Mimi Fong, managing director of recruiters Amicas Global, writes the first jobs and recruitment column for The New Lawyer. The big question to start the year in recruitment? What's the personal and practical fallout of the GFC on your job?
WHEN welook back over the last 18 months, what will stand out in our minds? What willbe the lasting impression? For many of us, it was a time of reflection, soulsearching, confusion, uncertainty, and even shock and unhappiness for some.What therefore was the source of this discontentment?
As muchas many of us in the legal profession probably may not like to admit this, ourlives generally revolve around our jobs in some way or another and thereforejob security is paramount, unless you are of course one of the fortunate fewwho do not need to make a living to fund your lifestyle! These were the twoareas hit hardest by the GFC.
Redundancies (voluntary or not), salary freezes,pay cuts, the so-called flexible working arrangements, termination or scalingback of benefits (including the annual office Christmas Party for goodnesssake!). The larger law firms who had greater exposure to the international marketsin particular were most vulnerable and adopted many if not all of thesemeasures to preserve their position. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientistto put two and two together to conclude where the feelings of discontentmentstem from.
Employeeengagement and retention were hardly high on the corporate agenda. Loyalty andtrust, often fragile commodities at the best of times, were sent packing asmany organisations did what they felt they had to do to keep their businessrunning. Unfortunately for them, this was often at the expense of their mostvaluable asset – their people.
What isthe fallout? For some lawyers, it was a blessing in disguise as this gave themthe opportunity to re-evaluate their priorities in life, re-skill and providethem with the “out” they might have been looking for. For others, this forcedthem to take a long, hard look at their career, and face uncomfortablequestions they may have been avoiding or putting aside for some time in fear ofopening Pandora’s box.
Personal development companies and life coaches suddenlybecame more popular. For those fortunate enough to have retained their job,they have been sitting quietly under the radar, biding their time, chalking upthe scoreboard and monitoring the markets closely. They are just waiting forthe right time to make their move.
What arethey looking for? You might think that money would be a prime motivator. Thismight be true in some instances.
However, the GFC has left a far moresignificant imprint than that. Many firms are likely to find themselves in aposition where they will need to become more persuasive in their offering. Agreater degree of due diligence may be carried out by the prospects,particularly in relation to the performance and attitude of the organisation inthe areas of employee engagement and retention.
Although there are manydisgruntled lawyers out there who may be counting down the days until theyresign, there is also an awareness of not wanting to jump “out of the fryingpan and into the fire”!
The realisation borne out of the time ofself-reflection and self-evaluation may also crystallise in the additionaldesire of finding a job which will provide a better work-life balance. In-houseroles are being considered as an option for those looking to escape the privatepractice treadmill.
However for the more adventurous or even just thedesperate, it may simply be the case of seeking a change in environment whetherit is in the shape of a move overseas or a complete career makeover.
Whateverthe case, make no mistake about it, there will be a fallout which will onlygain increasing momentum as the year rolls forward.