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1.18.22: Council of Luminaries Joint Meeting

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

The month’s Council of Luminaries Joint meeting kicked off with a discussion around finding talent and how secondments are bridging the gap for many. This led to a discussion about diversity within teams and work-life balance.

Client Luminary 1 – On the last client-side call, we got into a long discussion about struggles to fill open roles. Then we asked how we could partner together with firms to help us with our needs. I also linked to Legal Innovators, which may be a better model for law firms.

Client Luminary 2 – Every candidate wants to work remotely now

Client Luminary 1 – We all view our firms as a talent pipeline

Client Luminary 3 – what happens when your clients mention to you that they are struggling to find people to do their work?

Law Firm Luminary 1 – We just kicked off a secondment; we had to go and find and hire 2 people to second them. There are some examples where we are providing an outsourced capability on a temporary basis. The reality we face is that we are struggling to find and hire people as well. We are often at capacity or over capacity – there isn’t an ability to say we can take that work.

Law Firm Luminary 2 – I concur, and our requests for secondments are off the chart. We are trying to be a good partner, but for us it’s in the privacy space, which is super high demand across the board. We even explored a partnership with an ALSP, to take their people and second them in. But we’d have law firm people placing people they’ve never met and placing them inside a client. In one case we just connected the client with the ALSP. I’ve even had a request to second an operations role.

Law Firm Luminary 2 – Is there also an increase in demand to find ops talent.

Client Luminary 1 – Yes, across the board. There is an idea we are all in a real crunch for talent right now. While we have a big need for secondments now. But that’s not solving the overall issue. These temp people may not be hitting all the marks.

Client Luminary 4 – Secondments are a stopgap. But what about when clients try to poach from their firm?

Law Firm Luminary 2 – First, I don’t see secondments as profitable, they are usually money losers. And we are putting ourselves at risk of the law department hiring our people.

Client Luminary 3 – Does it make sense to just direct the secondment request to the ALSP. Have you tried that? What happened?

Law Firm Luminary 2 – I generally see secondments as an upside, just not in this market. But our partners were hesitant to work with the ALSP. And the client was still thoughtful, but they did bring in some people.

Client Luminary 5 – We’ve been bringing in people from Elevate, Axiom, etc. But those organizations are struggling to find talent too.

Client Luminary 6 – I find secondments annoying. I know why they happen. Unless it’s a poaching situation, it’s a big waste of our time. For the roles where someone’s on leave and we need to keep things going, that’s fine. But for important work, it’s training and getting them up to speed. We end up investing time, then they leave. Or you don’t invest time and they end up doing grunt work and have a bad experience. I’d love to see a different secondment model, like “try before you buy.” I wish everyone could be more upfront about that.

Client Luminary 5 – For us, we are often getting secondees, but at a premium. Firms are basically indicating that the loss of profitability is not worth the time. We are in a market where we took a year off from hiring talent. So we have two years worth of normal hiring to do in one year. And the competitiveness is continuing to spin. With ops people at least, we are trying to be patient that things will normalize. We don’t want to panic about a shortage of talent now.

Law Firm Luminary 2 – I think it’s a longer-term issue on the professional services side. Our firm, like a lot of firms, is coming to realize that legal assistants were generalists, and we need specialists to support practices and clients. So we have a client relationship group whose role is expanding. And that talent actually doesn’t exist. We have to build it. As firm shift from to specialist roles, this will continue.

Client Luminary 4 – With all the pressure to build diverse teams, what happens if you second someone, and then you can’t put them on teams for other clients? Is that also a concern if you don’t have diverse staff to put on other projects?

Law Firm Luminary 2 – You absolutely have to weigh this. It’s my view that if all clients were asking for diversity like our more sophisticated clients do, there’s not enough.

Client Luminary 7 – Have you partnered with minority-owned firms. It works in RFPs, but what about for this type of request?

Law Firm Luminary 2 – We haven’t targeted in that way, but it’s definitely something we think about when we are looking to acquire firms.

Client Luminary 4 – I’d be receptive if I heard “we have a diverse candidate from our partner firm.”

Law Firm Luminary 2 – I’m going to ask Client Luminary 1 what her reaction would be. What would you think if we were reporting third-party lawyers?

Client Luminary 1