The LVN Council of Luminaries is comprised of veteran thought leaders and pioneers in the business of law community. The objective behind assembling this group is to establish a brain trust of recognized, experienced and progressive leaders who can help interpret developments in the market, provide advice on how to successfully approach and navigate challenges, predict future trends and changes to prepare for, and to participate in targeted special projects to benefit the legal industry as a whole.
The below meeting was conducted primarily with the Council Of Luminaries CLIENT-SIDE group.
We started this meeting around Staffing Challenges and Impact.
Luminary 1 – I’ve had two open positions for commercial attorneys. These were open for 3-4 months. I looked for different ways to fulfill those. I looked at Axiom and found they had a couple decent candidates. I was thinking of using them as a bridge. Also went to a law firm – they’ve been getting a lot of these requests. The firm said they are struggling too.
But it turned out we got lucky and they did get those filled internally.
Luminary 2 – It’s a common story. We have a client whose staff is getting picked off because they can bill at east coast rates but live anywhere in the US. Even though the law firm is supposed to provide secondees by RFP, they don’t always have them
Luminary 3 – We’ve been seeing this as a pattern for half a year. We used to dip into our panel of firms for secondees. We can’t get these people. Maybe want a mid-level associate and have to settle for a clerk.
We’ve had 2 positions for litigators, one for contract lawyers. No one wants to come in house. It’s the new market. More power to them, but everyone is a free agent. We need seasoned commercial contract people. It’s insane for us to compete with high priced law firms.
Plan B was Axiom and Axiom says they don’t have the people. Then we went to Epiq who does that as well. They are trying to find people. A year ago we could get them but now we can’t find them.
Luminary 2 – Two suggestions – smaller to mid-size general practice firms. Or maybe firms in regions that aren’t the big folks. Also, the market isn’t as hot for baby lawyers, so if you’re willing to train, maybe that’s a solution.
Luminary 3 – That’s where we are leaning. HR has had tons of applicants that are very junior.
Luminary 2 – Can you go overseas?
Luminary 3 – We are very particular, and they don’t have the bandwidth.
Luminary 1 – Did you say people don’t want to move in-house?
Luminary 3 – The market has moved. We’ve been very conservative with our guidelines. We’ve lost lawyers because of salary. We’ve lost great female black lawyers because we can’t compete on the comp and benefits. Our executives are very attuned to it now - they see it’s a risk to the business
It used to be that people come in house for lifestyle, now it seems to be about money. Work from home at law firms takes away some of the lifecycle benefits.
Luminary 1 – Do you think equity is in play? For us, stock options help.
Luminary 3 – It helps some, but people shouldn’t have to rely on their bonuses. We are in a competitive market.
Luminary 2 – I’m doing some benchmarking. But the HR team is looking at 2021 surveys which show salary data says the market is x, when now it is much more. They are getting in the way. How do you help get around these HR surveys?
Luminary 3 – this came up, our HR person defaulted to their last 3 years' benchmarks. But we were being compared to retail stores, etc., that were completely different markets. Ultimately, it’s the legal execs that have to buy into better comp, despite the benchmark.
One financial institution set up a pool of $ that vested in 3 years but was very attractive. That’s what it’s going to take to keep the great talent.
Luminary 4 – We’ve been trying to fill a number of open heads for a couple of years. There’s a lot of movement in the market. To the extent, you can provide people with competitive comp, but also perks even great health insurance. You keep more of your take-home pay. Things like that create some stickiness.
I’ve been working with https://www.legal-innovators.com/. They do on-campus recruiting for L3s but didn’t get an offer. Very competitive criteria, they bring them on, pay them, mentor them, then hire them out to clients. That provides some real-world experience or might get hired by the firm or company. They‘ve placed some folks with a couple of our firms. One big law we work with has hired one or two of them. If you are willing to invest in their pipeline.
But the model is people right out of law school.
Luminary 1 – is part of the attraction the diversity part of it?
Luminary 4 – yes, but it’s also talent – people who just didn’t have the right background to attract law firms. So it’s a lot of first-generation people.
Luminary 5 – There's another program in Philadelphia. But you have to invest time, be part of their board, we struggled with that.
Luminary 6 – Can we change the delivery model to rely less on associate-level talent?
Luminary 5 – One of our biggest risks is in commercials. We found we could use more paralegals to support more lawyer resources. Law firms are not using them the same way as 15 years ago. We are looking for people within our businesses to train our program. We can mitigate risk when we lose a business lawyer, the paralegals can step right in and help another atty get up to speed.
Also, in specific areas like trademark and bankruptcy, paralegals can play a huge role in supporting our businesses.
Luminary 2 – What would happen if you hire baby lawyers, and your company hires a training coach for them. That’d still be a lot less expensive than losing these people.
Luminary 3 – we did something similar a few years ago. We had a resource group that was underappreciated and undervalued. I like the idea in the long term, but we need a tactical solution now.
We have to take a look at prioritizing. What must we look at now? What can we kick?
Luminary 7 – It’s a several-year play; it’s tough to say we are not exactly how this will shape these lawyers. The Legal Innovators model makes more sense as they are taking on the training and we can feel better the lawyers are hitting the ground running.
Luminary 4 – The hiring profile for our career lawyers are all at least 4-5 years in practice.
Luminary 7 – When law firms invest in a new class – it’s unsure how many will stay from year to year, but it’s a 7-year cycle.
A big issue for us – is putting it in a healthy context. You can make a lot of $ at firms. We are probably returning to more of a normal state than firms would admit. Peer Monitor says demand is up only 1% and productivity is actually down a bit. There will be some sort of normalization that will happen. There are a ton of short-term challenges, but we are trying to be patient as we head back to normal.
Luminary 2 – Is anyone sensing that people don’t want to work full time?
Luminary 6 – The flexible talent companies are all finding them.
Luminary 4 – Pay is a part of that, a lot of people moving for the opportunity. Others may have left for family, or around the Great Resignation, they wanted to try something new. We’ve had people go to lead non-profits.
Luminary 6 – the gap in lifestyle is much narrower now between in-house and law firms.
Luminary 3 – They are saying “If I’m going to be working my butt off in-house, I may as well make more $.”
Luminary 1 – We have a magic wand theory. It’s amazing what people think we can wave our magic wand to. We are looking to productivity tools, we have shifted our work to our own LPO in India to handle basic contract review. But the “magic wand” has boosted our own prestige as ops people to get more compensation. I can’t tell you how many times AGC has asked me to “wave my magic wand to make something go better.” Can legal ops be more creative for the department? Can this be a boost for the ops role?
Also, can we elevate the paraprofessionals? And the whole area of ops. We have a traditional paralegal mindset. We are making them operational – they have a service or tech and they run it. Could be external or internal resources.
Luminary 7 – Further to that, something that we are making a table stake with our firms is: what business are you in when it comes to us. ALSPs can clearly tell us why they are handling things better and their value prop on the best way to do it. But most firms just say “we just have great people.” That is how we are countering a market that is super active.
Luminary 6 – Sometimes it’s a language issue. Partners at firms that have useful solutions don’t know how to talk about them.
Luminary 7 – We send our firms prompts: 1. What industry? 2. What’s going on in the industry while that has any impact? 3. How can we improve with the same workload? We need these 3 things; they are instrumental in a relationship. We do this to try to soften the blow and make sure we’re on the same page. The impact of this labor market – numbers are going up. Are your increases justifiable?
Luminary 3 – I’d add: Explain to me that if you’ve delivered value last year, and the delivery is the same, then why are you worth more, just because the calendar says it’s January 1.