There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic will have profound and lasting effects on all sectors of our economy, including the legal industry.
Law firm leaders continue to grapple with the challenges of basic functions and financial viability. Recent news reports describe the actions many firms are taking to preserve cash flow. Be it delayed or reduced partnership draws, layoffs or salary reductions, postponement of non-essential spending, cancelled summer internships, these economic measures provide some short-term cover.
Beyond the headlines, many of our law firm clients are strategically repositioning. They are committing to long-term courses of action that reflect the anticipated client demand sure to follow as our economy begins to open up again. They are retooling their talent and identifying the skills needed to win new client work. Each firm is uniquely positioned and no two strategies are identical. Yet all will need to pivot quickly and efficiently to remain competitive.
While an employment change in this environment understandably sounds daunting to some candidates, new opportunities are out there. Firms are interviewing via Webex and Zoom, and onboarding is virtual, so they can move forward efficiently.
Demand is shifting
Law firm leaders tell us their clients are feeling overwhelmed in keeping their own employees safe and engaged as the novelty of social distancing turns to normalcy. As a result, many of the firms’ employment lawyers are quite busy supporting their in-house counterparts with advice and counsel.
Sectors that enjoyed strong growth just weeks ago are now in sharp decline. Take oil and gas, for example. Here, we see energy M&A firms retooling their lawyers to prepare for the restructurings that are sure to follow.
After several weeks of quiet readjustment, we now witness new urgency as recruiting professionals initiate searches to build key client and industry expertise. As recruiting activity picks up, we are advising our candidates so they can be successful in planning their career strategies accordingly.
In talking with our clients, colleagues, industry peers, and candidates, this is what we hear:
- Many law firm leaders, legal recruiters, and executive search professionals are optimistic that the crisis will be short lived.
- Several industries, in fact, are very busy. They include online learning, shipping and delivery, remote communication/collaboration and productivity software, private funds, healthcare, and gaming.
- Long-term, heavily funded industries will continue to be healthy. They include robotics and automation, AI, emerging life sciences, and large-cap private equity.
- The gap created by social distancing is easily bridged by the use of technology. Fingertip communication technology makes prospects, candidates, and employers more accessible. No one is traveling. All have more flexibility over their working hours.
- Strong cues as to which practices will be in demand are all around us.
In our next post, we will preview which legal services will be in demand in the new normal, and how to position for success.