Why Is It So Hard to Find New Talent?

I’ve been having conversations every day with firms looking to hire marketing, recruiting, and PD professionals, as well as with candidates interested in new job opportunities. I want to share what I’ve seen and heard to shed light on what is really happening.

From my vantage point, this is not about the great resignation. I’ve seen a few seasoned professionals retire at 61 instead of 65, but mass resignations are not the reason why there’s a massive talent shortage.

Here’s what I’ve been seeing:

Law firms are expanding their business services departments. Since so many firms have been hiring record numbers of lateral partners, associates, and law students, they need more recruiters to handle the volume. For example, one CTO I spoke to this week is adding five new roles to her firm-wide department. If she’s able to hire these new additions, her department will grow from 12 to 17 professionals. This is one of many examples I’ve experienced in the last six months of departments growing exponentially, something I have never seen in my almost 26 years of placing talent into law firms.

I’ve seen a similar scenario for BD/marketing jobs at law firms of all sizes. Attorneys became even more engaged in marketing and business development during the pandemic. This has resulted in needing to add more professionals to support these growing business development activities.

We have also seen more professional development roles in the past 22 months than at any point in the last 25+ years. Why? Because associates working from home or hybrid need more support. The PD professionals we’ve placed have been extremely busy providing guidance, resources, mentoring opportunities, and remote feedback to associates, many of whom are new to their firms.

The bottom line is that marketing, professional development, and recruiting departments are growing exponentially, and the existing talent pool does not match the demand.

Let’s look at the talent side. Why are businesses services professionals looking to leave their firms? The conversations I’ve been having have a couple of themes to them:

  1. Senior professionals who have been with their firms for many years and are now coming out of a “war zone,” having gotten their firms through the worst of the pandemic by working extremely hard, are now waking up and feeling that there’s a values clash. For example, I’ve spoken to three different C-level professionals in January who said that they didn’t feel in sync with some of the major decisions their leaders made, including early layoffs when the pandemic first started or the firm’s RTO requirements for their team members which are widely different than policies for attorneys. These business services leaders are now seeking new opportunities because their values, especially on key decisions, are in conflict with those who run the firm.
  1. Employees who are burned out and need a new start. For example, I had a call with a BD manager who has been with her firm for 7+ years. The firm had been very generous and increased her base by 30% over the past six months, but with that came additional massive areas of responsibility. Basically, she now has 2 1/2 jobs. Even for a lot more money, that is not sustainable. Warning: If you have a great employee who is handling a tremendous amount of work, don’t reward them by giving them even more work! If you do, you are very likely to lose them.
  1. Disgruntled team members who were disappointed with their raises and bonuses at year-end and felt they were not being recognized compared to associates who were getting mega bonuses. It’s not just about money; it’s about being recognized for putting in an extreme effort over many months of the pandemic.

These are what I’ve been seeing and hearing daily. I welcome your insights!

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