Predictions for the Canadian legal profession in 2019

November 30, 2018

In 2017, we saw technology and globalization continue to drive the world’s economy forward, Apple and Amazon raced to the $1 trillion market cap (Apple won), and the impending legalization of marijuana was estimated to have added $8 billion to the Canadian economy.

Success in new market realities requires firms and companies to listen carefully and respond proactively to the concerns of their clients and the changing landscape of the legal profession. What has all this meant for the Canadian legal industry in 2018 and how will all this impact the legal profession in 2019?

 

2018 Canadian legal industry in review

 

This year saw the following trends in the Canadian legal industry:

 

  1. Increased demand for associate talent in corporate, M&A and securities, leading to bidding wars amongst firms and payment of signing bonuses ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

 

  1. Continued increase in in-house positions, ranging from larger companies expanding their teams to smaller entrepreneurial companies seeking their first General Counsel (particularly in the marijuana, blockchain, and cryptocurrency spaces). We also saw international companies seeking to recruit their first Canadian counsel.

 

  1. Increased focus on talent management (by some law firms and legal departments), with an emphasis on diversity and generational differences.

 

Top four predictions for 2019

 

Whether you’re thinking of building out your legal team or changing jobs in the months ahead, consider our top predictions below.

 

 1. War for talent amongst law firms will continue

As certain practices become busier, firms will focus on hiring ‘to get the work done’ and will emphasize incentives, compensation, and the largest deals to attract the right associates. Firms must also consider retention, otherwise they will continue to lose talent. When hiring, focus should be placed on hiring the right associates who can become future leaders. Recruiting partner-level talent for growth will continue, but succession planning still falls short of what’s required.

Prior experience shows that when international markets continue to tick upwards, the next step in the cycle is more direct recruitment of Canadian legal talent, which will only further compound the talent shortage in our market. We anticipate there will likely be further adjustments to associate salaries in multiple markets across Canada in 2019 as the shortage of suitable talent continues.

 

2. In-house positions will continue to increase

As demand for in-house counsel continues to rise, employers are challenged to attract, retain, and engage their legal counsel. Companies must strive to keep compensation plans competitive with a holistic view of salary, benefits, and intangible items (e.g. flexible work arrangements, learning and advancement, etc.). Please refer to our blog post on Top Four Compensation Predictions for In-house Counsel in 2019 for further information.

 

3. Fallout from 2018 hiring frenzy

During the hiring frenzy this year, many firms/legal departments and lawyers made quick decisions without contemplating the long-term prospects of a role. Fallout may result from many lawyers realizing they moved simply to escape their old position without considering whether their new position fits with their overarching career aspirations and goals.

 

4. Heightened focus on diversity and generational differences

The impact of diversity and generational differences will become more acute, especially as clients and lawyers demand more attention on these issues. Managing generational differences between retiring boomers and increasing millennials will become more important and leaders will be faced with the difficulty in balancing both.

 

Recommendations

 

Differentiation of your law firm or company is key to successful legal recruitment in a tight market. If the descriptions about your firm can be easily used to describe a competitor (e.g. ‘we have great people and an excellent work environment’), you may find your message quickly dismissed as radio noise in a competitive legal recruitment landscape.

Understand what makes your opportunity truly unique and leverage this. Take the time to properly understand your narrative, or consider retaining a legal recruitment consultant such as The Counsel Network to help you properly craft your narrative.

 

Dal Bhathal, Managing Partner

dal@thecounselnetwork.com

416.364.6654

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