What are traditional law firms doing to attract new talent?

What are traditional law firms doing to attract new talent?

Law graduates have an increasing variety of career routes open to them, as a result of several different areas of growth in the legal sector over recent years:

  • Big Four - EY, KPMG, PwC and Deloitte have steadily expanded their legal arms, challenging the dominance of traditional law firms and introducing new efficiencies to various legal processes

  • US firms - a plethora of American law firms have established a UK presence in London, offering highly lucrative salaries for new recruits

  • ALSPs - Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) have been mushrooming over the last decade, with a focus on embracing technology and innovation to disrupt the legal market

The rise of these new challengers means that traditional law firms need to offer increasingly attractive remuneration packages to attract the best new talent. Aside from pay, there is also a greater focus on learning and development opportunities, and creating a desirable working environment, to help lure top law graduates.

Innovation and variety

The findings of our Big Four report highlighted the importance of an innovative workplace for attracting new law graduates. Emily Foges, Lead Partner for Legal Managed Services at Deloitte, noted that: “candidates we talk to are really fired up by the innovation agenda, basically reimagining the future of law and being part of that story; that for them is very exciting”. Foges also thought that access to a variety of professionals - not just lawyers - is important for fresh recruits, exposing them to a broader range of expertise.

The Big Four clearly has the advantage of a widely skilled workforce, but many traditional law firms are also creating new roles to help with legal technology adoption and business process improvement, such as innovation managers and learning and development officers.

Dollar signs

The take home pay of newly qualified lawyers at the Big Four is generous (approx £72,000 at PwC). This puts it roughly on a par with City firms such as Mischon de Reya, Pinsent Masons and CMS. Magic Circle firms are offering even higher salaries - reportedly around £100,000 before the pandemic hit. Even so, few can compete with the big bucks offered to junior lawyers by American firms - up to £142,000 in the case of Kirkland & Ellis.

But it’s not just remuneration upon qualification that matters to law graduates. Getting help with the cost of their legal training is also a big factor for budding lawyers. Deloitte has launched a three year training contract, which combines both training and part time study for the SQE. Meanwhile law firms are increasingly offering solicitor apprenticeship schemes, which offers a similar opportunity for trainee lawyers to earn while they learn.

No one way of working 

A key difference between the Big Four and law firms is that the former are heavily process driven, whereas traditional firms tend to focus on each client matter as a unique piece of work. Different mindsets may be better suited to one approach over the other. Brad Blickstein, Co-head of Baretz+Brunelle’s NewLaw Practice, argues that: “Law school teaches you to look for the differences in matters, so it’s quite hard to then come out of that thinking and forget all about the differences and instead focus on the 95% of everything that’s the same.” He notes that “Those who have had that mind-shift are going to fit nicely into a Big Four, but if you take the everything-is-different approach, then a law firm is going to be more appropriate for you.”

It’s likely that the whole ethos of a traditional firm will suit some law graduates better, whereas others may prefer the approach of the Big Four. When first entering the working world, the large human resources departments, extensive training and development programmes, and more advanced agile working arrangements offered by the Big Four may initially attract many graduates who later decide to move on to a traditional firm.

Click here to read the full Big Four report.

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About the author:
Sarah leads marketing for the Academic and Bar legal communities at LexisNexis. She is passionate about customer-centric marketing and delivering data-based insights to help clients get the best use out of LexisNexis solutions and products, and ensure they succeed in their roles.

Prior to her role at LexisNexis, Sarah specialised in delivering large B2B marketing programmes across a number of industries, including Financial Services, Technology and Manufacturing.