We have asked the President of ZSA, Warren Bongard, what he thinks we can expect in 2016. “The Canadian legal landscape is quickly changing before our eyes. Competition is at an all-time high, forcing industry practitioners to adapt or be left behind.”
“Be prepared for a leaner, more accountable environment; even young associates need to contribute to law firm growth. A business plan for yourself, vis-a-vis your firm, is key,” explains Warren. With the economy being the way it is, and firms looking to gain a competitive edge, firms are seeking employees who are able to contribute immediately. On the support staff side of ZSA’s business, we’ve seen a growing interest from our clients for senior and experienced clerks. “What we’re seeing is that firms are looking for candidates who have significant experience and are able to hit the ground running upon being hired,” remarks Kathy Nitta, Consultant. The theme, of course, is that the legal landscape has been positioned in such a way that firms are looking to maximize the value of their hires. Instead of spending money on training, firms are, instead, opting to hire a candidate who brings years of experience and technical knowledge to the table.
As a result of the economic climate discussed above and the drive to lower costs, another trend that has come about is that companies are looking to grow their in-house legal teams. That being said, we are also seeing an increased desire amongst lawyers to make the move to in-house, drawn by the allure of ridding themselves of the billable hour and constant search for new clients. The result of which is greater competition for these spots, even if there are, in fact, more of them to fill. Warren Bongard observes that “the in-house market continues to grow exponentially. Think beyond being a technical superstar – how can you help the business you are about to join? Think risk management and pragmatic advice.” Candidates are now in a position where they need to be able to possess more than just raw knowledge and technical ability in order to beat out the competition.
A final trend that must be considered is the emergence of new law firms seeking to do away with traditional models. “Consider new law firm entrants as serious competition to “big law”; they are popping up everywhere, and can offer a more flexible work-life balance,” as described by Warren Bongard. There is no doubt the legal market is changing, the question is how these changes will affect big law and if it will adapt to face this new challenge.