Legal leaders fret about 2023 hiring, talent retention challenges, report finds

Reputation concerns and lack of senior level diversity also top of mind, according to MDC study
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Legal leaders say they are worried about how they will attract talent next year Shutterstock

Legal leaders are becoming increasingly concerned about recruitment and talent retention issues, according to a new report from professional services consultancy MD Communications.

Managing partners, CEOs and other senior lawyers worry that the tougher recruitment climate has created a ‘sellers’ market, making it easier for lawyers to jump ship and putting pressure on firms to find and encourage talent to stay in the coming year. The ‘2023: What lies ahead? Facing the challenges together’ report, launched to coincide with the annual IBA conference in Miami, canvassed the views of a range of legal leaders in the UK and other jurisdictions to gauge the concerns they are most anxious about over the next 12 months.

Siobhan Lewington, managing director of global recruiters Fox Rodney, said: “In terms of talent retention, the market is the tightest we have seen it. The bottom line is that, with the hiring market so tight, firms are making significant efforts to retain their best talent using compensation and promotion as key tools to achieve this goal.”

Another related challenge is ensuring law remains an attractive career prospect for graduates.

Law firm consultant Stephen Revell said: “The big worry is around whether there are enough good people who want to join law firms and build a career in the legal profession. How can we help young people today realise the attractiveness of the legal profession as a long-term career so law firms have the people they need?”

Legal leaders are also concerned about getting hit by reputational issues, such as working with certain clients or suffering data breaches.

Melissa Davis, CEO of MD Communications, said: “The legal sector looking is also looking over its shoulder at the growing risk to their reputations from, for example, having presence in authoritarian jurisdictions, political attacks and cyber threats. How they prepare to deal with [these reputational threats] will be critical to their future growth and survival.”

Other issues that respondents flagged included diversity challenges and firms not doing enough to ensure that diversity extends to senior levels.

“It is not enough to show that your work force has a high number of female lawyers if most are junior and not key decision makers or direction setters,” said Sara Carnegie, director of legal projects at the IBA.

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