12 May Looking back on COVID-19 and all those restructures

12 May 2021

Despite the restructures and the uncertainty and volatility of COVID-19 we foresee a significant turnover and an increase in headcount in business development, marketing and communications teams across professional services.

COVID-19 in reflection

The past 12-months have brought uncertainty, turbulent markets and volatility. In March 2020 recruitment across most professional services firms froze, some roles were made redundant, mostly within the Big-4, and lockdowns commenced across the country.

As cases grew around the world and supermarket shelves emptied, our days were spent talking with people. Conversations centred on activity levels, firm performance, team sentiment, pipeline, Government stimulus, global directive (for global firms), salary cuts, working from home policies and mental health. Weeks rolled into months, our conversations continued and a common theme emerged; professional services firms remained busy.

Deepening client relationships was paramount and firms who genuinely care about their clients prevailed. Among BD teams, bidding activities soared, internal communications became indispensable, the need for strategic BD advice grew and digital activities consumed marketing teams.

While the world hoped for normalisation in July, then September then 2021 – we learnt to live with COVID-19 and its many restrictions.

It has now been a full year of “working” with COVID-19 and market sentiment is strong.

The vaccine roll out has commenced, most firms have lifted recruitment freezes, teams continue to be busy, pipeline is strong and jobs are plentiful. Most of our clients have hit or exceeded their financial year budget and FY23 strategies are being set.

From here, we anticipate significant turnover and new headcount across the industry.

Restructures, restructures and more restructures

While some may think that COVID-19 caused the many restructures, what we are actually seeing across legal is that team structures were already changing. Here’s why:

  • Boutique and mid-tier firms are pursuing growth and require more sophisticated BD teams to support ambitious partners.
  • Some firms are engaging senior consultants to audit functions, creating new structures and headcount and BD team strategies.
  • As partners from Big-4 and consulting join law firms in senior positions, they bring fresh ideas and have different requirements from BD teams.
  • With the emergence of ‘new law’ businesses, there are alternative opportunities for BD experts.
  • There is an exceptionally strong demand for talented professionals. As multiple opportunities arise, firms must compete to attract the best talent, resulting in more compelling offers and a focus on candidate experience.
  • Most people simply need a change, especially as COVID-19 bound them to their employer and home.
  • Candidates look to firms that are genuine in supporting mental health and wellbeing.

Next steps

If you’re interested to learn more about opportunities we are currently working on or to understand more about the market and current trends, contact a member of the Dalton Handley team for a confidential discussion and expert advice. Email: australia@daltonhandley.com Phone: +61 2 8042 7970.