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Research to inform workforce planning and career development in legal services

9 December 2019

The legal services market is facing widespread disruption with a more liberal regulatory environment, stronger commercial pressures, and increasing adoption of technology. These developments will impact the roles and skills that solicitor firms and teams need to perform successfully.

A consultation with sector leaders and learning and development professionals identified an appetite for research into how the changes within the sector will impact on the profession’s workforce, and skills that members may need in the future.

This resulting research developed since 2018 seeks to inform strategic workforce planning* by solicitor firms and other organisations in the sector, and individuals’ own career development.

We have published two complementary reports:

  • an independent study commissioned from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) covering legal sector employment trends, workforce projections and solicitor firm perspectives on potential changes
  • a Law Society research report using survey data to demonstrate the state of skills, training, workplace changes and job quality in the solicitors’ profession

IES report

The IES report analyses the size and shape of the legal sector workforce using latest available data, and models changes to the occupational structure in legal services due to increased demand and productivity.

The report delivers an illustrative and high-level picture of how the sector workforce is due to change given current trends and based on several alternative scenarios covering technology adoption, Brexit and competition.

These scenarios were informed by interviews with leaders in solicitor firms and in-house teams, who also described how they manage changes to staffing given disruption in their business environment.

The research is intended to give organisations in which solicitors work an understanding of wider market drivers and trends alongside the composition of their current workforce. This should enable the organisations in which Law Society members work to better plan for the long term and make any necessary adjustments in the short term.

A guide to the workforce planning process itself is outside the scope of our research, although a helpful guide is available from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Download the report

Research to inform workforce planning and career development in legal services: Employment trends, workforce projections and solicitor firm perspectives (PDF 2 MB)

Law Society report

The Law Society report shares insights from our regular large-scale survey of individual solicitors, providing a representative picture of skills, personal development and job quality within the profession. This work seeks to provide richer detail on the current state of skills and training for solicitors, for use by individuals in career planning and by firms in workforce planning.

Download the report

Research to inform workforce planning and career development in legal services: Skills, training, workplace changes and job quality in the solicitors’ profession (PDF 2.7 MB)

About the research

Information in the report should boost understanding of the diverse needs, expectations and aspirations of the solicitor workforce, to enable solicitor firms to lead and to learn from employees with the same shared values.

The two reports are complementary, and the research approach recognises that some change can be predicted, considered and planned for in advance.

For example, the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) in autumn 2021 – requiring firms to reconsider how skills, experience and support needed for legal practice are developed – will be the outcome of a programme of activity originating with the Legal Education and Training Review of 2011.

Other changes may be swifter or less predictable. Nevertheless, the reports should improve the information available on the overall patterns of change, helping organisations providing legal services and those working in them to identify challenges and manage risks earlier.

*CIPD explains strategic workforce planning as a holistic approach to assessing and analysing internal business drivers and goals, and external environment developments impacting upon a business. It focuses on critical job roles and families and the strategic capabilities required to meet future goals and typically has up to a five-year forecast horizon.

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