Law firms have had to adapt quickly to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, which had a knock-on effect on recruitment strategy, particularly during those first few months. After the challenges of 2020, what will the legal recruitment landscape look like in 2021?


With a new year on the horizon, it’s very much part of annual tradition to look ahead at this point, judging the trends that may impact businesses and influence strategy in the coming months.

This is usually with a certain sense of assurance that has perhaps been somewhat dented by our experiences in 2020 – after all, very few predictions at the end of 2019 would have featured a global pandemic! But, as we have got to grips with a new reality over the course of this year, we are now in a much better position to understand the challenges and opportunities that the next twelve months may bring.

Law firms, alongside organisations across all industries and sectors, have had to adapt quickly to an unprecedented level of upheaval. This had an early impact on recruitment, with a freeze on hiring and adjustments to the process.

What will the legal recruitment landscape look like as we head into 2021?


Candidates will drive a rise in legal recruitment

During the first lockdown in March and April, many firms responded by halting recruitment. However, this approach has shifted during the course of the pandemic and we are now finding that legal recruitment is as busy as ever.

We predict that recruitment levels will continue to rise during 2021, with many candidates returning to the market after postponing plans to make a move in 2020.

Some candidates were understandably concerned about job security, leaving them reluctant to seek a different role during such an uncertain time. Others have been disappointed with how they have been treated during the pandemic, so will be keen to find another position once they are confident that the situation has stabilised.

This will be in addition to the usual turnover of employees and the ‘new year, new job’ impetus, which often prompts people to think about their next role.


Legal recruitment will take place across a broad spectrum of practice areas and roles

We have found that there has been significantly more movement at senior levels during the course of the pandemic, with less support roles available. However, this has changed recently and we see recruitment happening across all roles as 2021 progresses.

This trend will not be confined to certain practice areas, although we have found that property, family and litigation have been particularly busy, which looks set to continue to be the case.


Virtual recruitment will still be an important part of the process

We have seen a much quicker turnaround time with recruitment over the last few months. With many candidates working from home, we have been able to speak to them more freely. Virtual recruitment, with interviews conducted over video calls, has also sped up the process for both our clients and candidates.

This is likely to be the case for a while yet.

In fact, we may well see many firms embracing virtual recruitment in the long term, incorporating it into their procedures even when the workplace is returning to some normality.

There are several pros to hiring remotely: it is less time consuming than scheduling physical interviews, can help to condense the recruitment timeline, and there are no travel expenses involved.

It’s therefore possible that virtual recruitment will continue to be useful for some roles, or be incorporated into the early stages of the process, supplemented by face to face meetings later on.

Assessing potential employees from a distance does pose some challenges, of course.

With the help of Legal Southwest, our clients have been able to feel confident that candidates have been carefully matched to both the role and the culture of the firm before they get to that online interview. It’s also important to be clear about how the virtual interviews will work, for both the candidate and the interviewer, and prepare for these so that they go as smoothly as possible.


Soft skills will be essentials

2020 has confirmed how vital it is to be able to adapt swiftly to a changing landscape. This agility requires a whole host of skills from employees that go beyond traditional qualifications and experience for a role.

Law firms have placed an increasing value on so-called soft skills in recent years, such as financial management, a proactive approach and good communication. These will be recognised as critical skill sets to ensure firms have the capability to meet unexpected challenges head on.


Legal Southwest is here to help ensure a watertight recruitment process

While we are optimistic about the forecast for legal recruitment in 2021, both law firms and candidates will obviously still be mindful of the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

For law firms, a strong recruitment strategy and process is necessary to ensure that your investment when hiring is well placed. As a candidate, it will be all the more important to be sure that a potential new role is the right one for you before you make a move.

This is where the support of a specialist legal recruiter such as Legal Southwest will prove more valuable than ever, helping you to feel confident in the recruitment process no matter what the coming year has in store.


Legal Southwest is a specialist legal recruiter, bringing together talented professionals with like-minded organisations. Take a look at our current vacancies or contact us to find out how we can help you.