Legal recruitment industry:
What are the 2023 trends?

After several bumper years for recruitment, Dryden Search has found the Legal market to be far more subdued this year. Although it is starting to get busier, both the associate and in-house financial services markets have been tough in 2023.

Last year’s battle for talent saw newly qualified salaries sitting higher than in previous years, and Associate’s salaries rising. Salaries for those moving firms increased by 30-35% on average, compared to around 15-20% in financial services[1]. Part of this war for talent came down to a decrease in international relocation. Previously, the legal market saw a great deal of movement – qualified lawyers from Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand would travel to London to gain experience and then return home to their local market with their newfound knowledge – but the pandemic brought this to an abrupt halt. This, combined with Brexit, a delayed start in undergraduate degrees, and the 2020 pause in junior hires, left a large hole in the talent pipeline that urgently needed to be filled[2].

Firms were hiring at full throttle during the second half of 2021 and 2022, so the market feels far slower as we enter the second half of 2023[3]. There are fewer vacancies, and the market is generally calmer. But the cascade of hires over the last couple of years means fewer people are looking for a change, so the battle for talent remains the same. These changes in the market have resulted in the following hiring trends:

1. A candidate-short market
According to the Hiring and Workplace Trends report for 2023; hiring difficulties will not disappear as the pandemic recedes, and the gap between employer demand and candidate supply will continue to affect hiring[4]. In the first half of 2023, 44% of law firms and legal departments were hiring for newly created roles and 54% for vacated roles – but 97% faced challenges finding skilled talent[5].

2. Recruitment processes are taking longer to complete.
The race for talent that dominated the 2022 legal market has finally subsided. With no urgent need to recruit, employers can now take their time to find the right candidate for the role, rather than trying to fill the role with whoever is available. But this must be balanced against a competitive market, and if hiring processes are not streamlined, firms will likely lose out on top-level talent.

From a candidate’s perspective, a longer recruitment process allows them to consider any lifestyle impacts that changing jobs might have on them. 2023 has therefore seen a shift from candidates being motivated by money, to being inspired by broader amenities like wellbeing allowances and flexible working.

3. Flexible working is here to stay.
Hybrid working continues to be at the forefront of individuals’ decision making when presented with a job opportunity. Since the beginning of the pandemic, jobs offering ‘flexible’ working strategies have increased by 274%[6], and since attrition rates are higher in firms that do not offer this, it doesn’t look like this will change anytime soon[7].

4. Competitive base-salary is no longer enough.
In sectors like legal, where skill shortages create a tight labour market, many firms are beginning to experiment with increasing sign-on bonuses and cash injections to attract the best candidates. The cost-of-living crisis makes it even more critical for employers to gather comprehensive market intel and make their whole remuneration package as comprehensive as possible, not just the base salary.

Billie Partridge-Naudeer – a consultant at Montresor Legal – said that creating a culture where people can voice their needs and feel a sense of security, is vital to attracting and retaining talent[8]. In the current market, candidates are not only looking for a competitive salary. Still, they are looking for evidence of support, clear communication, and future employers’ expectations before they consider accepting a role. Montresor reported that 18% of their workforce had a mental health condition that impacted their work or personal lives, and without investing time and resources into creating a supportive and inclusive workplace they would not be able to retain this talent[9].

5. Employer branding is now crucial.
Specifically in the legal sector, the concept of ’employer branding,’ has grown over the last year. The best way to attract and retain talent is with a strong employer brand, and it is becoming apparent that without this firms miss out on top candidates.

Although the legal hiring landscape has changed in the past year, it is clearly still primarily candidate driven. Despite the fact there are fewer vacancies, the shortage of talent means top-level candidates are still fielding multiple job offers. Firms who understand how to engage these candidates will have a huge advantage in the market and will therefore continue to attract the best talent.

If you are interested in finding out about options with recruitment firms in the legal sector, please get in touch with

[1] Robert Walters (2022)
[2] Robert Walters (2022)
[3] Curle (2023)
[4] Indeed & Glassdoor (2023)
[5] Robert Half (2023)
[6] Indeed & Glassdoor (2023)
[7] IDEX consulting (2023)
[8] Crafty Counsel (2023)
[9] Crafty Counsel (2023)



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