War for talent as attraction a major issue for Scottish law firms, senior members admit

Attracting and retaining talent has been a major issue for Scottish law firms over the past year and this is set to continue into 2023, senior members of the legal profession have admitted.

The Scottish 2022 Legal Review, published in today's Scotsman, found recruitment was becoming an even bigger challenge, with firms facing increased competition from their counterparts south of the border to find the right people.

Allan Wernham, Scotland managing director at CMS, said: “We are currently seeing a war for talent within the Scottish legal sector. This has been further complicated by the ability to work from home and higher priced markets like London casting their nets more widely.”

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Claire Armstrong, managing partner at Dentons in Scotland, said training and maintaining people was a top priority in the era of the 'great resignation'.

There is a war taking place over the attraction and retention of legal talent

The situation means law firms are having to try to adapt to respond to the changing needs and demands of employees – for example, in continuing to offer remote and hybrid working options.

Peter Lawson, chairman of Burness Paull, said: “People understandably want to retain flexibility, but we also recognise the clear benefits that being in the office with colleagues – at least part of the week – has with regards to team cohesion, culture, wellbeing and career development. Attracting and retaining the best talent is also challenging in the current market.”

Law firms said they recognised the need to continue to focus on diversity and inclusion, which will help widen the talent pool.

Nick Scott, managing partner at Brodies LLP, explained while the legal sector has made progress, through such initiatives as PRIME – an alliance of law firms aiming to drive socio-economic diversity – there was still work to do.

He said: “The sector must create more opportunity, celebrate success, encourage champions, share stories. If people with difference cannot see themselves in the profession, we will always struggle to attract them.

"Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. And too many people with difference rule themselves out, thinking there is no place for them in the sector – that has to change.”

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