The downturn has well and truly hit home, with a survey from Hudson revealing that 33 per cent of legal hiring managers are freezing new hires until further notice, and 44.3 per cent have no intention of replacing employees as they leave.
According to the latest Hudson Report: Employment Expectations, the move to cut costs across legal businesses is creating a volatile working environment, causing some serious concerns for management. Almost half those surveyed revealed that maintaining engagement, morale and focus during the current economic climate is now their primary concern.
But, said Hudson, there is still a glimmer of hope for those seeking legal jobs, with 19.4 per cent of legal hiring managers planning to increase employee numbers in the June 2009 quarter. Still, the figures are not too reassuring when compared with previous results: at the same time last year, the survey revealed that 43.7 per cent of employers were planning to increase numbers.
Hudson director of legal, Stuart Ablethorpe, said that despite 21.6 per cent of managers revealing they have already been forced to make cutbacks as a result of the current crisis, the legal industry is not faring too badly when compared with other sectors. "The key for managers is to take the long-term view," said Ablethorpe.
"There's no escaping the fact that some very hard decisions may have to be made in the short-term, but those managers who fully engage their employees, communicate clearly with them and keep their drive to succeed up will best position their organisations to pick back up when the economy rebounds."
Meanwhile legal managers are well aware that cutbacks, hiring freezes and dwindling headcounts are cause for concern when it comes to employee productivity levels, with 61 per cent of managers surveyed saying they have increased their focus on employee productivity in view of the fact that employees are having to work harder in order to retain their jobs.
The legal results were one aspect of a broader study released yesterday by Hudson, revealing that Australian employer confidence has declined for a fifth consecutive quarter to a record low. Based on a survey of 6337 employers, the survey found that just 18.6 per cent of all employers are looking to grow their permanent headcounts in the June quarter and 17.8 per cent plan to decrease their headcount.