-house counsel, eDiscovery and litigation support.

“Whether you're looking for a permanent, full-time position or a contract role within the legal profession – and despite an uncertain economy leading to less turnover in the labour market recently – overall, it is very favourable that the demand for legal skilled talent remains high,” says Dunnill.

Lawyers and managers also gave Robert Half their strategic priorities for the year ahead. At law firms, the focus is tech integration, data security, privacy compliance, expanding practice areas, and client acquisition and diversification. ESG, legal optimization and efficiency, risk and litigation management, and tech implementation and automation are top of mind for corporate legal departments.  

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