The legal and compliance executive search market has witnessed significant transformations globally, with talent mobility, shortages, and market dynamics shaping the landscape. As we delve into the evolution of the market from 2022 and anticipate trends for 2024, it becomes evident that several factors are influencing the way legal talent is sought, acquired, and retained.
One of the defining characteristics of the legal and compliance executive recruitment market is the increased mobility of legal professionals. Globalisation, technological advancements, and the normalisation of remote work have dismantled geographical barriers, allowing lawyers and compliance professionals to explore opportunities beyond their home jurisdictions. Law firms and corporate legal departments are actively seeking candidates with diverse backgrounds and international experience to enhance their competitiveness in the global marketplace.
This trend is not only limited to lateral moves but also extends to professionals transitioning from private practice to in-house roles and vice versa. The fluidity in career paths is reshaping the traditional structures of legal talent acquisition.
The rise of remote work as a permanent fixture has also influenced recruitment strategies. Law firms and corporate legal departments are exploring talent pools beyond their physical locations, leading to a more geographically diverse workforce. Be very clear about this: talent want flexibility in where and how they work. Companies which mandate five days a week in the office will simply not be able to attract and retain the best and most diverse talent.
Shortages and High Demand Areas
Despite the abundance of legal professionals globally, specific areas are experiencing shortages, creating a competitive environment for talent acquisition. Specialised fields such as technology law, cybersecurity, and environmental law are witnessing a surge in demand for lawyers with expertise in these domains. The intersection of law and emerging technologies has created a demand for professionals well-versed in data privacy, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.
Additionally, the demand for talent with strong regulatory and compliance backgrounds continues to rise, driven by an increasingly complex regulatory landscape and the need for organisations to navigate legal challenges effectively.
In addition to specialisation, diversity and inclusion have become critical factors in talent acquisition. The legal industry is placing a great emphasis on creating diverse (and high performing) teams and organisations are actively seeking candidates from underrepresented groups. This shift is driven not only by a commitment to social responsibility but also the recognition that diverse teams bring varied perspectives, enhancing overall organisational performance.
Market Changes from 2022
The legal and compliance executive recruitment market has undergone notable changes since 2022. One of the key drivers has been the accelerated adoption of technology in the legal sector. Law firms and legal departments are investing in legal tech solutions, impacting the skill sets in demand. Professionals with expertise in ESG, cyber, legal tech (e.g. analytics, e-discovery, and contract automation) A.I. and crisis management are increasingly sought after.
Alongside this, companies are looking for the human skills aspect of leadership (termed by some as soft skills; nothing soft about them). They are the key skills that can define successful organisations: people-focused leadership, leading by example, resilience, emotional intelligence, curiosity. These are highly adaptable individuals who have a core subject matter expertise but can go across different functional boundaries. Someone who can horizon spot and risk spot simultaneously.
Furthermore, as previously noted, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become pivotal considerations in the recruitment process. Organisations are prioritising diversity initiatives, not only for ethical reasons but also recognising the value diverse perspectives bring to legal strategy and problem-solving.
The 2024 Horizon
We predict several trends are likely to shape the legal and compliance executive search market:
Emphasis on Human Skills: In addition to legal expertise, there will be an increased focus on human skills such as adaptability, communication and emotional intelligence. Leaders who can effectively collaborate, lead diverse teams, and navigate evolving business landscapes will be in high demand.
Continued Technology Integration: The integration of technology into legal processes will persist, driving demand for professionals with skills in legal tech, cybersecurity and data privacy. Organisations will seek candidates who can leverage technology to enhance efficiency and deliver innovative legal solutions.
DEI as a Key Differentiator: Diversity, equity, and inclusion will remain a central theme in legal and compliance executive recruitment. Organisations that prioritise DEI initiatives will be better positioned to attract and retain top talent, contributing to a more inclusive and innovative legal community, both in businesses and in practice.
Flexible Work Models: Remote work and flexible work arrangements will continue to be integral to hiring the best professionals. Organisations that offer adaptable work structures will have a competitive advantage in attracting talent. The reality is if businesses continue to offer flexible work models data is showing that this is much more attractive to working parents, particularly women. What this means in turn is it is likely that talent will not exit in the numbers usually seen when parenthood starts. If companies can retain talent through flexible and innovating working models then careers can continue to be built; succession planning is easier and ultimately, paid back in loyalty.
Strategic Global Expansion: With talent mobility on the rise, legal and compliance executive recruitment will involve a more strategic approach to global expansion. Organisations will explore talent markets in different regions, considering not only legal expertise but also cultural nuances and regulatory landscapes.
In conclusion, the legal and compliance executive search market is undergoing a transformative phase characterised by talent mobility, evolving skill requirements, and a heightened focus on diversity and technology. The trends observed since 2022 indicate a dynamic and competitive landscape, with organisations adapting to these changes most quickly, being able to secure the best legal and compliance talent.
In 2024, the market will continue to evolve. It has shifted from a candidate-led to a client-led market because of the current economic climate, where companies are restructuring, leading to redundancies, across sectors and geographies. What this means is that talent needs to be open to lateral moves to build a career. Equally though, companies must understand the best talent has value and that should not be cheapened. Ultimately, 2024 presents both challenges and opportunities for legal professionals and the organisations seeking to recruit them.