Mind the Gap: Getting a Handle on Legal Hiring Post-Pandemic

What’s Working Right Now: 3 Strategies That Accelerate Legal Hiring

Legal Hiring: 3 Strategies for Closing the Talent Gap


What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, law firms had just the barest inkling that the need for associates would surge. Legal work hadn’t dried up during the shutdowns as feared. In fact, demand for legal services related to healthcare, insurance, employment and bankruptcy in particular has been on the rise. Then, the legal hiring market exploded. Job openings increased 106% between October 2020 and May 2021. The balance of power shifted in the transition from an employer- to an employee-driven market.


“Legal hiring has gone from a slack market to intense growth and even more intense competition,” says Nate Bogdanovich, Executive Vice President, PS Companies. “Finding and onboarding good talent, especially at the associate level, is a real struggle.”


At PS Companies, we’re helping law firms and in-house teams of all sizes staff up to handle post-pandemic client needs. One of the trends we’re seeing is an increase in compensation and signing bonuses. However, there are other effective strategies for closing the talent gap in this current environment.  


Speed is a hiring advantage. “When a client has an urgent need and we can collaborate to move hiring along at hyper-speed we’ve been very successful in bringing associates on board,” says Nate. “Candidates have options. They’re getting multiple interviews right now, often via remote, which accelerates the process even more. Being first-to-offer is an advantage.”


Remote work gets the green light. Some firms are giving legal recruiters approval to hire associates from any location, in essence adding remote-work only employees to their team. Allowing virtual work helps legal employers expand their talent pool. In some cases, it may be less expensive to hire associates from smaller markets.


Cater to the individual candidate. “Younger associates have always wanted more flexibility and empowerment in own their career,” says Nate. “In this market they have more leverage because the need for their services is so great. They understand their value, and can ask for what they want, be it more flexible scheduling, top-line technology, better benefits, or more time off. What hasn’t changed is that people are unique. So are their wants and needs.”


Many of the +35-year-old associates are prioritizing opportunities beyond the base salary at a new employer. Some are finding they prefer remote or remote/hybrid work. Equity is important and so is PTO.  In the last six months we’ve also noticed that organizational structure and team structure are coming up more in conversations with candidates, possibly because it’s harder to build relationships and integrate into a team in a remote/hybrid setting.   


Getting to “Yes”

As starting pay levels rise across the board, compensation is likely to be less of a market differentiator for law firms and businesses. Candidates will be evaluating potential new employers based on other aspects of the employment experience. Professional fulfillment has become a more frequent motivator for candidates in many industries, not just legal. As a recent American Bar Association article noted, the effect could be a more level legal recruiting playing field for smaller firms and in-house teams.