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In A Tight Talent Market, The Legal Industry Seeks Ways To Compete

For the past year, the legal business, like many others, has struggled to overcome a competitive and tight labor market.

Compensation structures are being adjusted, remote work opportunities are being expanded, and new strategies to attract talent, such as delivering meaningful and purpose-driven work, are being explored.

“I believe law firms would concede or acknowledge that the battle for talent is as fierce as the battle for clients,” said Rick Kennedy, a partner at Hodgson Russ. “We’re all competing for the brightest young lawyers, but partners are seeking for stable companies with resources to support their practices as well.” So it’s not just youthful lawyers; it’s also seasoned attorneys.”

According to Kennedy, Covid and remote work possibilities played a significant impact in the rapid mobility of legal talent. He believes that companies that offer higher salary packages and more flexibility will have an advantage in attracting top employees.

Lucy Dadd, director of legal talent and development at Harter Secrest & Emery LLP, says that out-of-town law firms that provide totally remote work choices are a problem.

“Big law firms may provide attorneys at all levels the opportunity to work for their companies from the comfort of their own homes,” Dadd added. “It’s a big-city business income with the convenience of working from home.”

Instead of renting a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, those attorneys can now work from home in Buffalo and earn the same compensation. According to Dadd, the pay gap is enormous, and in certain circumstances, more than double what local employers provide.

The hours at those companies are frequently long, but with so many people unable to spend time with their families or participate in social activities because of Covid, the extra hours can be appealing. Younger lawyers, particularly those with student loan payments, appear to be flocking to those agreements.

“I believe the mindset is that it will just take a few of years to produce some money and pay off the loans,” Dadd added. “I believe they are missing out on important components of their personal and professional development as attorneys because they are isolated and working alone.” With Covid rates falling, perhaps consumers will want to go back to something more conventional.”

On the other hand, Kevin Hogan, managing partner at Phillips Lytle LLP, noted that the pandemic has pushed some attorneys to leave large legal firms, relocate outside of major cities, and live closer to family in order to achieve work-life balance.

“As part of this huge resignation, we’ve seen a migration from big law to areas like Buffalo.” “I believe that’s what’s led to organizations offering remote work options and more freedom in how the job can be done,” Hogan added.

Joseph Hanna, a partner and member of Goldberg Segalla’s management team, recalls a time when the legal industry’s talent pool was so limited that young lawyers were lucky to land a job right out of law school.

“There’s been a pattern of reducing the number of law school classes over the previous six years,” he said. “Associate attorneys who can obtain better jobs are in high demand right now.” The attitude of ‘You’re lucky to be working here’ is no longer prevalent. I don’t see how a legal firm or corporation survives in current market if it isn’t a collaborative or teamwide effort or strategy.”

Many firms are working on ensuring that attorneys find significance in their job that goes beyond money.

“It’s a dedication to professional growth, diversity, inclusion, and equity, and it’s a commitment to the well-being of the individuals who work for you,” Kennedy explained.

Hogan noted that assisting lawyers doing pro bono work in the community can sometimes provide that sense of purpose.

He explained, “We have a robust assortment of pro bono work for the community.” “We aggressively urge our younger attorneys to get involved in the community early on.” That contributes to the sense of purpose for which I believe there is an increasing demand.”

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