Changes in the Legal Technology Top Talent Ecosystem
Traditional workforce ecosystems have changed significantly in recent years, due in large part to technological advances that allow for new, more flexible working arrangements. As we enter a new decade, we should expect to see even more significant changes redefining the workforce ecosystem in the legal tech sphere.
From evolving technology and remote work to increased focus on diversity and work/life balance, legal technology companies should be prepared to embrace a number of changes if they want to continue to attract and retain top talent in the coming decade.
Flexible and Remote Work Arrangements
Recent years have seen an increased emphasis on remote work and flexible work arrangements in the legal technology space. Many companies see remote work as offering a strategic advantage when it comes to staffing and have incorporated it into their hiring plans in the hopes of attracting more top talent.
Remote work is already prevalent in project management and sales roles, but now we’re also seeing an increase in other areas, as the legal tech and eDiscovery workforce has matured. Today, experienced professionals who have proven their abilities to employers often desire alternative arrangements that better fit their personal lives. This is particularly true in major cities where the cost of living can be exorbitant. As the cost of living continues to rise, many legal tech professionals, especially those who now have families, are finding them priced out of the metropolitan centers. If remote work isn’t offered, companies in those cities are effectively increasing costs for their potential employees, and in turn, limiting their hiring pools.
Companies with strong office cultures and that want to keep their employees onsite are facing increased struggles to find experienced workers who can afford to live in major cities or commute great distances every day. Today, allowing remote work regularly or as needed, especially in those major cities, is the single most valuable selling point a company can offer when it comes to remaining competitive in the hiring arena.
Modern technology has been one of the biggest drivers behind the trend toward remote work. Today’s tools and solutions not only allow employees to do their work from anywhere but also allow them to be more effective and efficient in that work.
Many communication tools exist today that weren’t available even just a few years ago, and they’ve changed the way that companies do business. These tools can in large part mirror everything that companies have historically done in-office, which makes virtual and remote meetings or collaboration possible. Now, the potential employee pool has expanded dramatically, because companies can work seamlessly not only with local people who are choosing to work remotely but also with people anywhere in the world.
Beyond communications, much of the work at legal technology or eDiscovery companies is being performed directly in applications. Anyone using products like Relativity or Everlaw is already remoting in on some level to do their work, even from the office, and so the need to require employees to work in a specific physical location is greatly diminished.
It’s no secret that the legal vertical has long been ripe for burnout, especially in the litigation field. Cognizant of that, the legal tech industry in recent years has seen an increased emphasis on work/life balance, but success in achieving it varies widely depending on the roles, people, and organizations involved.
Many companies today are actively trying to institute measures that help with work/life balance. Much of this involves team or pod approaches that provide employees with support, and reduce the burden of requiring a single employee to deal with all client demands. Nonetheless, realities of the work will always require long and intense hours, such as the demands of preparing for trial or meeting crucial deadlines.
Companies are also increasingly offering recruiting incentives that help employees with certain aspects of work/life balance. Benefits such as transit reimbursements or pet insurance not only make life easier for potential employees, they also help to humanize a company. As companies grow and mature, they’re also in a better position to offer employees more consistent hours and career paths designed to allow employees to move up internally and increase their job satisfaction.
Diversification of the Workforce
The workforce in the legal technology ecosystem is increasingly diversifying, both in terms of demographics and in terms of educational background or experience. In what was traditionally a male-dominated industry, companies are making conscious efforts to diversify their ranks and broaden their candidate pools to include more women and people with different ethnicities. More companies are instituting diversity initiatives in recruiting, such as masking resume names to create a blind hiring process and place all candidates on an even playing field.
In addition to demographic diversity, the legal tech and eDiscovery industries are increasingly expanding their ranks beyond the traditional legal sphere and focusing on candidates with computer science, data analytics, and digital forensics degrees. Certifications are also key and are a value-add for both the employees and the companies — they increase both the value of the employee and of the services offered to the client. For that reason, more companies are budgeting for certification and ongoing training, particularly in the areas of eDiscovery, cybersecurity, and privacy.
Teamwork and Support
Teamwork is on the rise in the legal tech sphere. As the legal tech and eDiscovery industries have matured and companies have grown, workplaces have become more process-driven, as opposed to project management- or sales-driven. Now, with more hosting support, processing support, and IT support, the day-to-day work requires far less of a Herculean effort by individuals to get it done efficiently and effectively. As the industry continues to mature, you’ll see even more process and automation that will provide support for individual employees.
The Changing Workplace Landscape of Legal Tech
As the legal tech and eDiscovery workforce has matured, what it seeks from employers has significantly changed. Factors like life changes and an increased cost of living in major U.S. cities have caused the traditional workforce ecosystem to shift to new models that incorporate flexibility, remote work, work/life balance, teamwork, and an increased reliance on technology. Simply put, top talent want these things, and companies must be prepared to offer them if they want to stay competitive.
The days when these things were viewed merely as perks are long gone. Especially when it comes to hiring proven, experienced professionals, companies need to be offering flexibility and the modern conveniences that make the job easier. Companies that have committed to offering remote work are seeing far fewer hiring struggles than companies that still insist on being office-centric.
The best way to gain a strategic advantage in hiring in the new decade is to adapt as much as possible to the changing workforce landscape. By adopting new business models and hiring practices, you’ll be in the best position to compete for the best talent in the industry.
About the Author
Chris Egan founded Celeritas Recruiting in 2011, a specialized recruiting and search firm dedicated to serving the legal and professional services community.
Originally published in ABA Law Practice Today, The Young Lawyers Issue, April 2020.