Recent trends in interim legal resourcing
As we start to emerge from the impact of Covid-19, one of the many decisions for GCs is how to resource the in-house legal team effectively. The combination of permanent headcount freezes, rising salary costs and a competitive market has made it more challenging to recruit, especially in some locations and specialisms. Even where recruitment is possible, it can take many months to on-board the right person, which doesn’t solve the immediate need created by ever increasing workloads. This is why we are seeing a growing number of GCs turn to interim lawyers as they consider what the structure and size of the team should be over the next 18-24 months.
Since the start of 2021, our legal resourcing teams across the UK, Asia and US have seen demand for interim lawyers grow significantly. Breaking this down further, we are seeing the following trends:
1. The highest demand in the UK and Asia is for interim commercial lawyers, followed by transactional banking and derivatives lawyers, driven by the large LIBOR transition and other regulatory change projects within the banks and financial institutions. We are also asked frequently for technology, data protection and employment lawyers.
2. In the US, in addition to the traditional demand for commercial interim resource, we are seeing an increase in requests for attorneys with data privacy and IP experience.
3. A lot of requests are from the financial services sector in the UK, US and Asia, which is not surprising given the relative size of some of the teams and highly regulated environment. However, we have also seen increased demand across all the other sectors.
4. Clients tend to want more experienced consultants – experts who can join their teams at short notice and can “hit the ground running”. We also receive requests for less experienced lawyers, but not as frequently. Overall, the ability to get on with the work is more important than the seniority of the individual.
5. The significant majority of requests are driven by increasing workloads rather than to cover a specific absence within the team, and clients are utilizing both full-time lawyers and more ad-hoc support to manage variable in-house workflows.
6. With many still working remotely for the majority, if not all, of the time, location is typically no longer a barrier to on-boarding an interim consultant as long as they are able to work within the time zone. Across Asia, for example, we are seeing an increasing number of lawyers who are based in Hong Kong working for clients in Singapore and vice versa. In the US the preference is for resource to be within two time zones of the client.
We expect these trends to continue into 2022 as in-house teams look to support heavy workloads driven by Covid-19, Schrems II, ESG, other regulatory change and many ongoing demands, with an agile and flexible approach.
We have been supporting in-house legal teams through the recruitment process for interim lawyers for many years. Key to success is clarity of the scope of the role, the skills needed from the interim lawyer and the output required.
We also recommend moving quickly through the interview process, especially at present, as demand for interim resource is so incredibly high that candidates are often choosing between multiple different opportunities.
If you would like to discuss how to define and structure interim lawyer support effectively, our Legal Resourcing team run workshops with client teams.