Since the onset of COVID-19, contract staffing has been the primary solution to headcount challenges throughout the data privacy, e-discovery, and cybersecurity ecosystem. TRU’s 2020 analysis found that 56% of all placements were contract hires. As noted in TRU’s Legaltech News article “The 2020 Legal Technology Job Market Year in Review,” COVID was simply fuel on an already burning fire as both employers and employees voiced a preference for contract lifestyle. This pattern continued into the first week of 2021 as two-thirds of TRU’s initial placements were in contract positions. What changed in late Q4 2020 and early Q1 2021 is the speed at which decisions are being made—with yearly budgets approved and goals set, top talent is being secured faster than TRU has ever witnessed.
Contract staffing dipped slightly to about 50% of placements in January, down from a pandemic high of 65%. However, this is not because contract staffing is slowing down; rather, direct hiring is ticking back up rapidly as confidence in the economy improves while contract offerings continue to increase at a steady rate. The January U.S. jobs report echoed this trend—showing that last month, employment in professional and business services rose by 97,000, with 81,000 of those gains (84%) coming from contract staffing services.
One pandemic trend that is not changing yet: 90% of TRU’s total January placements were remote. Seventy-three percent of all placements in 2020 were remote. Hiring managers continue to find enormous benefit in not just the safety that remote positions offer but in the access to top-tier talent across the country at competitive compensation gained from opening positions without regard to geography. Talent is also largely enamored with remote work for safety reasons but also for quality-of-life benefits ranging from living outside major cities for reduced cost of living to the elimination of the daily commute. While a return to the office is inevitable for some, TRU expects employers and talent alike to embrace working from home and flexibility in hybrid options indefinitely. We have been shocked by how many of our law firm clients will not be expecting a full return to the office for staff.