Challenges and Opportunities in the H1 2024 Legal Job Market

Challenges and Opportunities in the H1 2024 Legal Job Market

No doubt the question that a talent advisory professional gets asked the most is: “What is the market like now?”

In my years in talent advisory and recruitment, with the exception of covid times and somewhat during the pre and post-Brexit period (which had some negative and positive effects on the job market in Ireland and Europe-wide), the response to that question up until now has always been relatively straightforward: while there are always nuances, it has been busy and there has been a fair amount of options both on the supply (job opportunities) and the demand (talent) side.

Current Market Dynamics

We find ourselves in an interesting and often challenging time in the market, which might warrant some additional thought. There seems to be some opposing and contradicting forces at play, which can sometimes make it difficult to make sense of what’s going on:

  • There is a lower volume of vacancies, but the employment rate is still very high and it’s not uncommon for some people to have multiple offers to choose from.
  • There is still high demand from the talent side, but some people are more risk-averse at the moment.

There are certainly reasons and explanations for the current market dynamics. I won’t attempt to dissect them all in detail here but it’s clear that both employers and candidates in the market are currently more conservative and cautious than in other times in the past. That’s likely brought on by factors such as:

  • Remnants of a post-covid adjustment to a new way of working, with different priorities and requirements, and/or
  • A perception of a certain macro-economic instability and uncertainty, with redundancies still being something we’d hear of more often than before, with wars closer to Europe than most people can remember – all of which tends to lead to an uneasy or unsteady feeling, which might understandably help explain some of the risk aversion we’re witnessing.

Market Outcomes

Some examples of the factual outcomes we’ve generally seen as more prevalent in the current market than before are:

  • Talent with the most traditionally sought-after profile and experience in the market will still find options relatively quickly – these are typically Irish/UK qualified Solicitors with a certain PQE level and with corporate/commercial experience or niche/specialised expertise in other areas such as data protection or investment funds; whereas individuals looking to pivot into some of those more “marketable” areas or foreign qualified lawyers are sometimes finding it harder and slower to find the right opportunity out there – that’s always been the case to an extent but we’re seeing it as an exacerbated consequence of the aforementioned lower volume of opportunities.
  • While some people still find the appeal in start-ups, many will prefer to go for the “safer” option – the bigger company, larger team, established for longer, etc.
  • Several people will also opt to stick closer to their status quo, whether that is by accepting counter-offers or internal movement opportunities or by staying in a similar sector or type of role – again that isn’t an uncommon phenomenon but it’s one we’re seeing a lot of as a result of the increased conservativism in the approach to the job search.

Importance of the Candidate Experience

Given the current context, one of the main points we have been making in our advisory conversations and consultations with our clients is that the experience during a selection process is more important than ever! Companies must keep the momentum going and they’ll need to keep the candidate continuously engaged in a positive manner, otherwise they will inevitably miss out on their preferred talent.

  • “Time kills all deals” has never been truer – processes that take months to conclude, with a multitude of interview rounds or psychometric tests, have a high likelihood of not reaching the most desired outcome.
  • Candidates are also making their decisions more and more around cultural fit – making all interviews a pleasant and enjoyable conversation is crucial. A robotic or overly structured interview style or reading competency-based questions from a pre-defined list will make it extremely difficult to build rapport, which is key.
  • Equally, excessive questioning of someone’s moves or gaps on CVs or being dismissive or vague about potential progression/growth opportunities will very likely turn the best talent off.

Strategic Hiring Recommendations

In summary, employers should be laser-focused, close in quickly on a candidate they like, and keep the interview process going on a weekly basis (understandably, key interviewers or hiring managers might go on annual leave but that can be an opportunity to involve other stakeholders in the interview process). Furthermore, don’t give into the temptation of exploring all possible options to exhaustion or debating the preferences or requirements mid-process.

Most importantly – and to end on a high note – despite everything, this is not a bad time to hire or to look for a job. Firstly, some signs point to a H2 with more movement in the market. Secondly, we are still constantly talking with some superb talent out there who are keen to make the right move. Also, as mentioned, while it’s true that for some it is taking longer to find a suitable opportunity, there are still several people getting multiple offers – so the options are out there!


In Barden, we understand that each team, role, and requirement is unique.

If you would like a bespoke commentary on how these insights relate to you or your team, please get in touch with Bernardo Pina ( or Kiara Daly (, our Legal Talent Advisory & Recruitment team here in Barden.

We’re where leaders go before they start looking for talent.


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