Private sector lawyers and the difficulty of looking for them

“Do you know any lawyer who would be interested in this role?”

That is the question I am regularly asked as I am already a fairly experienced lawyer with a good network of legal professionals, particularly those who are my junior. I have endorsed a few before in law firms. One of my recommendees is in her 6th year and still going. I only make recommendations when I trust the organization and the person I am about to vouch.

However, recently, I have noticed a trend in the increase or should I say aggressiveness in the war for legal talent.

Hence, this article.

Key Points

  • There is an increase of demand for lawyers in the private sector.
  • More lawers are joining the Government due to higher pay.
  • Private sector has to match or offer better compensation to attract competent lawyers to their companies.

There is an increase of demand for lawyers in the private sector.

A quick survey of Jobstreet and other job portals will show an increase of job posting or vacancies for lawyers in the private sector, whether in companies or law firms. On a regular basis, lawyers ask other lawyers if they can refer one for their organization as in a few weeks ago when a former colleague posted in one of my messenger groups. I have also seen recently in my inbox job alerts and direct invitation to apply for available position.

The demand for lawyers in the private sector has always been there ever since I started practice several years ago. Back then, I regularly received direct messages in LinkedIn from recruiters who asked the same opening question whether I was “exploring” or “open to a shift” and similar language. I often turned it down since I was doing well in the law firms where I worked and I wanted to develop certain legal skill sets so I stayed.

Now it appears that the demand has leveled up. This is perhaps due to increase of regulations and compliances where lawyers play a vital role in guiding companies with their compliance to avoid lawsuits and liabilities, the two words associated with legal professionals.

With the increase of number of passers in the bar exams for the past few years, it is a wonder why and how is it that the demand keeps on increasing. Companies and even law firms find it difficult to hire and keep lawyers in their employ.

More lawers are joining the Government due to higher pay.

Salary increases in the Government through several tranches, that is why.

An entry-level, fresh out of law school, and newly-minted lawyer could land a job in the Government with a starting salary of around Php80,000.00/month or higher, and that is still excluding benefits.

That pay only increases for every year of experience or movement up the ladder in the organization.

Curiously, that is the pay being offered by many companies and law firms for lawyers who have at least 5 years of experience. It thus easily becomes a big cookie experiment involving persons who studied for over 8 years, many of whom forwent income, and many more of whom are expected to provide a return of income (ROI) to their benefectors or parents. Hence, the new lawyers are always the subject of the ROI joke, which after several reiterations become a rude awakening for many.

Private sector has to match or offer better compensation to attract competent lawyers to their companies.

Seeing the value of lawyers in the private sector is the problem.

While lawyers are valued in many law firms, many companies see a company lawyer as a Grammar teacher whose primary task is to review documents for typos and, in many cases, a rubber stamp to “legitimize” their actions “per the advise of the lawyer”. This is an incorrect characterization and use of a company lawyer.

The value of having a company lawyer is having one that lead the organization towards regulatory and statutory compliance to support the company’s goals and objectives.

With that as a framework, it is easier to justify in Board Meetings or in Management Committee Meetings the need to review and increase the compensation of company lawyers to hire and maintain a legal talent.

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