Data from a number of sources provide clues as to why your firm can’t find experienced employee lawyers.

Too many firms are looking for lawyers

The number of positions advertised on the internet for lawyers is 33% higher than it was five years ago. 

 

The current cycle of increased demand has immediately followed a period of conservative hiring

Law firms now need more experienced lawyers but in the few years prior to this increased demand, firms were shedding staff and reduced their graduate intake. This occurred during the few years from the GFC until 2013.

Clients have been telling law firms that they don’t want to pay top rates for inexperienced staff. They have been telling firms that training junior lawyers is the law firm’s problem. There has been a push to replace the work of junior lawyers with technology, such as in the field of discovery.

Prior to the current ‘jobs boom,’ law firms had every reason to be overly conservative in their hiring. 

A few successful firms have been pillaging the market for lawyers

A handful of rapidly growing firms have been taking more than their ‘fair share’ of employee lawyers. The name of the firm that probably comes to mind is HWL Ebsworth, which currently has around 230 partners and 610 other legal practitioners. This is a growth in numbers of around 140% over the past six years.

Another big hiring firm is Mills Oakley. It has published a graph depicting its growth. 

Mills Oakley Headcount
[2017 annual report]

 

Growth in demand for lawyers more than growth in economy

The increase in job ads for lawyers over the past five years has been 33%. This is around five percentage points more than all occupations combined. Over a similar period (to December 2017), GDP has grown by 19%. Therefore demand for labour in the economy has grown faster than economic growth and the increase in demand for employee lawyers has been higher than the demand for labour in the economy as a whole.

Conclusion

The competition for talent is more fierce today than it has been for perhaps the past decade.

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