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‘Candidates are driving salaries’ within the legal market

The legal profession will be a candidate’s market for at least the next two years, according to legal recruitment partner Alison Crowther.

user iconLauren Croft 03 October 2022 Big Law
‘Candidates are driving salaries’ within the legal market
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Speaking recently on an episode of the Lawyers Weekly Show, produced in partnership with Empire Group, where she’s a partner, Ms Crowther spoke about legal recruitment trends she’s currently seeing after examining the candidate’s market and legal salaries along the east coast.

Empire recently released its 2022 legal salary guide, which the company puts together every year.

“It’s driven by our candidates and our clients wanting to know a little bit more about the market and get an idea of what salaries are doing in each one of those areas, because there are some differences,” Ms Crowther said.  


“What I would comment on is that we’re seeing [that] some of those gaps are getting a little bit shorter in terms of the differences between each state. So, that’s an interesting aspect. And I’m actually seeing, I think, the trends that are happening in each state are relatively the same. So, we’re definitely seeing a bit of an east coast trend to what’s happening in that marketplace.”

Ms Crowther also noted that more candidates than ever are seeking opportunities where they are wanting to work and live out of a capital city, Ms Crowther explained.

“I think it’s the way of the future, in my opinion. We talk about the hybrid model. I can’t see us going back to a non-hybrid model, because it is what’s been driven by the candidate’s market. And I think there’s definitely pushback from some firms. It’s probably the more boutique-style firm that pushes back on that traditionally. I think your mid-tiers and your top-tiers are embracing the hybrid model, and I think they know they need to be to win that war for that talent, which is great,” she said.

“But I also think that they know that it’s working really well for them. People are happier when they’re allowed to have that hybrid. There are some key elements to that as well, and a lot of people will bring up, how does a junior work in a hybrid model? And I think sometimes that also comes back to the individuals involved. I think you can make it work, but there’s responsibility on both people’s side, the supervisor as well as the junior.”

Ms Crowther has been in legal recruitment for over two decades — and said that, in her opinion, the landscape in legal recruitment had shifted greatly over recent years.

“I think it is a candidate’s market, without a doubt. So, people will say candidates are the driver. They’re the ones driving the process at the moment, and I’ve seen that as a dramatic shift from, let’s say, five years ago. It wasn’t that. So, candidates have lots of options. Clients, I think, are very aware of that. I don’t think that there’s anyone in the legal profession who doesn’t understand that candidates have a lot of options.

“Also, I think candidates are driving salaries and potentially driving salaries up. At what point does that stop? I’m not sure I have the answer to that. I suppose that’s an individual question for different firms to decide, at what point you stop. But I think we know, from what we see, firms are doing very well at the moment. I think, generally, business is doing very well at the moment, because we definitely have clients that are not in the legal profession that I know are doing very well,” she added.

“So, across the board, we’ve got this shortage of talent in every discipline, and the candidates know that that’s existing. And if a candidate has a good background in law, they know that there’ll be multiple offers put in front of them. So, naturally, it becomes a bit of a bidding war to get that person. So, I think that’s really driving the salaries up. And a candidate knows that if they’re going to work with a firm, they’re going to need to work hard.”

In addition, movements like “the Great Resignation”, quiet quitting and an increased value on work/life balance are having a direct impact on the legal profession, emphasised Ms Crowther.

“My view is that I think people through COVID got to work from home more, have a, let’s say a hybrid model, but really, they were at home the whole time. But it allowed them to connect with family, pets, and hobbies. And I think people really enjoyed that aspect. I know I did. So, I think I’m not alone in thinking that. I think that’s pretty general in the market,” she said.

“So, the Great Resignation is something that is definitely happening, but I think there’s also a bit of that quietly quitting, whatever you want to call that. ‘I’m happy to change jobs, I’m happy to work, but I don’t want work to be everything. I want to have a bit more of a balance.’ So, that’s one of my observations.

“I don’t know how long that will last. I don’t see a dramatic change quickly, though. Everything that I’ve seen or looked at really does predict long-term shortages. So, potentially this is a candidate’s market for the next couple of years.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Alison Crowther, click below: