In just a few short months, practicing law has changed more than it has in the last 20 years. The pandemic has forced us to re-examine priorities, staffing budgets, and the way we currently recruit talent. For law firms trying to expand during this uncertain time, it’s also introduced new challenges.
How Law Firms Are Responding to COVID-19
The effects of COVID-19 are having a ripple effect throughout the legal industry, the fallout of which will be felt for some time.
In response to changes brought about by COVID-19, some law firms have resorted to:
- Hiring freezes.
- Postponed compensation reviews and bonuses.
- Salary and pay cuts hoping to keep more people employed long-term.
- Layoffs (permanent and temporary): 26% of law firms have either already laid off staff or expect to in the next three to six months.
This has created a duality of concerns — worrying about heavy caseloads while simultaneously fretting future employment. “Associates are quite concerned about their workload or whether they will have work in a matter of months or into next year,” says Malik Martin, a partner at Rueters LLP.
But all hopes of expansion are not lost.
What Types of Law Will Be Unfazed (or Even Bolstered) by COVID-19
Thankfully, not every kind of law has been negatively affected by the pandemic. Some law practices have even benefited. COVID-19 has boosted demand for some legal services, including:
- Insurance-related legal disputes
- Bankruptcy and insolvency
- Corporate matters
- Navigating layoffs and compensation reductions
- Responding if/when employees test positive for the virus
- Investigating legal ways to be excused from contractual obligations
- Regulatory issues
- Companies need help pivoting supply chains and exporting to new countries
How to Expand Your Practice Even in Uncertain Times
Even under “normal” circumstances, recruiting for lawyers, paralegals, and associates can be difficult. 91% percent of lawyers say finding skilled legal professionals is somewhat or very challenging. Due to all the uncertainty accompanying the pandemic, law firms may want to consider alternatives to traditional full-time staff. This poses significantly less risk.
Hiring part-time, freelance, or contact lawyers can work in your law firm’s favor. This option is becoming increasingly popular; 82% of law firms and corporate legal departments are using contract lawyers. Many well-qualified lawyers who’ve been impacted by layoffs are choosing to go this route. Additionally, some retired or semi-retired attorneys (who are highly experienced) are willing to take on the right work.
This approach is beneficial for law firms because it allows you to recruit individuals only when you need additional support. Still, even though they’re temporary staff, you still need to ensure compliance with confidentiality and qualification requirements.
Recent Law Graduates
With over 30,000 law graduates to choose from, recruiting interns and first-year associates can be an excellent way to propel your recruitment initiatives. Thanks to technology, you don’t even need to physically attend job fairs at tier 1 law schools, a common pre-pandemic recruitment practice among law firms.
If your law firm is not as busy as usual, it’s a good time to select and prepare younger associates for success in the legal sector. Compared to the past, fewer people are graduating from law school. Give these up-and-comers a unique opportunity to mentor with seasoned lawyers and learn the tricks of the trade first-hand. It’s the perfect time to train and groom law graduates.
Technology: The Secret to Expanding Your Practice During (and After) a Pandemic
COVID-19 has not only changed the practice of law; it’s advanced it, too. For years, law firms have postponed adopting or upgrading technology—even though it undeniably makes attorneys’ jobs easier.
In the scramble to adapt to new (and necessary) remote work arrangements, tech advancements have finally happened. A recent survey revealed, 69% of lawyers think technology is more important to their firm than before COVID-19, and 83% now see cloud computing as a necessity.
Things that once seemed inconceivable to move online have nonetheless gone digital, including:
- Court proceedings
- Lawyer recruitment, screening, and hiring
- Onboarding, training, and mentorship programs
Those who work at law offices can rarely dedicate as much time as they’d like to hiring efforts. But a secure software can 100% accelerate your recruitment. Since law is a highly-confidential industry, take care in selecting a technology that protects sensitive information. This is especially important given how many lawyers are working remotely nowadays. Do your research and select a scalable hiring solution that’s flexible—especially given our current uncertain situation.