Finding the opportunities and positives in times of corona - a legal recruiter’s perspective
As all businesses, Vialegis is impacted by Covid-19 and the measures implemented as a result of it. In order to grasp the impact of the pandemic on our clients’ business and on legal professionals in Belgium & Luxembourg in general, our consultants have, during the past weeks, contacted customers and candidates to talk about how they are facing these particular times. By reaching out we have heard many different testimonials. Everybody is facing challenges but we also learnt about opportunities, positive impacts and changes which we would love to share with you. There is no better way to battle negativity and insecurity than by trying to find the positive, even in such difficult times.
Nobody could foresee the corona virus nor its severity and profound impact on the global labour market, economy and our daily and personal lives. Workstreams and new business have decreased in the vast majority of industries. Concerns arise regarding the magnitude of its impact and the time it will take us to fully recover. Values we took for granted (e.g. financial security, social contact and freedom) are suddenly in doubt and many things are simply out of our control. This might lead to negativity and anxiety. Nothing is more important now than realizing and tapping into the power of positivity. This is why we want to share with you some of the opportunities, positive impacts and changes we identified during the last couple of weeks while talking to our customers and candidates within the legal industry.
1. Legal professionals in times of crisis
We hear and see that while the workload in a lot of departments and sectors has decreased, legal departments and law firms are still relatively busy. Legal professionals are proving to be trusted advisors in times of uncertainty. Employers require legal advice on the rights of employers and of employees in a time of economic recession and increasing unemployment . Thousands of business owners are worrying about the financial toll of being closed, their debt, their loss of revenue and their very survival. Everywhere, bankruptcy and business lawyers are responding to urgent calls. Contracts are being (re-)evaluated and renegotiated – never has there been more interest in the concept of ‘force majeure’... Even though there is no comparison with the health care and medical staff, legal professionals are contributing to help businesses and individuals in these particular times.
2. Reflection on professional happiness
As recruiters, we have noticed a shift in the attitude of our candidates in the past few weeks. Of course – and understandably – some people are frightened by these turbulent and insecure times, prefer to stay safe and reject any new opportunities at the moment. But there are also candidates who tend to be, now more than before, open to new opportunities. We have quite in-depth conversations with lawyers, in-house counsels and other legal professionals who tend to reflect more on personal development, growth and their (professional) happiness while being in social isolation. Lawyers specifically tend to rethink their career since partner tracks, which already were quite scarce, tend to be postponed even longer and probable business is more difficult to quantify at the moment. Lawyers in private practice also see the benefits of being an employee in these times of crisis and are thus more drawn to in-house positions. In general, we notice that people reflect on their current professional situation and on what they want to do in life. A crisis creates an opportunity for (professional) change.
3. Covid-19 creates hiring opportunities for businesses with a long-term perspective
Evidently the effects of the pandemic are being felt in the (legal) recruitment sector. In both our divisions (recruitment and interim management) there is an obvious decrease in new assignments. Attracting new talent is an investment which is often reduced when cost-cutting is of the essence. However, surprisingly enough, there are new recruitment assignments coming in, even in the last six weeks. The impact on recruitment activities for companies is twofold. On the one hand, there are law firms and companies who put all recruitment activity to a stop out of precaution. This is often company policy in large corporate groups. Other law firms and companies however look beyond the present and see hiring opportunities in these turbulent times. As already mentioned, (good) candidates tend to reflect on (professional) happiness and are open to reorientation. The competition for talent is now less fierce than in normal circumstances.
4. The rise of homeworking and remote work opportunities
In recent years we have witnessed companies that fully embrace the general tendency of flexiwork (allowing professionals to organize their work when and where it best suits them) but also more conservative companies who resist this trend. This conservatism contributes to increasing traffic jams, use of company resources which could be used more efficiently and the difficulties of combining a family life with a career. Covid-19 has forced a lot of companies to briskly adapt to new ways of working, enabling remote working, organizing digital meetings and combining a family life with demanding hours at work. Employers have been forced to trust employees to organize their work remotely. Surely the quarantine is pushing things to an extreme and is not creating the ideal way of working. But it surely helps companies to realise that flexiwork is possible and does not necessarily negatively impact the quality of work. We expect and hope that these circumstances will contribute to the rise of homeworking and remote working opportunities, broadening the pool of talent, leading to a more efficient use of company resources and enhancing productivity.
5. Corona is accelerating changes in the legal industry
Law is often said to be a conservative industry. Current frustrations with regard to the legal industry include resistance to digital transformation. Furthermore the industry is seller-focused, meaning that its service providers dictate the terms of the service provision. While technology and AI have changed customer experience in other business sectors, the legal industry is generally leaping behind.
The effects of the Corona virus will accelerate the long due transformation of the legal industry. This seller-centric industry will shift towards a customer-centric industry as competition for talent and clients/customers will intensify in the post-Corona world. Technology and AI will finally be embraced by traditional legal service providers and it will pave the way for alternative legal service providers to enter the market.
It might not always be easy to see the silver lining and to find the positive in these unprecedented times. However, we hope that sharing these positive insights helps you to remain hopeful and positive. Times of crisis, however hard, also create opportunities and enable changes. We do believe that those with a positive mindset and who succeed in finding and acting upon these opportunities will survive.