ACEDS President Mike Quartararo, Vice President Maribel Rivera, and I once again brought the latest metrics and trends on the ediscovery market to the December Eye on ESI discussion last week. The data pointed to a much slower job market for full-time roles, but my fellow panelists and I also found much good news to close out the year.
Metric 1: Speed of Hire
While the speed of hire has slowed to twice or three times longer than what it was at this point last year, organizations are still hiring. In particular, law firms still have open requisitions, but they are taking a while to fill because of in-office mandates. More lawyers are coming into the office, so ediscovery staff members are expected to join them. However, most candidates who are actively searching for roles want more flexible remote or hybrid options.
Metric 2: Salary Trends
TRU Staffing recruiters have noticed a new trend with regard to salaries. Ediscovery candidates are now slightly less concerned with pushing for the highest possible salaries at the high end of the spectrum. In addition, we are seeing extremely high demand in ediscovery at the senior project manager level (7 to 10 years of experience). At law firms across the country, these roles are commanding from $160k to almost $200k per year. This appears to be the new normal.
Vendors are turning their attention to the first three or four roles noted in the slide below. They are hedging their bets against spending too much right now, so they are hiring more people with less experience to get the work done as we head into a recession. They are hoping to salvage profitability that way while keeping productivity as high as possible.
Metric 3: Workplace Evolution
The workplace evolution slide measures remote, hybrid, relocation, and contracting. In 2022, the percentage of remote or hybrid jobs was at an all-time high of 89% — that means three out of every four jobs are either remote or hybrid right now. I’ve highlighted the area for 2023, where we think the new normal is going to be. It will come down a little bit as the recession moves forward.
We are now indeed in a job market recession – for full-time direct hires it may last until the end of the first quarter of 2023. Between now and then, you’re going to see a lot of contract staffing. However, it will also mean that law firms and software companies will have some leverage toward getting employees to come into the office more frequently – those employees who are out of work might jump at that option now. It’s possible, but it’s not a certainty. Employees may just decide to stay home and ride out the recession. However, employers are hopeful to get some employers to come back to the office.
Four New Ediscovery Job Market Trends
- The TRU team is seeing a lot of our clients defer full-time jobs into 2023, or choose to hire experienced contractors in hopes of capitalizing on out-of-work talent. Employers are hedging their bets on this strategy and are being very mindful of maintaining profitability.
- Job seekers are showing hesitation about exploring the market for the first time in nearly 22 months.
- Job candidates in ediscovery are still getting an average of three (and a minimum of two) job offers at the point of hire. There are still the same number of jobs just fewer people looking.
- Jobs are moving slower, they are in different places, they are paying different compensations so everyone is trying to recalibrate to figure out where they fit and who they can get.
Key Prediction for 2023: Contract Roles Will Rule
This next slide shows my prediction that in 2023, the percentage of contractor offers accepted will sharply increase. I think about 60% of the open jobs will be contract or contract-to-hire very soon. We’ve been here before and know what to expect. When full-time hiring excels, the contract market falls, and when the economy is slow, the contract market swings way up again. There is a huge opportunity for experienced ediscovery pros to capitalize on this trend.
How to Prepare Yourself for a Downward Job Market
If you are looking to change jobs during this recession, it’s important to determine what you are willing to compromise on (and what you aren’t). TRU recruiters always ask jobs seekers what they want. Know that employers are going to be more fastidious about pushing their agendas to get employees to compromise during the recession. So know where you will and won’t draw the line for a new role.
The reality of many of the layoffs happening now is that these aren’t people living paycheck to paycheck. Many of the layoffs are affecting people who are earning six figures a year or more: employers wanted to retain profitability without losing a high number of workers. That’s what we’re seeing in a lot of these big tech layoffs. This means that many of those who lost their jobs do not need to take a job right away. They can sit on the market for three to 12 months looking for the perfect full-time fit.
Another thing to consider is the trauma of being laid off. Trauma makes job seekers have greater trepidation about committing to a full-time position where they might experience that trauma again. The recovery from that trauma entails calculating what you are willing to commit to in the future and sticking to it.
The way around reductions in force (RIFs) and potential workplace trauma is to turn to contracting until the full-time market opens up again. If you are experienced in ediscovery, you likely have the skillsets many employers need and you can try out a role, then either take it full-time later, or look for something else. Both employers and candidates are willing to do this, and it’s a healthy thing.
If you have a full-time role currently and want to maximize your potential for a good year-end base salary or bonus boost, be sure to capture your annual successes, workload completions, all positives that you’ve done since your last review. Bring this data to your manager, and present it thoughtfully.