Wide sweeping change has become a part of our lives, both in the legal industry and beyond. There hasn’t been a market unchanged by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, change doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing. Of course, there are negatives, but change can present opportunities as well. This month saw an increase in recruitment activity in the In-House market and DMJ have a wealth of quality roles for which we are recruiting. Click here to view our current exciting In-House roles.
Let’s take a trip through the In-House Legal Market and evaluate how it’s changed, the current challenges and how businesses are adjusting and looking to the future.
Past – What has Changed Over the Past Few Months
During the turbulent past few months, the most obvious change was the quick shift to remote working across the board. Due to this huge change in operations and the uncertainty across nearly all markets, companies quickly put restrictions on budgets which immediately caused a slowdown in hiring and, for many companies, a full hiring freeze.
However, not all markets saw a downturn. Technology and Fin-Tech sectors weathered the Covid storm relatively well and companies continued to recruit into their inhouse legal teams. Moreover, there was an increase in demand for legal support in the healthcare and life sciences sectors whilst they tried to navigate new manufacturing and distribution limitations and the regulatory framework across Europe as well as the race for a vaccine.
Perhaps the biggest change was the increase in demand for interim support in the areas of employment, insolvency and litigation. As a result of the downturn, these areas became very busy across most sectors and in-house teams quickly sought temporary legal support due to the specialist nature of this work.
Present – How are In-House Teams Changing
Having weathered the storm, many companies are focusing on cutting costs and being financially responsible. General Counsels are making a conscious effort to bring as much work in-house as possible rather than outsource it. Anything that can be done in-house will be done in-house leading to lawyers taking on a wider variety of work. A typical week could involve advising on a breadth of legal issues such as corporate, commercial and regulatory matters. Big, strategic projects or specialist advice, the type of work that requires external counsel, have been pushed back or further down the list where possible. Teams are trying to simply right the ship before taking on larger initiatives. In addition, In-House teams have drastically slowed their Mergers and Acquisitions work. Fewer deals this year have offset legal spending on refinancing/equity injections.
Hiring is shifting to replacements or backfills rather than newly recreated roles in many cases. Where hires are being made, individuals are being brought on via remote onboarding. New recruits are sent a laptop and are being welcomed by the team virtually via video call. The ease of online messaging systems and video calls has been effective in helping new starters to feel connected to their team.
Employees have had to become accustomed to home working. The uptake of this in the future remains to be seen. Employees will have individual preferences and it is likely, once government restrictions are eased, that we will see a combination of home and office working for most people. Companies that cannot offer this flexibility and require employees to be exclusively office or home based are likely to have challenges retaining and recruiting staff, particularly if employees have this flexibility at their current company.
Future – What to Expect
We expect the market and workplaces themselves to look very different in the future. Employers will be using the Covid disruption as an opportunity to upskill their existing team in an effort to encourage loyalty and reduce external spend. Therefore, demand for more experienced lawyers and mid-level lawyers with a broad skills set is likely to increase once hiring freezes are over so that capacity for strategic, high value and complex work to be done in-house increases.
Monday’s announcement from the government stating that people should work from home wherever possible will mean a delay in office staff regularly returning on a large scale to the office. Many employees will save time and money commuting as the new remote format continues, and comfy clothes is an added bonus. In the longer term, a combination of office and home working will likely become a more common way of working.
The workplace has changed in many ways, but I believe we’re moving towards a more flexible and dynamic workforce. This is also a great time to re-evaluate your options and consider a change, especially if you feel your role has a risk of redundancy. Recruitment has picked up in the In-House market and DMJ have a wealth of quality roles for which we are recruiting. Click here to view our current exciting In-House roles.
If you’re interested in gaining some insight and advice on the In-House market, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org