The Empire Strikes Back: Managing Expectations in an Employer Driven Market


The hiring market is always swinging from candidate driven to employer driven; it’s a normal cycle that everyone has had to navigate throughout their careers. However, this swing back into the employers’ hands may feel immensely different now that we are shifting power for the first time since the global pandemic.

The pandemic lockdown created a remote work environment like we had never seen before, and the slow transition back into the office has allowed many the choice of fully remote, hybrid and in-office roles. But time has taken its toll and the economy is not as rosy as it was, so employers are making decisions to get back to business.

Employers are faced with hefty office leases, tightening budgets and concerns about company culture. Those that are hiring are taking advantage of the talent that is entering the market due to layoffs and other employers insisting on a local, in-person presence. More candidates in the market just means employers can be more thoughtful about who they hire and draw out the hiring process as needed.

Finding the Right Jedis

Though there are more candidates available by the day, employers need to be prepared for what today’s candidate profile is going to look like and what they truly need in a candidate. Hiring someone for a full-time in-office role will result in a different talent pool than hiring for a consulting, short-term role. It is best to home in on the top three to five non-negotiables needed in a candidate before starting interviews. Think about:

  • What is happening within the organization in the immediate or near future? The answer to this will determine the skill sets to be sought. Don’t hire someone based on the “maybes” in your business plan. If you have plans for the future and the candidate does not currently possess those skills, decide whether they can be taught or get the training to learn. Stretching someone beyond their current knowledge base can lead to a longer term fit for someone hoping to grow in a role.
  • What experience is necessary for this role? Do not rule someone out just because they did not go to a top-tier law school; instead look at their background and have a conversation with them to assess if they can actually do the job.
  • Does the lawyer have to be on-site? Do not lose out on a remote candidate because people go into the office a few times a month. If the team all goes in weekly, that is a different story and local candidates and those willing to relocate should be the only ones considered.
  • Do you need a permanent hire or an interim one? The answer to this question may depend on several factors including whether you have the money in your budget to hire someone full-time and how quickly you need that person to come on board. Interim lawyers can often be hired using a budget dedicated to outside counsel. They can also start almost immediately due to the short-term nature of many of the assignments they take. Hiring a full-time lawyer takes time and money that may not be there. Also consider whether the workload is enough for one full-time person or if part-time help may be a more appropriate solution.

Today’s candidates are interested in opportunities that have growth potential, while allowing them the chance to use their existing skills to the benefit of the organization. Keep in mind that people do not stay at the same job for 10–15 years anymore. People make moves every few years so that they can grow in their careers and improve their life circumstances. But if job hopping is a huge turn off,  then “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Look to see where people are coming from. Candidates who are working for local companies and not large companies are likely to have more longevity in those companies. Lawyers have less competition to rise up the ranks in a smaller company and are often doing all the work in their subject matter, unlike at larger companies where someone may focus on just one aspect of the job. (i.e., someone who just reviews and drafts an agreement at a large company vs. someone who is reviewing, drafting and negotiating every contract at a small company).

No Time to Lead a Resistance

With the shift in the market needs to come a shift in realistic salary expectations. While two years ago lawyers could pit offers against each other and take the one from the highest bidder, now employers are taking a long hard look at their salary bands and hourly rates. They are benchmarking themselves against others in their industry and region and making decisions based on reality, not desperation. And now with more job seekers in the market, employers have the ability to dictate rates that align with their shrinking budgets.

Employers are also pushing for candidates who can be in the office a few days a week at a minimum. Fully remote, full-time roles are starting to dwindle. Employers seem open to continuing with fully remote options for some consulting, project-based roles, however. If a hybrid or fully in-office schedule is not for you, you may need to consider what your non-negotiables are and what you are willing to do to keep the perks you seek. Chances are you will need to make a trade off between lower rates and flexibility. An interim role that is 100% remote may be ideal if working from home matters more than bringing an extra-large paycheck that requires four days a week in-office attendance.

Smart Jedi will not need to use any mind tricks to get what they want and need from the Empire (future employers). And the Empire can take back control in smart ways and still attract the best talent. For both, interim roles may lead to a win-win situation.


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