2020 Lateral Hiring Trends in Law Firms: Attracting Great Talent When Employers Are Spending Less

Harrison Barnes

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Although news reports boast of a great economy and low unemployment rates, the Global Talent Monitor reported that US employers decreased what they’re willing to pay to lure great talent away from competitors at the end of the third quarter of 2019. Instead of an average of 15%, employers are now only offering a pay increase of around 13%. In addition to a decrease in what employers are offering to lateral hires across various industries, the average number of active job hunters in the United States also decreased from 40% to 33%.

The Number One Reason for Lateral Hires to Move? Money!

The best way to incentivize talent to leave a competitor is still money according to the Global Talent Monitor. Yet, as the report noted, the amount of money offered has dropped by two percent. Of course, we do know that the landscape is changing. Even in the legal industry, there’s a push to change the overall work culture, to take better care of ourselves as individuals. Higher salaries can buy a lot of self-care options for attorneys and legal staff should they choose to use money that way.

But It’s Not Always about the Money

In addition to money, poaching happens when attorneys and legal staff are presented with more opportunities for professional development as well as better management. The bottom line is that most employees, regardless of industry, want the opportunity to improve. They want the opportunity to do more in their professional lives, and they want to feel supported by the supervising attorneys and partners. They don’t want to feel as if they’re being taken advantage of. Most attorneys don’t want to feel micromanaged. Collaborative environments, as well as mentorship are valued. Firm environments that are overly critical or provide few opportunities for learning generally lead to unhappy attorneys and legal staff.

Better benefits are another primary reason employee poaching occurs. In a Willis Towers Watson survey from 2018, 61% of workers surveyed said they would definitely choose guaranteed retirement benefits over a pay increase; 38% stated they would prefer to receive better health care insurance over more pay.

A 2018 Randstad survey given in the United States to 756 employees revealed that more than 60% of employees would take a job that paid less if it provided them with benefits that improved their quality of life. Think about it. Do you know someone who needs a flexible work schedule? Maybe they already work from home. Do you know of a law firm that offers paid parental leave? What about a pay-down plan for law school debt?

Attorneys and legal staff want work-life balance, and many attorneys will change firms for a lower billable hours’ requirement, ability to work some days from home, or the ability to find more balance between family time and office time.

What’s the Bottom Line for Lateral Hiring in 2020?

If you’re looking to stand out in 2020 and hire the best of the best talent for your law firm, put yourself in the shoes of your target lateral hires. What do they want? What do they need? What will it take to attract them and to keep them with your law firm in the long haul? It’s not just about the money. Think flexibility. Think culture. Think benefits.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in job searches and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company, LawCrossing, has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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