The last blog I wrote was in July when I reflected upon recruitment in lockdown and the tentative plans for the remainder of 2020. 3 months further down the line feels like the right amount time to consider again where we are up to as a business and what the market looks like.
I said at the time that I felt that law firms (and legal recruiters) were beginning to come out of hibernation with the country starting to open up again during the summer months.
I am pleased to report that a large number of our client firms took sensible and proportionate decisions to protect their businesses and have come out of the other side relatively unscathed.
Firms with already good IT infrastructures in place were able to transition quickly to home working and a significant number continue to work almost exclusively from home. With the furlough scheme ending at the end of the month, it does appear that many firms have made strategic redundancies, particularly insofar as office based support staff are concerned and the majority of firms bringing a large proportion of furloughed solicitors back to work in some capacity.
Recruitment wise, we have seen a flurry of activity in a number of different disciplines such as residential conveyancing, private client, family, litigation and insolvency. Corporate, commercial and to some extend real estate remain subdued with some firms conducting redundancy exercises across those practice areas.
A common theme amongst candidates has been a reluctance to consider moving firms in the absence of push factors such as redundancy, reduced workload or uncertainty over their firm’s financial viability.
It has been interesting speaking to candidates on how their employers dealt with COVID and the implications on work practices, furlough and issue of communication within the workplace.
I think it is fair to say that there has been a broad spectrum of experience with some feeling as though their firms dealt with the challenges posed in a positive, fair and communicative way particularly when it came to furlough, working from home, temporary pay cuts and restrictions on bonuses. Others have been critical of how their firms have dealt with these challenging issues with a number feeling as if they were excluded from the conversation with ideas and strategy being poorly communicated. We have seen a number of candidates approach us from the latter category feeling disgruntled and assessing their options in the marketplace.
The general consensus from the lawyers that we speak to on the issue of home working is that the initial novelty off spending all of their working week at home has worn off and a move towards a hybrid model involving flexible working and the proportion of the week spent in an office environment seems to be preferable for the majority.
I think that it's fair to say that our own experience at Thornton Legal falls into the same category.
From our own perspective, Joe and I are delighted to have welcomed back our consultants from furlough In August and are reasonably optimistic that's baring any further disastrous lockdowns to the extent that we saw in March, the market will continue to pick up for the remainder of the year. We are relieved that the rather grim forecast we made in April was only temporary with a large number of firms stepping up their recruitment activity in strategic areas.
All the remains is to wish you all the very best for the remainder of 2020 and will post another, hopefully positive, blog on the state of the market towards the end of the year. All the very best and stay safe.