5 most common questions asked by lawyers in April 2020
Market update during COVID-19
Has role volume been affected?
Over the last six weeks the volume of roles has decreased by circa 90%. But, in the last few days we have had a couple of firms reach out to us for business-critical roles which they’ve decided they still want to fill. There is growing sentiment that we could be back in our respective offices in June, which would be a great step-forward and I anticipate a spike in job vacancies when this happens.
Have firms cancelled positions after a candidate has accepted an offer?
So far, no. All of the firms where we have made placements due to start in the coming months have honoured these, although we have had a few delayed start dates, notably for lawyers moving interstate, or internationally. In March, I felt this could be a lot worse, so I am happy with how all of the firms have handled a difficult predicament.
Virtual on-boarding – what works well?
Regular/daily contact. For new starters, the ones who felt their on-boarding went well said that the more contact, the better, as it really helps them feel included and settled at a stressful time. Once a week just isn’t enough for someone new to the firm in the current environment, so I’d suggest daily catch-ups, team meetings and virtual social gatherings. One lawyer commented that she was impressed that her firm have kept this up well into April. It can be hard to stay motivated to hold Zoom catch ups for a prolonged period, but she has been impressed her team are sticking with it and not becoming lazy with it. It has really helped her settle.
One firm have allocated a mentor and they do online coffee catch ups. It has been great for her to have someone experienced in the firm to speak with and she was very impressed that the firm did not let the fact that they’re not in the office prevent its usual process to help lawyers settle quickly.
Seamless IT – having the contact details of a specific person on the IT Helpdesk to answer any IT related queries rather than the switchboard. A candidate said he had to call them a number of times in his first couple of weeks and it was useful to have help at hand and this reduced the general stress of setting up an IT system at home.
How are lawyers reacting to their firms in the market?
This has been both interesting and eye opening for me, to hear from many lawyers who are living this experience and how they feel their firm has handled the upheaval. There have been two main themes:
Compassion and fairness: I have found that nearly all lawyers accepted the situation and were actually fine with bad news, if it was communicated in the right way and they could tell the Partners weren’t just looking out for themselves. I have heard a couple of war stories which mainly focused around the lawyers feeling like they were being treated as a disposable commodity and it’s gone down very badly internally, as you’d imagine.
Pay-cuts and reduced hours: Lawyers have, by and large, accepted this and I haven’t heard too many gripes, if deductions have been applied fairly and communicated in the right way. One negative I have heard from a lawyer is a firm cutting his pay, but he is still working the same hours. I think this type of situation needs to be closely monitored in the coming months to ensure those still working long hours don’t take as big a financial hit, as this would likely be disgruntling.
Which areas are busy?
Employment – as you’d imagine there are lots of COVID related queries eventuating and most Employment lawyers are very busy.
Construction – there was a dip mid-March but this has recovered and roles have been re-lived. Most construction sites and projects haven’t really stopped despite isolation and disruption, so the work is still out there.
If you have any questions or would like any market information, just ask. Contact me at Alex.Gotch@beacon-legal.com.au or call on 0449 990 768.