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Interview: The impact of Covid-19 on the legal employment market in Wales

Sarah Castle, Divisional Head of Legal, Yolk Recruitment

Our Editor, Emma Waddingham, sat down - pre local lockdown - with Sarah Castle, Divisional Head of Legal at Yolk Recruitment - Legal News Wales' recruitment partner - to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the legal employment market in Wales. With job losses, uncertainty around furlough and how the market is bouncing back, it hasn't been the easiest few months, but there have been moments of positivity and a number of new employment trends we've seen occurring in the legal market. Watch the video for the full interview and the Q&A write up, below.

Emma Waddingham, Editor (LNW)
Sarah Castle, Yolk Recruitment (SC)


What changes have you seen in the legal market over the last 6 months during lockdown?


Initially there was a recruitment freeze as we all started to find our way through the furlough process.

The first thing Yolk and our legal recruitment team did was to get in contact with our clients and all of the law firms that we work with to find out their situation and how we could help them through this process.

Yes we’re recruiters, but we’re also consultants. We always want to be speaking to everybody in the market that we can be and offering them our help.

“From a candidate perspective, again the drive is very much to keep in touch with them and let them know what the law firms are saying. Communication is key, especially during a time that sees people muddling through and adapting to the ‘new normal’.”


What types of challenges were you solving for the smaller law firms in particular, and how do they differ to your work with firms pre-Covid?


Smaller law firms have always had a challenge with candidate attraction. Naturally, when you search the internet for new jobs, a lot the larger firms will show up first.

Our priority with smaller firms is always about brand. We focus on advertisement and getting their brand out there to everyone we speak with.

Pre-lockdown, a lot of our recruitment business came from the bigger firms which is only natural due to their size, but we have been really surprised with the recruitment processes going on in the smaller firms. It has been our main focus to make sure these smaller firms are fully staffed and able to service their clients throughout this time.


It's fantastic news to hear that smaller firms are growing in light of what has happened. There have been a lot of concerns and actually the growth is coming in that area in the last couple of months. Has this changed your recruitment strategy at Yolk? And how do you work with candidates and clients in the legal market, particularly in Wales?


Yes it has. We always pride ourselves on an excellent candidate journey. We want the candidate to have a service from us; we want them to have a new job at the end of it, but want to ensure the process has been smooth and seamless and we’ve been seen to be helping them throughout.

Before Covid, we met everybody that we could and now that’s all moved to online Zooms and Team meetings to ensure they feel completely prepared for all the interviews that they go to.

From a client perspective, again no meetings can happen but we’ve had several Zoom events, and we’ve also encouraged the law firms to get on the Zoom events with the candidates so that they have that face to face interaction, and those that are working from home alone don’t feel so isolated.

“"Although we are focused on recruitment, a big part of what we’ve done recently has been to bring the legal community together in this time."”


What’s going to happen to the recruitment market, firstly from a candidate point of view in Wales?


Fundamentally we will bounce back from the last six months; the market is showing signs of recruitment picking up and law firms are hiring.

For a candidate, before Covid they would have had several jobs to choose from and there were always law firms looking for excellent candidates. We’ve seen a 360 switch in that, we’ve seen a lot of candidates in the market and obviously the law firms are not yet hiring at the same scale as they used to.

“"We’re now having conversations to make sure that when the recruitment picks back up again, and it is, that we’re in the best position to make sure that our candidates are well-educated on what the market looks like and the types of firms they’re suited to. This goes vice versa for the law firms so that they know that there are good candidates waiting for new positions."”


And what about from the law firms’ point of view?


There will be cut backs, we’ve already seen this.

Yolk as a business have set out a business roadmap for any law firm or business. Ultimately, we want to be seen as an extension of a law firm’s HR or recruitment team, that’s our job.

“We are a consultancy; we provide advice, we provide salary surveys, we are the ears on the ground for the law firms. They may come to us and want to know what other law firms are doing, we’re here to provide that feedback. That will be something that law firms reach out to us for, we’ve already seen that happen.”

Before we were seen as just a recruitment service, but now from the work we’ve done over the last six months we have shown clients we are the overall package in terms of helping and assisting their HR and recruitment team.

Our greatest thanks to Yolk Recruitment for inviting us to speak to Sarah – and for its support of the platform and our readers since launching in March 2020.

To view the latest insights, jobs and opportunities from Yolk, please visit our recruitment section.

Yolk Recruitment is the sole recruitment partner of Legal News Wales. More information on Sarah and her team can be found here.