To hire or not to hire, is that the question?
Over the years the City has seen a number of disruptive events and arguably has always come out on top. However, arguably nothing has been as divisive and significant as the European Referendum result. In this article we outline the current state of play and how businesses can engage legal talent on an interim basis to help them with their recruitment strategy during this time of uncertainty.
With a few weeks having now passed since Brexit became a reality and with the game of Government ‘Top Trumps’ yielding a new prime minister some feel that the dust is starting to settle and that we may be able to focus on the path ahead. While Theresa May has put together a Cabinet of those she feels will serve her well, no one has yet to make a footprint in the coating of Brexit powder. This leaves the City, the wider UK, European and global community with a sense of unease and uncertainty.
Traditionally recruitment is a good gauge of how markets and companies react to testing times. In simple terms, in a bearish market firms and businesses tend to slow or halt their hiring and conversely in a bullish climate quite the reverse. This, however, is not the full story.
Over the past eight years a new phenomenon has grown within the legal space in the shape of interim lawyers (this is to be distinguished from the legal locum market). At the centre of this new breed is a nucleus of City or top tier trained lawyers who have decided, for a variety of reasons, to break away from the traditional career paths of their peers. These lawyers ply their trade on a piecemeal basis, taking on project based, strategic or base level work depending on the needs of the firm and the desires and experience levels of the individual. These lawyers come in all shapes and sizes, all practice areas and at all PQE levels.In fact the development of this tranche of resource and the uptake by companies and law firms means that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution but instead a wide reaching range of talent available.
What does this mean when put into context regarding the current climate? The answer is a simple one: legal hiring managers now have a third option available to them. The question therefore should not be ‘To hire or not to hire?’ but rather ‘How do we hire for the current climate?’.
At SSQ Interim Solutions we have experienced unprecedented interest from law firms and companies in utilising flexible resource as a non-cost committed way to navigate the short to mid-term markets. Article 50 has not yet been invoked and, while there is a lot of speculation as to when and where the dust coated boots will tread their new path, no one including the new Prime Minister knows. Business carries on as ‘usual’ and we all stare down the barrel of a minimum of a two year cartography exercise. Who knows how long workflow will remain at its present volume; some areas may experience a spike while others may see a dip over the coming months and years.
The interim resourcing model offers a flexible solution for this. There are a number of reasons why our clients choose to work with interim lawyers:
1. A quick, easy and viable option to maintain output while not compromising on the quality of work.
2. To avoid longer term capacity and/or cost issues by over hiring permanent members of staff.
3. A very flexible solution which can be grown or shrunk in real time in line with what is happening in each particular market.
4. Engaging lawyers as a legal service allows a provision for resource in times where a hiatus on headcount may be invoked.
Using interim resource maybe something new for many businesses but with the level of uncertainty in the market it is an option that makes great sense. SSQ Interim Solutions is able to engage lawyers for law firms and companies on a temporary or contract basis and we regularly work with clients to help them put recruitment plans in place in the short to medium term. This is particularly beneficial for businesses right now to help them while the country as a whole waits to see what the new path will be.
For more information on working with SSQ Interim Solutions please contact Becky Mackarel.
*There is a clear distinction between the perception of what can be called the legal locum market and the modern interim legal market. Many law firm Partners and General Counsel who engaged a locum lawyer many years ago will say they were not particularly satisfied with the outcome. There are some positive outcomes but stories are negative on the whole. These experiences left many Partners and GCs with the view, rightly or wrongly, that the legal locum market was for those who could not obtain or hold a permanent role and as such had no choice but to work on a flexible basis.
Arguably the legal interim market was born as a bi-product of the 2007/8 ‘Credit Crunch’ and the ensuing few years of economic downturn where law firms and companies were forced to make a number of rounds of redundancies due to a sudden and significant drop in work. As a result there were some excellent, City and top-tier trained lawyers who found themselves suddenly out of employment through no fault of their own. At the same time the law firms and companies all went in to an extended period of business development vying for the remaining crumbs of work. In 2010 and when the lights started to come back on and work started to pick up these firms and companies who had let a large number of lawyers go, suddenly found themselves in a situation where arguably they needed to hire to cope with the sudden uptick in work and the reduction of their permanent resource. With a heavy air of caution still surrounding the global economic climate and the fear of what at the time was termed a ‘double dip’ the firms and companies turned to those who had been made redundant offering the lawyers interim engagements.
With the creation of this new way of working it became for many a new chosen career path, no longer did every lawyer want to be a Partner or GC and instead wanted to, for a variety of reasons, work for a period of time (of their own choosing) and then take time off between assignments, or simply work without the politics and choose where they wanted to spend their time. The option also became a popular way of working for employers as it allowed for a more flexible approach to the work levels and a better control over capacity and cost. This way of working created a nucleus of talented and technically gifted lawyers which can now be termed the interim legal market. Since the interim legal market was born it has grown in number, quality and interest across the legal market with some firms and companies such as BT now basing part of their strategy around this flexible resource model.