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The skills lawyers will need in 2023

Lawyers who invest in professional development will be afforded better career opportunities within an extremely competitive market, according to this pair.

user iconLauren Croft 10 January 2023 Big Law
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Alex Giannopoulos is the manager of industry engagement and careers at Leo Cussen, and Linda Baxter is the director of continuing professional development.

Speaking recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, produced in partnership with Leo Cussen, the pair discussed the current recruitment landscape and how it relates to legal education as we move forward into the new year.

Mr Giannopoulos said that, for him, working in legal education has revealed a nexus between that space and legal recruitment.


“One thing that’s become really clear is the theme that keeps coming up consistently is, how do we recruit and retain the right talent? And I think it’s particularly important now in the current market because the landscape is really tight, in terms of the candidate market. There are record-high levels of demand for staff, record-low levels of candidates,” he explained.

“It’s interesting to see that during the pandemic, there was initially this concern that professional services firms would suffer. And then all of a sudden, we actually know now that the market for legal services, in fact, grew.” 

“And, when you combine that with all the other market forces going on at the moment, you’ve got an uptick in demand. And even if a recession is coming, one thing that’s been consistent, no matter what the economy looks like, it’s that good talent in the legal space is incredibly hard to find and retain,” he added.

“So, this is something which has come up all the time in the PLT part of our organisation. We have organisations coming to us looking for talent at the junior level, but because we also have such a significant presence in the CPD space, we get a lot of people coming to us as well, asking whether we come across great senior talent. So that nexus with legal education is really consistent.”

Similarly, many legal professionals are keen to jump into another practice area or continually upskill — meaning that professional development is key in order to compete for new positions in a “very competitive market”, according to Ms Baxter.

“I think most lawyers are aware of the need to continually develop their professional knowledge and skills. What we sometimes find is that even when we offer a junior program, we will have mid- to senior-level practitioners attending that program,” she quipped.  

“And I think that’s an acknowledgement that learning never stops, and that you’re never too big or too experienced to not continue to learn. So yeah, I think most lawyers understand the value of continuing professional development.”

As such, this is a “pivotal moment” within the legal recruitment space, Mr Giannopoulos noted.

“In the 50 years that we’ve been doing what we do, we’ve really developed a strong network, and we get to draw on that pool of knowledge all the time through our constant networks and contacts.

“And the feedback is very simple: there is huge demand for talent and very little of it at the moment,” he stressed. 

“I think one of the key challenges that come from that is clearly the ability to secure that right talent. And what’s really interesting, and I think one of the things that I’ve noticed particularly of late, is that the demand isn’t just at the traditional three-to-eight-year post-admission level.

“That’s always been the spot where we’ve seen it a bit tough to recruit, that mid-to-senior level. What we’re also seeing now, though, is that it’s also at the zero to two [years of PQE] level. With a lot of firms telling us that they’re struggling to attract talent even at that grad level. So, this is posing a serious challenge for employers. How do you attract applicants?

“And then I guess one of the traps that come from that is a lot of firms are perhaps hiring staff, even if they don’t feel they fully suit the brief because they’re afraid that they won’t get anyone else. And, of course, we know that sometimes can make things worse because it’s harder to unscramble that egg if you end up with a bad fit, and then you have to go back to the recruitment drawing board.”

In response to these challenges, Ms Baxter explained that a number of employers are now not only reacting to current challenges but also preparing for any future issues, too.

“Part of that preparation is preparing their existing staff, but also in recruitment of their new staff, to be aware that they may need to organise some further training, professional development opportunities. And, in fact, that could be part of the bargaining tool to get a candidate across the line,” she said.

However, there are a number of different opportunities amid these challenges, Mr Giannopoulos added.

“Anyone who works in the legal space knows that when the market’s up, some parts of a law firm might actually do well, [and] other parts might not. And then, when the economy shifts in the other direction, it goes the other way. As a former insolvency lawyer, recessions were a very busy time for me. So, I think that there are always opportunities to draw on regardless of what the market’s doing,” he said.

“And despite the fact that it’s a bit of a tight market at the moment, we are also seeing some incredible talent come through the pipeline. When I look at the quality of graduates that are coming through our practical legal training course, it never ceases to blow me away that there is some incredible talent coming through.

“And those are the lawyers of tomorrow. And I think that we’ll find that there are a lot of firms who are going to be able to take advantage of that talent as it comes through the pipeline.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Alex Giannopoulos and Linda Baxter, click below:


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