Author: Tom Armstrong, Business Development Manager.
In a post-COVID & Brexit, flexible working, high inflation economy, companies are having to evolve their job offerings in order to capture the best talent for their teams. This evolution also comes against the backdrop of demand for higher wages and currently the ‘War on Talent’ shows no sign of abating. This is seemingly quite a challenging prospect for businesses, and especially so for in-house legal teams, which are typically under-resourced, with few solutions to effectively manage the increased productivity that is being demanded of them.
This, coupled with increased demand from talent for not only higher wages but also development opportunities, has left some companies looking at alternative ways to bolster their offering whilst keeping a close eye on the bottom line.
Although hiring a non-qualified or foreign qualified lawyer may seem daunting at first, it may allow businesses to add additional headcount for a low up-front cost, and at the same time mould a legal team around the particular needs of the business.
In London, the average salary for a lateral hire 3PQE Solicitor ranges from £80,000 – £245,000, and Junior/Senior Legal Counsel’s Range between £70,000 – £150,000.
Lower salaries obviously reflect more entry-level experience, but this can be mitigated by investing in and upskilling junior talent, and with the introduction of the SQE this costs around £10,000 (covering both the exams and BARBRI SQE Prep‘s course fees). Alternatively, there has recently been an uptake of solicitor apprenticeships, owing to the decreased regulation on the training element of qualification, now formally known as Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) in the new SQE era.
The argument could be made for recruiting contractors if and when the demand justifies it, however day rates (inclusive of agency fees) can typically range between £600 – £850 per day dependent on the level of the role and technical legal knowledge required (as per Michael Page recruitment). Therefore, implementing a policy for bringing in permanent junior talent could not only lead to better cost savings in the long run, but also improve efficiencies, with a time-save on recruitment.
Introducing a training scheme within your in-house legal team can not only result in cost savings, but also help with many other aspects of a legal teams’ day-to-day.
From a DEI perspective, introducing a training scheme to up-skill junior talent can allow companies to align an initiative with their own DEI goals. This serves as a scheme to introduce candidates from more diverse backgrounds and the SQE, and in particular solicitor apprenticeships, directly align with this in terms of flexibility and widening participation.
From a day-to-day perspective, the benefits we have heard from our partnered organisations are clear. Having a trainee resource has allowed their teams to function more efficiently, as the juniors are taking over the simpler and more repetitive tasks that seniors were previously spending a lot of time on. In turn, the organisations can offer a breadth of experience to junior talent to upskill and support them to better support the business.
Talent retention has also seemingly been increased, by adding value to the job offering beyond a salary and experience, creating company loyalty. The experience gained is not only enhanced for juniors, but also for senior members, as the opportunity for developing managerial skillsets presented has been increased exponentially.
Navigating the challenges of introducing a training scheme from scratch, which is unfortunately the reality for most in-house teams I speak to, can seem extremely daunting.
Top of the challenge list is often navigating the hybrid working model. All who were lucky enough to start off their professional careers working five days in the office will appreciate how much is learnt through osmosis. Watching and listening to styles of communication, general etiquette, the ‘quick questions’ and simply building relationships with colleagues is all more challenging with the new hybrid working model. The onus then is very much on the junior to be communicative, to push for feedback and go the extra step to begin to build their personal brand. The responsibility is clearly also on managers too, who must learn to carve out the time to provide necessary feedback.
Another challenge is the scepticism from some more senior team members over the efficacy of the SQE route. For training schemes to be successful, especially in the smaller legal teams that are typically seen in-house, there must be buy-in and commitment to support from top to bottom. As we continue to have more iterations of the exams, and more industry wide data is distributed, educating the sceptics will become easier, However, until established training routes in-house are the norm, there is going to be a need for further education and experimentation until legal teams can find the best fit for their business.
In-house legal teams are ever evolving entities, and work must be done to be able to stay competitive and deal with the increasing demands for efficiency whilst being under-resourced.
The SQE presents an excellent opportunity to increase efficiency within legal teams for a relatively low overhead. It can increase the attractiveness of a job offering to top level talent and maintain company loyalty within the business, helping foster a positive long-term culture of collaboration.
If you would like to speak further on this topic, or if you would like to learn more about how BARBRI supports in-house teams, and how we could support yours, please feel free to reach out to me.
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