In the last year alone, the hiring landscape in the legal sector has seen major shifts. Candidate shortages remain a key challenge for employers and while hiring competition has eased slightly, macroeconomic uncertainty has created reluctance among candidates to switch roles. 

To help employers hire top talent in this market, Michael Page Legal have produced three salary guides for 2023, providing the latest salary benchmarks and hiring insights for in-house functions, private practices, and specialist data protection and governance teams. 

Access your 2023 Guides to Salaries and Hiring Strategy in Legal

For the highlights and key takeaways, keep reading – we’ll be digging into the salary trends you need to be aware of and how to get the edge in your hiring this year. 

Employers must match salary expectations to compete

We are coming off the back of one of the busiest hiring markets we have ever experienced, in which candidates have had their pick of the opportunities. This has pushed salaries higher and higher, with most roles seeing a significant uplifts since early 2021. We have seen some candidates secure pay rises of 40-50%. 

Of course, demand, and therefore the salaries on offer, vary depending on many factors. Region, levels of experience, specialism, and whether the position is permanent or temp all play a role. While we have seen elevated hiring activity across the board, demand for talent has been highest at the junior to mid-level. This reflects the expansion that many firms have been through and the entrance of new firms into the market.

Emerging career paths: The impact of the SQE

Demand for talent in the legal sector has also been affected by the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) in 2021, an alternative to the traditional Legal Practice Course (LPC). The SQE replaces the requirement for a two-year training contract with two years of work experience signed off by a solicitor.

While this may open up new career paths for many junior and aspiring lawyers, the SQE could also lead to a shortage of skills at certain levels of the market. For instance, paralegals who did not secure a training contract have in the past tended to enter other areas like compliance, data protection, and governance. These specialisms may now face a shrunken talent pool. 

Nellie Russell-Hughes, Business Director at Page Personnel Legal, commented:

The introduction of the SQE may mean that fewer candidates will look to diversify their skillsets, worsening the candidate shortage which already affects these specialist markets. We are also seeing that many LPC graduates who haven’t yet secured a training contract are opting to take this route to qualification. At the same time, many experienced paralegals are now only looking for positions within in-house teams that offer a route to qualification via the SQE.

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Which skillsets are in-demand in 2023?

Levels of demand for different skillsets are always reliant on wider market trends. At present, the rising importance of sustainability, cryptocurrency, and technological transformation is elevating certain competencies and practice areas.

Within private practice firms, we have seen growing demand in the following disciplines:

  • Cryptocurrency and unregulated finance
  • Energy, clean energy, and renewables
  • Environmental, social, and governance (ESG)
  • Funds and securitisation
  • IP and Patents: Litigation and transactional
  • Technological advances

Hannah Fegan, Associate Director at Michael Page Legal, said: 

As climate change rises up the political agenda, our clients are looking for lawyers with ESG expertise. Meanwhile, recent cryptocurrency crashes and bankruptcies have called into question current FCA and international regulations, highlighting the importance of related skillsets.

How interim talent hiring could solve your hiring challenges 

With candidate shortages presenting continued challenges for employers looking for talent, temp and interim hiring is growing in popularity. 

Interim hiring allows employers to expand their in-house legal functions without taking on permanent headcount and gives law firms a short-term staffing boost to match fluctuations in workloads. In a tight market like this one, this strategy mitigates risk effectively. Plus, the shorter notice periods associated with hiring temporary professionals makes it an ideal solution for employers looking to bring in new talent fast. 

What do legal professionals want from employers?    

If you’re looking to hire legal talent, your employer value proposition (EVP) – the total value you offer to current and prospective employees – must be aligned with the demands of high value legal professionals. That’s why our salary guides provide key insights into the priorities of lawyers looking for new opportunities. 

To give employers even more detail on the factors that attract – and drive away –professionals across different sectors, Michael Page recently conducted a detailed survey. When we asked the respondents why they were looking for new roles, we found that legal professionals are significantly more likely to leave a role to seek career opportunities or because the work has ceased to be challenging:

  • To pursue different opportunities (36% of legal & policy, 23% across all sectors)
  • The work is no longer challenging (36% of legal & policy, 17% across all sectors)

We also found that in the current market, legal talent place higher on value work-life balance than professionals in other markets; 73% of respondents in the legal field selected this as a key priority for a new role, compared to 64% of all respondents. 

These figures highlight the need to strike a balance in the way you present opportunities in your organisation. To appeal to legal talent, you will need to demonstrate a that you can offer both good work-life balance, and challenging, engaging work with career opportunities. 

What next?

For the latest salary benchmarks and hiring insights in the legal sector, download your 2023 Legal Salary Guide today.

If you have hiring needs or would like to discuss the shape of the talent landscape in the legal sector, get in touch with the team today.  

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