Looking ahead: Why life sciences need the best legal minds in 2023


Whilst many businesses may be considering how they approach team growth amid economic headwinds this year, the pharmaceutical hiring landscape in 2023 looks set to be busy, with companies looking to capitalise on recent big tech redundancies to source industry-savvy legal talent. In fact, in-house lawyers will arguably be more in demand than ever, as pharmaceutical companies seek out talent to help oversee the current economic turbulence. However, despite a promising outlook for the sector, pharma companies will face stiff competition in the war for talent, so they will need to get creative to successfully recruit and retain the top in-house legal brains.

Internationally speaking

Factors such as tax barriers and Brexit are continuing to make international hiring complex. However, the introduction of remote working policies during the pandemic has meant the net can now be cast wider into the international talent pool, and companies are keen to capitalise on this. As a truly global industry, pharma is well placed to leverage remote working models to attract in-house legal brains globally.

However, adopting this approach has not always proved straightforward. For example, the UK - as a pharma hub - has increasingly looked within its own borders to source talent, as candidates from other geographies are sometimes deterred by the barriers presented by Brexit.

The most in-demand candidates typically tend to be US-based, as they are comfortable working in a range of jurisdictions and have often spent a period of time working in both the US and another region, such as APAC, and have therefore gained valuable living experience in these local markets. For multinational pharma companies doing business in a variety of regions, this can prove an invaluable quality.  

Digital-savvy talent in demand

From a legal perspective, there will be particular emphasis on digital transformation during 2023. Regulatory frameworks continue to change constantly, new legislation is being introduced post-Brexit, and incoming data protection regulations are likely to impact the cross-border sharing of information. All of these issues are central to the pharmaceutical sector, and so should be firmly on business leaders’ radars.

As a result of this changing landscape, companies are increasingly on the lookout for both generalists and tech-savvy in-house lawyers who have the extensive privacy, regulatory and compliance expertise required to digitalise operations.

The market for data and tech-savvy General Counsels who can also take on higher-level, strategic work will be red hot. With employee dismissals from tech companies reportedly happening at a faster rate than during the Covid-19 pandemic, pharma businesses could look to capitalise on talent leaving Silicon Valley and harness their valuable expertise.

Non-monetary benefits

When hiring and searching for the best legal talent, pharma businesses often need to consider company-wide budgetary pressures, particularly when competing with private practice law firms. Developing creative, non-monetary solutions to secure the best in-house legal brains can help differentiate pharma companies from law firm competitors, who have typically relied on high salaries to entice talent. However, highlighting non-monetary perks, such as hybrid working policies, flexible working hours, and mental health and wellness initiatives will go a long way in attracting talent.

Some practical steps that companies can take to embed this positive workplace culture include proactively celebrating individual and team successes and investing in wellbeing strategies and initiatives, such as hosting speaking events on the topic of mental health best practice. Employers and leaders that also regularly stop to recognise outstanding work will not only help foster greater team morale and positivity but will also create a supportive and collegiate working environment.

Furthermore, since pharmaceutical companies face a wide range of issues that fall under the legal remit, such as regulatory, IP, data, and commercial, they are well placed to offer a challenging mix of work and a varied training curriculum for their legal minds. It is vital that they capitalise on this to ensure their best legal talent remain engaged and stimulated. Recent research from The Law Society revealed that just 42% of in-house lawyers felt their position provided good possibilities for career progression so clearly more needs to be done to ensure in-house roles are fulfilling.

Employers must focus on providing a variety of work types, responsibility, and high-level strategic involvement as a key non-monetary perk to their top talent. This is especially important as the role of the in-house legal counsel expands beyond dealing with just legal issues and they are increasingly incorporated as key business strategists, who happen to be lawyers.


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