Lessons from Paris: is money still the main motivator?


With the current economic backdrop, compensation is front of mind. Employees everywhere are taking more time to consider job security. However, in the wake of Covid and the Great Reassessment, we are now truly amidst a renaissance of workplace values, from work-life balance, to personal growth and satisfaction in career development. As such, law firms are having to adjust their offerings in line with what the top talent is looking for in their next move.

The global hiring landscape has become more strategic and any offers on the table require heavy consideration before candidates make the leap. In the current climate, is money still the main motivator behind moves? It remains to be seen if the current turbulent economic backdrop is likely to propel London and the US further into a results-driven culture, or whether after the pandemic, lawyers are increasingly questioning how they are investing their billable hours. This consideration has long predated the pandemic in Paris, where there persists a sentimental attitude towards development through work.

The beautiful project

The Paris legal market is an ecosystem comprising of more boutique firms and moves are fueled by personal relationships. In recent years more international firms have set up shop and the market is opening up. Although a nuanced approach to hiring is still necessary in Paris, internationally accepted conversations about higher compensation are now considered less gauche.

The term ‘Le beau projet’, or a ‘beautiful project’ is a phrase we often hear from partners describing what would make them consider a move. They’re often referring to a role with growth and leadership opportunities, and a clear mandate for both individual and firm development.

Personal growth

So, what are some of the growth opportunities Partners are looking for? We have been increasingly dealing with candidates who are keen to be a Founding Partner of an office opening in Paris, a particularly demanding responsibility and challenging role to take on.

We have helped Partners into roles with the expectations that they will establish and grow a number of practice areas; arbitration, white collar and tax practices to name a few. Every firm has its niche, but with the legal market becoming more and more integrated, it’s never a bad idea to expand the menu of work available to clients, and partners are welcoming the chance to pursue these unique leadership opportunities.

In times of trouble

Whilst some clients are scrutinising budgets, some Partners may also be considering the wider impact of their work beyond the billable hours. Aiming to withstand current economic headwinds, many firms are raising their fees to bolster their bottom line. For example, many firms are aiming to raise fees in line with PE practices but this could risk pricing some clients (domestic clients in particular) out of the market.

With a potentially reduced client base, Partners and firms alike could be left in vulnerable positions, particularly if Partners choose to stay loyal to their clients or move to a firm that is not raising its fees as much, possibly even taking their client base with them.

So, in times of economic trouble, is cash still King or does a cooling of the market lend pause to consider greater career ambitions? This remains to be seen, but what we can be sure of is that with hiring turning more strategic in nature, firms must also be in tune with what partners are looking for.


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