Careers: Something’s Changed and It’s Here to Stay

November 19, 2020




2200 hours on clients

2000 hours on clients

0-5 hours on Zoom

1000 hours on Zoom

0.6 hours on your career

60 hours on your career


As legal talent professionals, we’ve seen many economic cycles caused by market crashes, real estate booms and busts, ups and downs in oil prices, and much more. Each time, we’ve also observed the same behavioral patterns in lawyers towards their career development. This time, however, it’s different and something significant has changed.


As lawyers, we’re known to be knowledgeable, rational, strong, resilient, and dependable. Despite this, the pandemic caused shock, confusion and even bewilderment within the profession. This is an experience many psychologists refer to as ‘trauma’.


Difficult experiences can lead to positive change, including a greater appreciation for what we have as well as the opportunity to connect with our values and a focus on what we really want, both personally and professionally. In this way, we believe the pandemic’s ‘traumatic’ effect has forced lawyers to spend more time on their career and overall goals.


Below are four key changes we’ve observed in how individual lawyers and employers are approaching career development and recruitment.


1.     Reassess without assumptions


When norms are challenged, especially in an unprecedented way, we’re forced to reassess our circumstances and let of go of old assumptions. New factors, which we wouldn’t have thought of, must now be considered.


For example, lockdown has caused lawyers to identify and connect more in relationships they value and wish to continue nurturing. We’ve also heard managing partners and legal departments change their attitudes towards remote working, which has opened the door to new talent that wouldn’t have been otherwise available.


2.     ‘Push vs Pull’ factor


Pre-pandemic, lawyers spent little time on career planning. Typically, we’d see candidates looking to move without articulating exactly what they were looking for. It was more of a push factor – they didn’t enjoy their current role and could only express why they wanted to leave.


Now, more lawyers are seeking the pull factor – they’re considering their personal goals, interests, values, purpose, amongst many other factors. Candidates are now looking at how they align with their current position and what are they’re looking for in a new role.


3.     Break down barriers virtually


Before the pandemic, interviews began with an icebreaker followed by a slow and steady build up where each party learned more about the other. The interview process has been since moved online, and clients and candidates are now inviting people into their homes and sharing personal pandemic stories and Zoom blunders. Employers are putting more emphasis on how candidates are dealing with the pandemic and their emotional response, rather than simply drilling down after the standard ‘tell me about yourself?’ opening.


4.     Search processes taking longer


Prior economic downturns caused employers to be more cautious, bringing more people into the search process and conducting more rounds of interviews. Virtual interviewing often involves more than five rounds of interviews (we’ve seen up to nine!). Even more than before, firms and legal teams are carefully analyzing who they’re bringing on and adding more layers to the selection process.


Going back to reassessing, candidates are also taking longer to evaluate what’s right for them, and whether the opportunity and the company/firm’s values, mission and vision align with their personal goals and purpose. Sometimes, the bigger question candidates have is, ‘Does this organization have a vision and mission?’


We’ve spent years advising lawyers to step back and evaluate what they want. This is the first time we’re not met with the usual ‘let me know about available opportunities and I’ll let you know what sounds good’.


If there’s a silver lining the pandemic has provided us, it’s that lawyers are spending more time evaluating what they want and that employers are tightening (or formulating) their vision and what they can offer. We predict that whilst hours spent on clients might not change, increased hours spent on career planning is here to stay.


Dal Bhathal, Managing Partner


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