As a recruiter, and since COVID, the dialogue among all clients is the same, all pondering what is going on in the job market, specifically with staff:
Why can’t we find good people?
No one wants to work.
We keep getting ghosted.
Candidates constantly cancel interviews or don’t show up for the interview and don’t even call.
We offer the job and they don’t show up for their first day of work.
No one shows up prepared or professionally dressed.
The caliber of candidates has declined.
What is going on?
A number of factors have influenced the job market since Covid. Many people spent two years laid off or working from home. Suddenly their gastrointestinal issues cleared up, their skin cleared up, that nagging back pain went away, their blood pressure lowered. Just thinking about getting back into the legal work environment triggered PTSD. They learned to get by with less and decided to get out of the job market all together. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as of January 2023, 2.8 million workers are missing from the labor force as compared to January 2020. Where did the workers go? “Boosted unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, and child tax credits have padded the finances of some previously employed workers, and they no longer need to work. Plus, early retirements and less immigration has left the nation in a worker deficit.” In fact, one legal assistant described how the Pandemic influenced her life – “I had carpal tunnel syndrome for years, in fact, I was scheduled for surgery when the Pandemic hit. My carpal tunnel went away without the surgery. Just thinking about going back to work made my joints hurt. I decided to get by with less. I may go back to work one day, but I don’t think it will be in the legal environment.”
Moreover, a large percentage of individuals decided to leave their jobs and embark into a new area of employment. In 2021, more than 47 million workers quit their jobs, many of whom were in search of an improved work-life balance and flexibility, increased compensation, and a strong company culture. And more workers left jobs to try their hand at entrepreneurship. In 2021, 5.4 million applications were filed in the United States for new businesses, according to data from the Census Bureau. That was on top of the 4.4 million applications filed in 2020, which had been the highest by far in the more than 15 years since the government began keeping track.
After Covid, because so many legal staff candidates left the job market, law firms were desperate to fill staff positions. The individuals still around took advantage of the situation, jumping firms for exorbitant salaries and compensation packages and a swagger and attitude to match. They were in such demand, they forgot the etiquette of interviewing and job hunting. They ghosted recruiters and law firms. They demanded phone interviews. They showed up unprepared physically and mentally. They demanded remote work and when hired they quit or did not show up because they could get another job the next day. Most of these individuals jumped ship over and over souring the possibilities for all candidates in the job market.
Recruiters around the country are still seeing less candidates in the market. But things seem to be calming down a bit. The candidates in the market today are more serious job hunters leaving historically good jobs for better opportunities. Charlotte, a recruiter out of Atlanta, Georgia gave her insight on the current 2023 legal job market: “Things are shifting. Some law firms are struggling in the current economy and are letting good people go. Or candidates are leaving good firms because work has slowed down and they fear for their job security. Things are getting back to some semblance of normal.”