Like so many others, the legal industry in Canada has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing legal professionals and students to adapt to an environment that is both changed and changing.
We and Mark Fenwick (VP, Corporate Services – Impact Recruitment) were thrilled to partner with FACL BC (the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers – British Columbia) and Jayne Rossworn (Acting Director, Career Services – Peter A. Allard School of Law) for a thoughtful virtual event, providing the legal community with insight into the current job market and offering planning and advancement strategies to keep you future focused and moving forward in your career.
If you missed out on the event, don’t despair. We’ve outlined the key takeaways below!
What changes have you seen in the legal job market due to COVID?
February was a record month for the Legal team at Impact, with more job offers signed than ever before. March and April saw a slow down, and, while hiring didn’t stop entirely, there was a notable pause as firms focused on navigating the challenges presented by COVID-19.
Come May, we saw the legal market start to open up, and that’s continued through June and now into July. Insurance defence, labour and employment, and family law are areas that remain particularly busy, and we expect to see an increase in hiring in tax law and wealth preservation as well as commercial litigation.
We had more lawyers commit to attending interviews this May than ever before, which speaks to a certain confidence in the legal job market that we’re very pleased to see returning.
Perhaps the most significant change we’ve seen as a result of COVID-19 has been a significant drop in active legal support roles. While we’re hopeful that hiring will increase in the coming months, we don’t expect a swift bounce back in this particular area, unfortunately.
If your work has been temporarily been interrupted due to COVID what are some strategies you would recommend to keep moving your career forward?
While by no means an ideal situation, this is an excellent opportunity to take a pause and do some self-reflection. Try not to dwell on the unexpected interruption to your career progression, instead use the time to visualize what you want for yourself moving forward.
Some common responses we hear from our legal candidates are: to gain trial experience, to take on more complex or larger files, to seek out mentorship, to obtain a title or responsibility change (oftentimes partnership), a salary increase or a more lucrative split, or a desire to move in-house or into a new practice area.
If you really aren’t sure, try asking yourself some questions:
- What do you enjoy about your current role?
- What don’t you enjoy?
- What would you like to spend more time doing?
- Is there a position within your organization that would allow you to do those things?
- How can you take steps to achieve it?
Once you figure out your ‘why’, you can start identifying ways to improve on the skills, experience and education you already have and begin working towards your goal.
For more advice on navigating the job market in a pandemic, check out this resource on our website: Job-Seeker’s Guide to Navigating the Market in a Pandemic
How can lawyers and students adapt in an environment where networking for a job has changed?
In an environment where the traditional, physical in-person networking has all but vanished, professionals are getting creative with finding new ways to meet and exchange thoughts and ideas virtually.
Getting involved with your industry through virtual networking sessions, webinars and panels is a great way to stay up to date with what’s happening in the legal community and to make connections with others in your field.
Tips for growing your network without leaving the comfort of your home:
- Virtual networking might seem strange at first, but try to embrace it – this is new to all of us!
- Take advantage of the many free virtual events available (you can find many of these on LinkedIn)
- Don’t just listen, try to connect and engage as well
- Ask for informational interviews or virtual coffee meetings with people in your field
- Have a consistent online presence and share relevant content on LinkedIn
Do you have advice for members who still have their jobs but are seeing the nature of their work change?
First, try and recognize whether you perceive the change as negative, or if it presents new opportunities for you that may not have been available previously.
If this is not a change that you welcome nor want to embrace, you next need to ask yourself if, to the best of your knowledge, this is a short-term change or one that is likely to become permanent, and tailor your next move accordingly.
It may be appropriate to note that resiliency in any job market is a good thing. Showing that you’re able to be adaptable and accommodating during a time of flux will go a long way in showing your employer that you are loyal and dependable, something that you can expect to help your career in the long run.
Do you have advice specifically for succeeding in interviews via video conferencing or teleconferencing?
Most people are familiar with telephone interviews, certainly during the first stage of the hiring process, but, while common in some industries, video conferencing is a fairly new phenomenon for many of us.
Historically, video hasn’t been the default mode of interviewing in the legal industry. If you’re a bit unsure about what’s involved, we’ve put together a guide to help you prepare: Ace That Video Interview + Land Your Dream Job
We do recommend reading the guide in full, but here are some of the highlights in case you’re short on time:
- Do an equipment check to make sure your tech is working properly (power cable, fully charged laptop, microphone and camera)
- Familiarize yourself with the platform you’ll be using (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
- Choose a well-lit, quiet and uncluttered space to be your “meeting room”
- Dress professionally, the same way you would if it were an in-person interview
- Make eye contact with the person you’re speaking with – don’t look at yourself!
- Have a phone number on hand where you can reach the recruiter or hiring manager, should anything go wrong
- As usual, arrive early (five minutes will do) and send a follow-up note thanking the interviewer for their time
Should you try and negotiate your salary, or avoid it given the economic situation?
If you’re thinking of negotiating your salary, tread lightly. It’s important that you be very conscious of the current job market and acknowledge that firms will be keeping a close eye on their budgets and bottom lines right now.
Trying to negotiate a higher salary during a pandemic, one that has resulted in layoffs and unemployment for many Canadians, may come across as more than a bit gauche, and even inconsiderate.
Knowing this, if you still intend on trying to negotiate a salary increase or pay raise, make sure that you are able to demonstrate the unique value you bring to the firm. You’ll need to prepare and present a business case for yourself, giving solid examples to justify your ask.
Finally, provide firm reasons, but deliver them graciously. We’ve got our fingers crossed for you!
Check out FACL BC’s event page for upcoming virtual events and follow Impact on LinkedIn for new job opportunities and to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the exciting things we’ve got on the go!