It is now late 2019; one of the worst recessions in living memory is somewhat far behind us, although in some places we still see and feel the impact. While we are currently living in a time of relative economic growth the news every day warns of the impending doom of another looming recession which seemingly hinges on Brexit, if it ever happens. It’s a bit like a train, you know it’s coming but it is constantly delayed. It is all very stressful.
Despite all of this doom, gloom, fear and foreboding the regional, national and international commercial law firms seem to be getting busier and busier. The problem seems to be particularly apparent in practice areas such as real estate, corporate, employment and finance. The overall result is that the Partners and Solicitors transacting this work are under enormous pressure from clients, working longer hours and being put under more stress, despite law firms doing their best to encourage a work/life balance and flexible working arrangements to ensure that these stresses and pressures don’t take too much of a toll.
So, how to address the problem while being acutely aware of a potential economic downturn? Naturally, recruit more lawyers! It is a seemingly keep calm and carry on attitude for law firms and their clients alike. There is of course some caution and trepidation which is perfectly understandable, but nevertheless there is work to be done and opportunities ripe to be seized for lawyers up and down the country.
The last recession naturally inhibited the opportunities for solicitors to secure positions in corporate, banking and real estate law. Therefore, those of our clients who are being most successful in their recruitment and seemingly feeling less pressure in doing so are often those that are being the most flexible in their recruitment. As specialist legal recruiters we work alongside law firms throughout the UK, finding suitable and skilled solicitors at all levels from NQ to Partner. One must remember that as our clients get busier, so do we and we must also be aware that as our clients are under pressure, so are we.
Finding the right person for any role is a stressful endeavour, when one considers the many variants that have to be considered for both the law firm and the lawyer who would be joining them. Our job is to relieve some of that pressure, to shoulder the burden.
We offer unbiased and honest advice to our clients regarding flexibility in their recruitment and to take an open-minded and realistic view of the legal market. We ask our clients to identify and consider the things that are really important which will undoubtedly include academics, training, experience etc. but should and will include elements such as personality, enthusiasm and a desire to do the job.
Knowledge can be learned, and skills can be taught, but desire and attitude are very difficult to instil in someone that does not come with those attributes ready-made.
What does any of this have to do with handling stress and pressure? Increased workloads invariably lead to greater stress and pressure. Recruiting someone new helps to alleviate some of that. Recruiting someone new that you need to train and develop doesn’t necessarily relieve these things in the short term though. It can be quite the contrary as a supervisor becomes responsible for things that someone else is doing. As can be naturally expected, some things go wrong and will require a second look and some smoothing over. Once again, we have all the ingredients for an increase in pressure and stress.
The difficulty as I have observed it with lawyers is that the thing that causes the stress is also their greatest ambition, academic challenge and driver for success which ultimately leads to happiness and fulfilment in their career. It feels a bit like a vicious cycle doesn’t it? Worry not, it’s not all bad news; as people learn and develop their skills, overall and in time things get easier. It is fantastic to watch someone grow into their job and really start to shine. If all goes according to plan you end up with a skilled, hardworking and very loyal employee.
During the initial period of acclimatising, learning and developing it is of the utmost importance that the more senior and experienced members of the team, including the manager, are able to deal with the added pressure and stress without directing or deflecting it onto others, especially the newer and more junior recruits. So, what do you do? Ultimately, we all need an outlet. Some people run, go to the gym etc. Others unwind in front of the TV with a glass (or glasses) of something potent. I hit things with sticks! (I’m a drummer, not a sociopath)…
On that note I recently read the autobiography of one of the world’s most celebrated musicians. This is a man who has clearly struggled with elements of stress, addiction and habitual behaviour throughout his career turning up the pressure he felt in all situations whether on or off stage, in the studio working on new material or even spending time at home with family. With enormous amounts of responsibility and expectation, tolls were taken. His routine and habits meant that distraction activities such as television, exercise, recreational sports, and even music didn’t work. Having gone through several bouts in rehab he barely drank anymore, and it transpired that the physical activity of being a musician was the cause of the stress, but it was also his greatest ambition in life. So how did he combat it? Well, he seems to have been able to relieve the pressure by taking realistic stock of situations: actually, writing down his goals and assessing how close he was to achieving them, and making the necessary changes to get there. Generally speaking, he was closer than he thought. The very same could apply to you.
When stressed or feeling the pressure, take a moment and take stock. Where are you, where do you want to be, how do you get there? You may be pleasantly surprised at how close you are and how easy the journey can be.
Remember that you are not alone, remember that for those who have come before you and those who will follow, yours is an experience you can share and help others learn from as you learn and as your career develops.
Associate Director – Think Legal Recruitment
T: 0121 392 8139 | M: 07720 694 701