Legal Information hiring trends – With Tim Palmer

Posted 25/3/2024 by Tim Palmer

Legal Information hiring trends – With Tim

It’s nearly a year since your last outlook. Did 2023 pan out as expected?

Purely from a business perspective, the legal information sector was quite buoyant last year. I think that we may have to wait a while before we see as much movement as we did in 2022, but there was still a lot of movement in the legal sector although perhaps 15-20% less than the previous year. I’d suggest that the shortfall on the previous year was probably from less growth of information teams.

What stood out for you last year about hiring trends in the legal profession?

Firstly, it was nice to see that there were quite a few new graduates going into legal, not just into information services, but in KM too and there were some really interesting and varied roles across the country.

I think from my perspective, possibly one of the most noticeable trends has been the growth in demand for research skills deployed to support business development and competitor intelligence. There’s a lot of firms that have re-organized their information teams, created new functions or added specialists to be able to supply a dedicated and much more specialized business research service.

The other shift has been in salaries which have shifted very quickly since 2021.In London I really don’t think that there are many experienced Law Librarians or Information Services professionals that are earning less than £45,000 and I’d say that the salary differences between London and the rest of the UK have also closed considerably, with many more roles going beyond £40,000 as an available basic.

Is it still a good time to be an Information Professional in legal and are there any particular skills that will be in greater demand in the next 12 months?

From my perspective, the role of the information professional in a law firm is one that’s typically very secure, with mergers and acquisitions probably being the primary reason for any changes. During my time in the industry, I’d say that demand for these skills has always outstripped the supply and I don’t see this changing.

I think that if I was advising on skills that someone requires to go to the next level either in pay or responsibility, I’d strongly recommend trying to get more actively involved in more complex or value-add business research. Something quite noticeable in the past 12 months is the level of hires that we’ve made in competitive intelligence, strategic research or pure business research, where the successful candidates haven’t come from more traditional information services roles. We’re increasingly asked to find candidates that can offer skills in analytics too.

Further down the line, I expect that generative AI skills will be a factor, but I’ve yet to work on an information services or research role where this has been a pre-requisite!

What are the likely challenges for hirers in this sector?

I think there are likely to be a few! For firms that are looking to hire in London, I’ve seen a real levelling off in terms of salaries. As I’m seeing it, the average salary is around £45-50,000 for an experienced information professional and to hire, I expect that most people will be looking for an increase of at least £5000 to mitigate the leap of faith in moving roles. In short, I think this will mean salaries noticeably going up again.

I’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of roles that are offering increased flexibility with respect to hybrid working, particularly with national firms, mid-sized firms and many of those that are located outside of the city. Although, the salaries are often not as competitive, levels of applications and interest in these roles certainly suggest that information professionals will sacrifice salary to some extent for a stronger work/life balance.

I think the longer-term challenges are likely to come from the lack of hires at graduate level. We support most firms that are of sufficient size to warrant a Knowledge, Information or Research function and although last year there seemed to be an increase in graduate introductions, these hires make up a really small percentage of the overall recruitment in the sector. In addition to a lack of uptake among firms, we’re also faced with the challenge of fewer library schools than 5-10 years ago. Although there is a connection between the institutions and associations like BIALL, my experience, particularly operating as Student Liaison Officer there is still work to be done to raise awareness and interest with LIS students. At CB Resourcing we spend a lot of time presenting to LIS students about careers in legal information. In some cases there is a perception among students that law is a far more challenging arena to enter than other career paths but we usually place students we meet at these presentations.

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