“There is no doubt that the pandemic accelerated changes in the structure of both law firms and companies.”
Marta del Coto and Maria Burgos from the legal recruitment firm Iterlegis address the changes in hiring law firms and in-house legal departments have experienced since the start of the pandemic.
Leaders League: How has your experience as a lawyer been an asset to legal recruiting?
Burgos: Working as a lawyer for nearly 15 years at top international law firms has given me deep knowledge of the legal market. We know the needs of law firms and companies’ legal departments, and the professional profiles these organizations require. Lawyers must be ready to work in a very demanding environment, where they will be required to work under a lot of pressure and demonstrate a high level of commitment to their clients. Our previous experience as lawyers provides added value in the search for these profiles and makes the interaction between candidates and law firms easier, as we all speak the same language. On top of this, we have learned to work with high standards that we now apply to our work as legal recruiters.
Lawyers must be ready to work in a very demanding environment, where they will be required to work under a lot of pressure and demonstrate a high level of commitment to their clients.
What practice areas do you see a lot of movement in and why?
During the last two years, the areas of restructuring, insolvency and employment have been particularly busy as a consequence of the crisis. Lawyers with a high degree of expertise in the energy sector have also been in high demand, as renewable energy companies have experienced intense growth during the last year and have attracted international investments. More recently, we have noticed a rebound in M&A transactions and a number of law firms have added lawyers to their M&A departments in order to be ready to face the coming months, which will presumably be very active as there is a lot of liquidity in the market.
Have you seen changes in hiring strategies or HR practices in law firms and in-house legal departments since the crisis?
Del Coto: There is no doubt that the pandemic accelerated changes in the structure of both law firms and companies. Greater flexibility has been implemented in the historically rigid legal sector. Thus, especially in the recruitment of junior talent, employers that get access to the best profiles are those who have officially established policies that include clear teleworking conditions. HR departments are striving to include these new conditions when attracting and recruiting new talent in order to win the battle against their competitors and be able to reach the best lawyers in the market. This is especially evident among law firms, which have traditionally been reluctant to allow telecommuting.
For young lawyers, an attractive job is not exclusively linked to salary, but to other intangibles such as flexibility and dynamism in their performance and work conditions. For these reasons, flexibility has prevailed in a sector that very much needed to break with past stereotypes and which, due to pressure and working day intensity, required a breath of fresh air.
How is the legal sector handling the flexible work model?
At the corporate level, mostly in a very natural way. Companies have always been more open and used to incorporating new innovative processes, so they tend to adapt more easily to changes of all kinds. In this crisis, groups have naturally bet on flexibility while ensuring that efficiency and quality are not in jeopardy. Concerning law firms, they have seen an opportunity in part-time teleworking to attract the best talent, but in general, they have been more cautious in adopting it, despite the clear success of teleworking during the pandemic. Large law firms have mostly increased their turnover during the pandemic, proving that office work does not necessarily increase efficiency and profitability.
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