As the impact of rising inflation, escalating interest rates and global macroeconomic upset continues to weigh hard on the balance sheets of corporates, their legal departments face the ongoing challenge of doing more with less. With the talent market also hotter than ever, the need to focus on attraction and retention is paramount: a recent global client survey from Peerpoint found that nearly half of respondents felt the number one factor shaping their team over the next year would be retaining and developing existing talent.
Prioritising culture to retain talent
Creating a positive, productive and supportive culture is a priority for legal leaders, and making legal consultants an integral part of a talent strategy can help reduce the stress on those coping with burgeoning workloads and a shortage of team members.
A growing number of our clients are recognising the long-term risks of not investing in a proper resourcing solution and see consultants as a means to unlock opportunities and boost wellbeing for pressurised permanent staff.
In busy departments, managers want their key team members to work on interesting projects that will boost their engagement and support career development. Bringing in a legal consultant to handle the day-to-day workload frees up employees to develop new skills without falling behind on the business as usual.
Then there are the situations where projects need doing but permanent members of staff do not have the capacity or appetite to take them on. In those cases, legal consultants can come in and work on a specific brief, deliver on time and then head off, keeping disruption to a minimum and allowing everyone else to continue unaffected. For example, one of our UK-based consultants is currently covering a COO’s role so that they can focus on a critical merger project, and we see this approach working particularly well on a lot of regulatory projects, such as the many IBOR transition programmes our clients have been grappling with in recent years.
Often the impact goes far beyond the initial brief. In the U.S., one of our lawyers recently joined the team of a large international financial institution to cover the paternity leave of a key legal team member, removing the need to allocate that workload to an already busy staff. Because of the strength of her skillset, she was also able to take on additional matters, alleviating pressures on other team members and driving an uptick in overall productivity.
The client told us: “Our lawyer arrived just in time to cover for a parental leave and hit the ground running, helping our team provide consistent service during a very busy season. She quickly became a key member of our team based on her skillset, and will be kept on for some time after the team member returns from parental leave.”
Luke Wilson, head of Peerpoint in Australia, notes, “At the absolute front of mind of the GCs and heads of legal we are speaking with daily is how they balance the tightrope of employee satisfaction and engagement; and this is across all facets from access to interesting and challenging projects to development, flexibility, wellbeing and remuneration. In a talent market where broader economic dynamics are uncertain, it really does heighten the need for employees to feel valued, heard and afforded every opportunity to excel.”
Getting the cultural fit right is an important part of placing a Peerpoint consultant into an established team, and we work hard to understand not just the client’s needs, but also the work environment and the team dynamics.
Developing the team
Supporting your people goes beyond just relieving pressure and providing more hands on deck. Experienced legal consultants can also provide guidance, expertise and training to more junior team members, especially important when data from LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report shows three of the top five factors that drive people to leave their jobs centre on their desire to stretch, grow and develop new skills.
People who aren’t learning will leave, and many legal consultants bring with them experience from different sectors and wisdom that they can freely impart, acting as mentors and sounding boards to help nurture talent. One of our consultants in Asia recently supported junior team members while on placement at an international bank, and by providing guidance and training also took that pressure off other senior team members who had to look after critical internal business matters.
Azara Digan, who heads up Peerpoint’s Middle East business, says: “Peerpoint is a great tool to use when you are keen to develop your talent and offer them more opportunities in the business but you’re constrained by work volumes and competing BAU matters. By hiring a consultant you can offer your team extra capacity to take on that meaningful project, which may work towards their promotion case and essentially retain them longer within your business.”
Legal consultants can also share knowhow from other businesses they have worked in to feed into management and strategy, offering up new ideas and delivering incremental improvements to processes and practices based on what has worked in other businesses.
Often consultants will arrive with a specific skillset to tackle a particular project – be that data protection, or employment law in the case of redundancy programmes – and they can train existing team members while delivering on their day-to-day work. In the UK, a consultant providing team coverage while delivering a data protection project at a large asset management client recently helped the team upskill for future mandates.
Increasing leadership agility
Being able to flex to fluctuating workloads, new projects and changes in the market is critical for the modern legal team but difficult with a fixed headcount. During periods of uncertainty, it can be challenging to secure budget for permanent hires, even if demand is evident, or it can take a long time to fill posts once they are identified. Interim solutions can help leaders smooth the peaks and troughs for everyone, adding the flexibility needed to take on out-of-the-ordinary projects while keeping up with the day job.
Furthermore, we are increasingly seeing consultants supporting teams as they build a case for a permanent hire. As well as bridging a transitional need, they can also help establish the parameters and criteria for a new role. In the U.S., a senior Peerpoint attorney recently spent time in a high volume legal team in the energy sector, assisting the GC with major projects at a time when several lawyers were leaving. Her involvement helped free up senior management time to source strong permanent fits for the team.
Finally, we have also seen ‘try before you buy’ situations, where consultants come in to fill a role with an expectation that they will stay long term if all goes well. Many Peerpoint consultants are career consultants who are not looking for permanent positions, and many clients are specifically looking for interim cover, but where both sides can see a path for a lasting fit, seeing how things work out on a consultancy basis in the first instance can make sense.
Peerpoint’s global reach and wide pool of available interim talent means we can match a legal consultant to most client needs, typically adding value in many more ways than expected.
If you need support in driving optimal performance, development, satisfaction and wellbeing in your team, please get in touch:
Asia team firstname.lastname@example.org
Australia team Peerpoint.Client.Australia@allenovery.com
UAE team email@example.com
U.S. team PeerpointClientTeamUS@allenovery.com