Finding skilled professionals for firms is challenging: survey

A new survey by Robert Half Legal of law firms from across Canada indicates that 71 per cent of firms say finding skilled professionals like lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants is challenging. The same survey also found that 32 per cent of firms said they are expanding or adding new positions, and 44 per cent of respondents said they’re worried about losing staff in the coming months to other jobs.

Warren Bongard says while there has been a surge in hiring lawyers, there are more lawyers seeking work than positions available.
Warren Bongard says while there has been a surge in hiring lawyers, there are more lawyers seeking work than positions available.

“Law firms are competing to secure new clientele and expand profitability. To succeed, many firms will continue to seek specialists in high-demand practice areas to broaden their service offerings and pursue new business opportunities,” said Marisa Ellis, regional manager for Robert Half Legal.

“Litigation continues to grow; it was cited by lawyers as the top practice area expected to drive hiring at law firms and corporate legal departments during the next six months.”

Of 150 survey respondents, 50 per cent were at law firms with 20 or more employees, while the other half were at companies with 1,000 or more employees.

The survey’s respondents say the practice areas that will lead to the most number of job opportunities in the last half of 2017 are litigation, general business/corporate law, and real estate. There is also anticipated demand in regulatory or compliance work, ethics and corporate governance, intellectual property and privacy, data and information law.  

“I’d say the demand for lawyers is quite healthy at the moment,” says Warren Bongard, a former lawyer and current co-founder and president of ZSA Legal Recruitment.

“In the in-house world, that marketplace has grown exponentially in the last 20 years, so it is way more robust and more sophisticated. A lot of companies are adding talent or adding lawyers to their roster of employees.”

Bongard says while there is currently a surge in demand for lawyers, nuances exist.

“The sad statistic is that there is more people than ever looking for work and so while you’d think that that would be great, that that would make sense, at least that there would be a chance for these people to get jobs, it’s still very difficult for under-employed lawyers to find work,” he says.

Under-employed lawyers may find work in areas such as document review and contract work, he says.

“By and large, there are more people looking then there are jobs,” he says.

Kevin Dane, chief operating officer at Wildeboer Dellelce LLP, says it is always a challenge to find good people.

He says the firm, which has 40 lawyers and more than 70 employees, uses recruiters and job postings.

How the firm finds a new employee depends on how difficult it’s perceived to be to fill a role, he says.

“That’s the art in the search. Often cases, it’s the fit that you’re trying to find for the practice area that you have,” says Dane.

He says “great people typically are employed happily where they are.”

“So, from our standpoint if somebody is a really great catch, they’re looking potentially for a different platform, so it may be an opportunity in how our platform may be different then another firm’s platform,” says Dane.

Ellis said law clerks are in demand.

“Experienced law clerks are performing more comprehensive duties than in the past, undertaking work and responsibilities previously managed by entry-level attorneys,” she said. “For many firms, assigning work to law clerks can help meet client’s demand for cost-effective legal service.”

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