The resounding feedback I receive from fellow law firms in my region is that the legal industry is experiencing a hiring challenge. Dean’s Paralegal Services and Lawyers is no stranger to these challenges in Windsor, Ontario.
In this article, I’ll take a look at some of the challenges facing law firms as they try to hire talent in this competitive environment and how you can prepare yourself for success as a lawyer or paralegal who wants to work for one of these organizations.
When it comes to running a successful law firm, finding and retaining top talent is essential. One of the most important roles in any law firm is that of the paralegal. The current trend is for paralegals to be used as law clerks or secretaries. I am saddened to see paralegals leave tertiary education and go through a stringent licensing process with the Law Society of Ontario to utilize less than 20% of their skills. This alone brings about unique challenges for employers.
While this licensing process is designed to ensure that paralegals in the province are highly qualified and competent, the education that brings you to that point creates barriers for law firms looking to hire new talent. With minimal oversight by the Law Society of Ontario on how colleges are delivering content, the intent of paralegal colleges seems to have shifted in recent years. During the administration of online learning throughout the pandemic, some colleges have been gently pushing or forcibly planting, ideas in students’ minds that being a legal secretary is the best option for them. This idea creates an environment for students going through the licensing process where they are riddled with fear and unwilling to take on new roles where they can litigate and advocate in a meaningful way. Rather, they stay wrapped in the security blanket given to them by educational institutions.
Another challenge faced in the ever-changing legal climate incl
udes talent shortages outside of the Greater Toronto Area. When hiring paralegals and lawyers alike, our firm is no stranger to these shortages. As more law firms hire and expand their operations, they struggle to find qualified candidates. In the province of Ontario when we think of Law Firms, are minds seemingly wander to the Greater Toronto Area. This leaves minimal talent in smaller regions. This is especially true for smaller firms that don't have extensive networks of recruiters or access to Toronto’s market. The competition for legal talent has increased significantly over the past few years, and it's likely to continue rising as more law schools open and more students enter their first year of law school. The reasons behind this increase are numerous, but I can’t help but highlight the pandemic. Law firms are hiring more junior associates than ever before because they need help with caseloads. Caseloads have increased due to both increased demand from clients due to changes in financial circumstances and merciless scheduling as courts reopened. Leaving firms fighting to stay ahead of the waves by selecting from a rapidly decreasing pool of candidates.
Despite the challenges, our firm remains cautiously optimistic. An ever-growing caseload and busy court schedule signify growth in the profession. After the weary days of court shutdown, back-to-back hearings can only mean that the backlog is lifting and that Clients are obtaining justice through advocacy once again. These challenges mean that Law firms must continuously adapt and branch out to seek qualified candidates and retain them when they rear their heads.