The economic stress and uncertainty inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented amount of disruption within the legal industry.
Since the recession in 2008, there has been a skills shortage in the legal sector which has left some employees with the knowledge they are not easily replaceable. However, a global pandemic has begun to shake up a seemingly calm legal recruitment marketplace.
When Boris Johnson ordered us all to work from home on March 23rd, the uncertainty of the situation prompted a recruitment freeze in most law firms. As time wore on, there was some disparity in how businesses decided to operate during lockdown.
Some law firms ‘battened down the hatches,’ possibly due to not having a strong enough or established enough foothold in their markets. Many top law firms announced furloughs and job cuts including Irwin Mitchell, Reed Smith, Squire Patton Boggs and BLM.
A report by Realm Recruit found that 27% of employers in the legal sector were ‘likely’ to make redundancies as a result of the current climate. 13% claimed to have stopped all recruitment activity and won’t recruit at all in 2020.
However, the majority of businesses preferred to observe the ever changing landscape before committing to big decisions. Some law firms were criticised in the wake of the 2008 financial crash for sacking junior lawyers too quickly and deferring training contracts.
The Realm Recruit report also found that 60% of legal employers had only paused their recruitment activity, but would regularly review it to ensure they had the resources to continue growing their business.
At the other end of the scale, other law firms held firm and continued operations as usual, albeit remotely. Some areas of law even witnessed a huge surge in activity as a result of Covid-19.
After being closed for months, law firms with conveyancing departments experienced a huge growth in workloads when the housing market re-opened in May.
When the full lockdown was lifted, family law experienced an eruption of divorce enquiries as the strain of spending weeks together, along with financial pressures became too much.
After a year of huge change in the job market, employment and restructuring lawyers saw a massive surge in enquiries from clients looking to navigate the crisis through cutting jobs or practising safety measures.
Tony Williams, principal of legal consultancy, Jomati said, “The message I’ve been getting from firms – certainly from the top-50 – is very much that things have not been as bad as anticipated.”
This viewpoint was echoed in the number of jobs live on Simply Law Jobs throughout 2020. After numbers tumbled in April, they have subsequently grown each month.
Michael McGaw, Director at Nelson Chambers, said, “We need to be able to draw positives from even the worst situations, the rainbow we see after the storm. We need to recognise how adaptable most of us have been and at very short notice. How so many firms developed work from home procedures which protected jobs, protecting incomes, and protected companies for the best people.”
He continued, “The adoption of technology has meant that we can continue to collaborate with customers and colleagues. So, whilst face to face interviews can and should resume where possible, we can speed processes up by conducting early stages using video conferences and alike.”
How Covid-19 Impacted Simply Law Jobs
As expected, the year started like any other with a spike in traffic and applications. When the national lockdown was announced, a short recruitment freeze resulted in a drop in activity which subsequently recovered as the months continued.
Despite furlough schemes supporting employment, traffic levels remained fairly consistent throughout the year which suggests candidates were either keeping their options open or preparing for any changes to their current employment.
Our CV database grew by 4.13%
Applications per job increased by 53% between March and December
On average, over 37,000 jobseekers visited Simply Law Jobs every month
The average number of jobs posted every month was 5,328, a decrease of 60% from 2019
The average number of applications every month was 3,059
Employers were predominantly searching for Solicitors, Associates and Lawyers
The most applied to jobs were for Paralegals, Solicitors and Graduate vacancies
How Covid-19 Impacted Our Jobseekers
Since March, we regularly interviewed our jobseekers to understand how Covid-19 was affecting their lives and careers. We were also keen to discover their feelings about how the government and their most recent employer handled the pandemic.
What is your employment status?
Would you consider reskilling in order to take another job?
How do you feel your most recent employer has handled the pandemic in relation to their employees?
How do you feel the UK government has handled the pandemic overall so far?
65% are worried about their future in the legal industry.
79% believe the UK government could be doing more to help the legal industry get back on its feet.
“Lots of loss of jobs in many industries Too many u-turns. Lawyers can’t advise clients if they don’t know what the law is.”
“The rules keep changing, nothing makes sense, absolutely ridiculous and very confusing.”
* The statistics and opinions displayed are based on an Simply Law Jobs survey of 20 legal professionals from October 2020. They do not reflect the views of the Simply Law Jobs or any of its team.
How Covid-19 Impacted Searching For Jobs
We were also keen to understand how job searches and priorities had changed as a result of this year’s events. The results were fascinating and paint a powerful picture of the current legal job market.
How long have you been job hunting?
How many jobs have you applied for during your current job search?
What information is most important for you to see in a job advert?
Do you feel most job adverts provide the information you are looking for?
Have your career priorities changed as a result of this year’s events?
What do you find most frustrating about job hunting?
What information do you want to know about an employer?
- Career progression opportunities
- Working hours
If your priorities have changed, why?
- Searching for a better work/home balance e.g. working closer to home
- Salary expectations are lower
- Willingness to branch out into other sectors to secure employment
* The statistics displayed are based on a Simply Law Jobs survey of 138 aviation professionals from December 2020.
Our Response to Covid-19
In the short period of down time, we took the opportunity to strategically review the fundamentals of Simply Law Jobs and search for ways in which to cultivate. As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” meaning that in times of trouble, great things can occur if the opportunity is seized.
We started by interviewing thousands of jobseekers and clients to establish the features they would like to see enhanced or added. In August, we compiled huge amounts of data into a comprehensive plan to revamp the site. Once equipped with our plan and goals, we set about working hard behind the scenes to bring those concepts to life.
For our jobseekers, the new features will simplify the application process, offer more detailed job descriptions and improve the job search functionality. Enhanced search functionality means that jobseekers can discover relevant career opportunities quicker and easier than ever before.
We can also exclusively reveal that for the first time ever on our platform, jobseekers will be able to apply for jobs using their Simply Law Jobs profile instead of their CV. This will allow jobseekers to showcase their talent, skills and experience beyond the CV, which means a better chance of reaching the interview stage and landing their dream job.
For our clients, it will be easier to post jobs and view detailed insights into the performance of their jobs. Clients will also be able to compare how they are performing against other employers on Simply Law Jobs.
We’ll also be providing enhancement indicators on live job posts. For example, if the salary offered is below the industry average, we’ll flag it to ensure job posts achieve their maximum potential.
We’re also proud to announce that our CV database will be the smartest version to date and jam packed with more comprehensive data. We’ll even suggest candidates which could be relevant to you based on recent search data.
These features are just the first phase of the revamp which will launch in early 2021.
2021 and Beyond
From our extensive research, we discovered that jobseekers were searching for more than just career opportunities from Simply Law Jobs which is why phase 2 and 3 of the relaunch will focus on career development support and a community in which professionals can connect.
- Exciting developments coming in the next 18 months
- Salary & take home calculators
- Upskilling opportunities
- A day in the life features
- Recommended entry points for specific career paths
- CV and interview tips
- Mentorship guidance
- Expanded professional profiles
- Enhance your professional reputation by posting achievements, articles and day in the life features
- Community Q & A board
- Revamped courses platform
- End to end career guidance
- Career case studies
- Events integration
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