Law firms are finding it increasingly difficult to find the perfect candidate to fill their vacancies. This is due to the skills gap across the sector and means that top talent is scarce. This has forced businesses to invest in their current staff, and do more with their recruitment processes to draw candidates away from their competitors. When it comes to top skills in private practice, there are certain types of knowledge firms look for, regardless of PQE level, expertise, and firm profile. So, how can they aim to reduce the skills gap?

Develop your teams

Both law firms and lawyers are looking to develop broader skills which can help them to more successfully; manage junior team members, win and develop new business, and manage clients. Traditionally, this has not been the case with firms who house large teams, as they have not been equipped to offer further development to individuals that are associates below 5-7PQE. Associates would then be expected to make the transition to Senior Associate ( and manage their own team of junior employees, as well as taking a much more active role in business development and client management. Firms choosing to take this route risk putting people into roles that they aren’t ready for as, without prior knowledge and training, this could be a daunting task.

If a member of your team has an ultimate goal of making Partner at a firm, they will be keen to start developing broader skills at the earliest opportunity. This will put them in much better stead to compete against colleagues for the limited number of positions available.

The key roles legal firms are developing.

Managing juniors

Firms have been increasingly investing in formal training structures that teach traditional management techniques to prospective leaders. Teaching these skills at the early stages of an individual’s career will help mould them into a well-rounded and prepared team member for the future.

Business development

Traditionally, larger law firms have relied on senior associates and partners to take the lead on business development. In order to complete with smaller firms, all practices need to involve junior associates in business development.

Client management

Similarly, client management is, often, not managed by junior associates. Candidates understand that this is another necessary part of progression, and want to be involved in this part of business as early as they can in their career.

How to combat a skills gap in your business

In order to combat the skills gap, firms are putting more formal training platforms in place to assist in advancing their associates.  By putting formal management training programmes in place before associates begin managing and having sole responsibility for client relationships, a more competent manager is created for the long-term. Associates will be able to progress at a faster rate and firms will benefit from a group of lawyers that have a versatile set of skills at an earlier stage in their career.

If you offer development opportunities to new candidates throughout their career, outside of pure fee-earner duties, you mitigate the risk of losing top talent to your competitors and having an under-skilled associate base.

When hiring top talent in the legal sector, it can be beneficial to seek out professional advice. At Michael Page, we can provide businesses with a shortlist of candidates that are perfect for your vacancy and the culture of your business. Get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants today for a confidential discussion.

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