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In-house legal recruitment - market update Q1 2015 – part one

The in-house legal recruitment market has continued to gather pace in the first quarter of 2015 and shows no signs of slowing down. After years of headcount restrictions, it seems the shackles are finally off for legal departments throughout the South and South West. Increased business confidence has led to the expansion of legal teams with new positions being created across the board. There has also been a notable increase in the ‘first legal hire’ market, indicating the improved health of small emerging businesses, primarily in the technology sector.
The increase in demand has predominantly been in the 2-8 year PQE space with candidates ideally having a commercial or corporate bias. We are now starting to see high calibre individuals receiving multiple offers as well as a significant number of processes collapsing at the final hurdle due to counter offers from current employers. 

Hot topic: candidate attraction

Candidate attraction is this year’s hot topic. Line managers frequently ask us how they can attract higher volumes of talent to their business. We are no longer in a candidate rich market where clients can pick and choose their candidate over a prolonged and protracted process. Candidates now have choice and as a consequence are migrating towards processes that have increased line interaction, flexibility and speed. Clients who have embraced these behaviours are gaining a significant and often defining advantage over their competitors. 
We are seeing an increasing number of blue chip organisations lose candidates due to slow hiring processes or believing their brand enables them to take their time in selection. Brand, although important, carries less weight than ever before and over reliance on it is potentially dangerous. Our top tier candidates will choose a well run, speedy and engaging process as they believe it is a direct reflection on the way a company operates. We are not suggesting the removal of a formal process but rather advocating that the process evolves to reflect the changing pace and expectation of candidates. The average vacancy length within the Thames Valley from instruction to formal offer has decreased by 15 working days in the past six months and now sits at 22 working days. 
As the candidate pool continues to tighten, we have seen a major resurgence in the hiring of professional locums to cover shortfalls in resource. Work flows are now at such a level that simply absorbing work within the team is becoming almost impossible for many. Locums are currently being used not only to cover unfilled permanent vacancies but also to provide support to over worked in-house teams. 

Top tips for employers looking to attract candidates in a short-skilled market

  • Treat every candidate in the interview process as if they could be the one you hire.
  • Bring out the big guns early! Candidates want to meet line managers and directors as soon as they can. People buy people and getting to know the line manager early in a process can sway a candidate to favour your company.
  • Be prepared for a counter offer from your candidate’s current employer – good people are rarely let go without a fight.
  • Timing is everything, if you see what you want be decisive and offer!
In part two of the in-house legal recruitment market update we’ll look at candidate behaviour and forecasts for the year ahead. 
Are you looking to take the next step in your legal career? Are you looking to hire in-house legal talent? Or are you simply looking for some further advice on the legal recruitment market? Contact Matthew Skilleter, associate director at Michael Page Legal for a confidential discussion.
T: +44 118 955 9590