The January edition of the Lake County Bar Association’s monthly newsletter, The Minute Sheet, showed how fierce the ongoing talent war has become in the legal profession – 21 help-seeking ads were posted mostly by law firms in northwest Indiana looking for attorneys.
Most ad firms wanted to gain experience with vacancies covering a wide range of practice areas, ranging from personal injury, estate planning and insurance defense to family law, municipal law and civil law. social security invalidity. Phrases such as “team-oriented environment,” “partnership position,” and “great opportunity” were sprinkled throughout job postings.
The bulletin’s extensive classifieds section reflects the need for more attorneys that state and nationwide law firms say they have due to increased workloads.
The Thomson Reuters Institute’s 2022 State of the Legal Market Report, which provides data showing that law firms saw significant increases in lawyer labor and staffing last year, reinforces these anecdotes.
Demand for legal services grew last year at a rate of 4% from 2020 and 1% from 2019, according to the report. The drivers of growth were businesses, including mergers and acquisitions, and real estate practice areas.
At the same time, the number of lawyers increased by 3.9% at the end of November 2021, the highest level observed in more than a decade. The surge in hiring seems to have moderated productivity growth even though the workload was heavier. As of November 2021, productivity had only increased by 0.3% compared to 2019, and the average 124 billable hours worked per lawyer per month in 2021 was 10 hours lower than the average 134 monthly billable hours worked by lawyers in 2007.
Jason Goldberg, senior legal recruiter at LHH Recruitment Solutions, pointed out that supply issues span all sectors of the economy.
“There seems to be a shortage of supply for everything. You go to your local grocery store or hardware store or wherever…the actual supplies aren’t necessarily there and the people aren’t there either,” Goldberg said. “So I think in terms of law firms, there’s definitely more need now than I’ve ever seen.”
Rhame Elwood & McClure in Porter County is among the businesses that placed a wanted ad in The Minute Sheet. Partner Ken Elwood said the firm had been looking for at least two lawyers since the summer of 2021 and, for the first time in its history, was hiring a recruiter to find candidates.
The firm has openings in the practice areas of family law as well as general litigation and collections and offers a salary range of $70,000 to $100,000 plus the possibility of quarterly bonuses. Additionally, in another sign of the magnitude of the need for lawyers in today’s market, the family law practice already has the business on hold, which is different from the past when firms expected side hires to bring in their own customers.
Yet the job postings only attracted four applications. Elwood attributed the disappointing response to the tight labor market and the closure of the Valparaiso Law School, which was a pipeline of lawyers and associates from his firm.
“We won’t lower our expectations,” Elwood said. “We are a very hardworking law firm. We have a lot of work, but we also all have, from top to bottom, a balance of life. We ask our lawyers to work hard and we compensate them for this work, but we also want a balance of life.
Attract and retain talent
In one year, the search for talent has become the dominant concern of law firms. The 2021 Law Firm Chief Executives Report, compiled by the Thomson Reuters Institute, found that issues involving talent were seen as posing the greatest risks to profitability. Comparatively, in the 2020 report, talent did not appear in the top five spots of the list of risks to the future of law firms.
The 2021 report surveyed 55 U.S. law firms and found that 51% identified recruiting and retaining talent as posing the highest risk to profitability. The second and third biggest risks were poaching of staff by competitors and increased associate salaries.
To retain talent, companies have increased associate compensation by 11.3% by November 2021, according to the State of the Legal Market Report. Some have gone further to protect themselves from poaching by paying their lawyers to stay off LinkedIn and discouraging networking and joining bar associations because it could introduce those lawyers to competitors.
Allison Pulliam didn’t have to leave her office to receive job offers. The Eichhorn & Eichhorn partner at Hammond began receiving emails and even a call to her hotline advertising vacancies around the time she celebrated her first anniversary of practicing law.
She described the investigations as a nuisance. A single mother of a 3-year-old, Pulliam said she had no interest in transferring her general liability and workers’ compensation practice to another company.
His list of reasons to stay includes his company’s focus on families, with associates often asking about his son and allowing him some flexibility in his schedule. Additionally, she said she felt valued and believed the partners had helped her improve in legal writing.
Compensation is important, Pulliam said, but it’s not his primary consideration. In fact, she said she would be willing to earn less in exchange for flexibility and a good fit with the company culture.
Goldberg saw more desire among attorneys for ethereal things like the ability to work remotely and a good parenting policy. Pay is always important, he said, but lawyers who are overworked and underappreciated are going to be burned out no matter how much they are paid.
“You have to, as a law firm, find what is going to help attract them, whether it’s compensation, flexibility around remote work, “culture”, which is more difficult to transmit, especially through video interviews, because opposed to walking into an office and… seeing the culture for yourself,” Goldberg said. “It’s up to these law firms to explain anyway possible reasons why their place of business is the place of business that should be appealing.”
Samantha Hargitt recalled that when she graduated from Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in 2013, the job market was so depressed that new lawyers focused solely on finding jobs. a job and worried about firm culture later.
Now, leading the recruiting effort for the Indianapolis office of Dinsmore & Shohl, Hargitt not only sees more job openings, but also new competitors. Larger companies that don’t have offices in Indiana have tried to lure Hoosier attorneys by offering to continue living where they live and working remotely.
“I think our job in terms of recruitment and retention, as a company, is just to keep trying to make our company the best option for as many people as possible,” Hargitt said, ” and to continue to support that collegial culture and to continue to support people’s desire to do sophisticated and interesting work for great clients.
Compensation will always be an important factor, she said — it’s the easiest for the candidate to understand. However, a growing number of potential hires are placing more emphasis on finding the “right place” where they fit in well with their colleagues.
Dinsmore is able to respond to this change because it has always been focused on company culture, Hargitt said. As she explained, the firm has good lawyers who are also friendly people, helping to create a collegial environment. In addition, clients bring complex and interesting legal cases, which provides great opportunities for young lawyers to gain experience.
At Eichhorn & Eichhorn, Carly Brandenburg said she’s noticed the same change in attitude, especially among new lawyers. They usually ask about work-life balance during the first interview, and some want to know how working at the company will fit into their family life, even if they are not currently married or parents, she said.
The situation is very different from when Brandenburg started practicing in 2007. Afterwards, she often arrived at her office at 7 a.m. and regularly billed 2,000 hours or more per year for about the first four years she worked at Eichhorn. & Eichhorn. It was the “tokens in the bank” that helped her become a partner and allowed her to take time for her young family.
With partners coming into the firm these days, the emphasis is on them feeling connected, she said. Young lawyers receive more feedback on their work and are invited to dine at a partner’s house or join other lawyers for outings.
“We have some very, very good associates right now. I would hate to lose them,” Brandenburg said. “We’re going to have to pay them well, treat them well and give them flexibility and hope they’re happy because there’s a ton of options out there.”•