09/30/2020 - Current State of Legal Recruitment in Canada

Is this the right time to make a career move? Let’s start with some general considerations.

About the only constant during Covid-19 is uncertainty. Life is always fraught with some level of uncertainty, but for many of us, it’s now heightened in almost every aspect of our lives - financial, employment, social, health, and family. 

So, is this the right time for a career move? Well, that depends (yes, more uncertainty!). 

It depends on your financial circumstances. 

What can you afford to risk? If you’re single or the primary income earner in a family, you likely have financial responsibilities that limit the amount of career risk you’re able to take. 

According to an August CBC article, “Indeed Canada has seen a decline in job postings…but a dramatic increase in the number of applications for a single advertisement. It's an employer's market.”

It depends on your family situation. 

Families who rely on childcare or worry about a family member who is elderly or immunocompromised typically require a higher degree of financial stability. 

The Vanier Institute has compiled a series of reports on how COVID-19 impacts families in Canada. According to one of their reports, “families are like all other ‘systems’ during the pandemic – their strengths and weakness are magnified, amplified and intensified as relationships, interactions and behaviors adapt to changes in routine, habits, and experiences.”  

It depends on the industry you’re in. 

If you own or work in a small business, or work in an industry that has been especially hard hit - airlines, restaurants, hotels, entertainment, and the energy industry (remember when oil actually fell below $0?), this could be a good time to stay put.

However, if you happen to be employed in a field that’s booming, like essential services (i.e., education, health), technology, or customer service, there may be more opportunities to land a coveted role as the demand for your skills and knowledge increase. 

Not all essential services, however, are thriving. 

In Canada, legal services have been deemed essential and while specific practice areas such as Insolvency & Restructuring, Banking, Insurance and Family Law are thriving, many other practice areas are slow to rebound. Resilient firms may see this time as an opportunity to re-think hiring practices. According to an article in CBA National, “Smart law firms are thinking ahead, looking to where the business is going to be and hiring accordingly … You have to have the people you need before you need them.”

At Urban Legal Recruitment, we’ve been tracking employment trends over the past six months and here are some of our observations:

  • We are just starting to see roles trickle back after a drastic slowdown due to COVID-19. There are more candidate prospects available and it truly is, for now, an employer’s market. 
  • Employees are ditching the Birkenstocks and dog walking clothes, and making their way back into the office for at least a few days a week as the glow of working from home full-time seems to have faded. Some firms are still at 50 percent capacity and continue to face challenges ranging from decreased demand for service to having to book elevator time slots as maximum capacity is now 2 people.
  • In-house training has been affected so there is minimal flexibility in hiring those candidates with less than ‘ideal’ experience with the intention to upskill. 
  • Support staff who were temporarily laid off are starting to return to work. In general, administrative hiring is slow to pick back up but we expect to see more opportunities in the fourth quarter as companies take a proactive approach to hiring for the upcoming new year.
  • Temporary salary cuts were reinstated at the end of August so firms are having to be more budget-conscious.
  • Wellness benefits need to be adjusted to reflect the changing needs of employees (i.e., home gym equipment and fitness apps instead of gym memberships). Stacy Cowan, ULR founder LOVES the Peloton bike and app and says that if she was only allowed to own one piece of fitness equipment, this would be the one! 

According to Stacy, “Beyond the fitness aspect, Peloton has done a phenomenal job of creating a virtual community which injects that sense of connection to other people with a shared interest beyond our bubble. In speaking with clients and candidates on a daily basis, it is this connection to other people that is the constant in terms of what we are missing the most.”  

At Urban Legal Recruitment, we have experienced, along with our clients, the impacts of Covid19.  We’ve made the necessary adjustments to ensure the safety of our team members and our clients. We will continue to track trends and keep you posted.