Q&A with Realm Recruit on professional roles in 2021

Our latest guest appearance sponsors of the Women in Wills event in March, Realm Recruit, were interviewed by Today’s Wills and Probate.

Kelly Reid of Realm Recruit talks about how remote working had impacted on professionals finding new opportunities, demand for roles in the sector and what the challenges are for 2021.

Tell us about Realm Recruit…

At Realm Recruit, we believe in treating lawyers like people, not candidates. And we believe in treating law firms like valued partners, not just transactional customers.

Through our refreshing approach, underpinned by our five core values – to be refreshingly human, collaborative, niche, dynamic and consultative – we help to develop careers and sustainably grow law firms.

Each of our Consultants is ultra-specialist, working in a particular legal practice area. I recruit exclusively within the private client market (including Court of Protection), and we have consultants who specialise in all core legal practice areas, including family and conveyancing.

How has remote working impacted on the job market? And professionals finding new opportunities?

In terms of the recruitment process itself, last year, law firms looking to recruit had to quickly get to grips with interviewing candidates online via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. About 90% of interviews continue to be held remotely and this is likely to continue. Carrying out interviews remotely gives both the interviewer and the potential employee more flexibility as, for instance, people can interview during their lunch hour while they’re working from home. At the moment, when I speak to clients, I recommend that they do a 1st stage interview via video call then another interview in person if required.

There’s also been an increase in law firms filming video tours of their office so that candidates who are interviewed remotely can see the office space. Although with people working from home for part of the week a firm’s office isn’t likely to be a deciding factor, by offering candidates a glimpse of the office, they can get an insight into where they might be working and get a feel for the company culture.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of employers are considering offering more flexibility going forward. Pre-pandemic, it tended to be only the more forward-thinking firms that offered remote working, usually just one or two days a week, but in the last 12 months, we’ve seen smaller regional firms join them and also offer lawyers remote working. Time will tell whether firms will commit to a hybrid working model, but in principle, people seem happier with a split between working from home and in the office.

In the private client teams I work with, remote working really works and I can’t see why it shouldn’t be rolled out across the sector. However, at the same time, I’ve seen some firms that are unwilling to budge on flexibility lose out on good people. Those that choose not to offer home working will have a smaller pool of candidates to choose from when they come to recruit. On the other hand, firms that offer a great deal of flexibility will have access to a much wider candidate pool, and won’t be restricted to a specific geographic area. I recently helped a Newcastle-based experienced court of protection paralegal move to a firm in Manchester that offered full remote working.

Has there been more demand for roles in the sector over the last 12 months?

Absolutely – as was discussed in January’s Women in Wills meeting, there seems to have been a surge in private client work, particularly contentious probate and Court of Protection matters. This has had an impact on the market as law firms look to recruit specialist solicitors working within these areas to deal with the increase in demand.

What are your challenges/obstacles for 2021?

I suppose one big obstacle would be people’s perception of an uncertain jobs market. Understandably, a lot of people are wary of moving as a result of the pandemic and think there are risks associated with making a move at the moment.

In fact, opportunities across private client are rife and as mentioned earlier, an increase in work is driving law firms to expand and invest in recruitment.
There are also lawyers with children who are postponing job searches because of home-schooling. As a mother of two myself, I completely understand their hesitation, but hopefully, if the country is able to successfully follow the government’s roadmap, we will have seen the end of home-schooling and this won’t be a factor.

Tell us about your objectives over the next 12 months?

It’s been 3 years since I’ve specialised solely in private client recruitment. I’ve come a long way in that time, particularly in the North West market, but would like to further broaden my presence and work towards establishing in other areas of the country like Yorkshire and the West Midlands.

We are pleased to have you in Women in Wills, what made you decide to join/sponsor the event?

Like a lot of people last year, I found myself on furlough. Although I was unable to work during that period, as a specialist in private client recruitment, I still wanted to keep my market knowledge up-to-date. I saw a LinkedIn post about Women in Wills from someone in my network and thought it would be a good idea to join so I could stay informed about what was going on within the sector.

Since last May, I’ve attended a number of the group’s monthly meetings on Zoom and have been blown away by how friendly and supportive everyone is. In a lot of ways, alongside the professional talks and market insights, the meetings are like a therapy session, where like-minded women can share how they’re finding things. I think this is really important at the moment, as we’ve all been stuck at home, with some of us isolated from our usual support networks or have having to juggle work life with home schooling. It’s refreshing to be part of a group in which many people are in the same situation.

What does the future hold for Realm Recruit?

At Realm, from the beginning, we’ve set out to show both lawyers and law firms that recruitment can be done differently.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been fortunate to have been able to grow our team and hope to expand further this year. We plan to continue working towards our vision of becoming the leading legal recruitment consultancy in the regional market, whilst recognising that when it comes to life-work balance, life is the more important of the two.

Today's Wills and Probate