Is the legal talent pool shrinking?

Posted in Latest News on 21 Feb 2024

Here at Douglas Scott Legal Recruitment, our latest salary survey is soon going to be released. But, before that, we have some interesting insights around the current talent pool that might be of interest.  

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the number of people in law looking for new roles holding at a steady 24%. This year’s survey saw this go up by one percentage point, to 25%. However, the figure remaining close to the same level for so long might be indicative of a cautious pool of candidates who are looking for the right role before making that move. 

To look at these numbers, we need to take a trip back in time – to a world before the COVID pandemic. Back then, our salary survey regularly saw over 30% of respondents say they were committed to changing job roles – a big leap from where we are now. Even going into 2020, there were 28% of legal professionals ready to make the move. Now, however, the numbers have dropped. As the pandemic and the ‘Great Resignation’ of early 2022 slide into antiquity, it’s now clear that UK lawyers are less keen to make a move, and more likely to stay put until they find something that will definitely be the right role. In many cases, it seems like people are waiting for the opportunities to come to them, and we have seen, in recent years, more people being approached by a firm, and that approach leading to a job (this year, that figure was 13%, and was the third most common way people found roles). People are, it seems, considering their offers carefully before deciding whether to accept or not. The difficult market conditions in the UK (caused by the aftermath of the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis) are probably making employees think twice before deciding to move roles.  

Another area where the talent pool has contracted is in the passive talent looking to change roles. This year, 28% of all legal professionals classed themselves as passively looking for a job, which is a drop down from last year’s 31%. However, this year’s figure of 28% is more in line with figures from years gone by, and they indicate that last year’s figure may have just been a temporary spike. Our survey defines passive candidates as those not actively looking for roles, but are willing to consider the right opportunities, have discussions about future roles, and keeping their CV updated. This group are also more likely to cite factors like progression, money and new challenges as their main reasons for changing job roles, which are generally the major factors that people consider when looking to change. However, with this group, what employers will need to offer them will be a much greater package of potential benefits and opportunities if they want to attract them.  

While the numbers may show that candidates are being more cautious, there is actually a lot to be confident about. There’s plenty of people who are looking to move roles – they are just being more selective about the roles they want to move into. We will be following these developments over the coming months, and will keep you updated about what the developing talent pool will mean for the market. 

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