The Counsel Network-Hotline

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These are unsettling times. Covid-19 has changed the world we live in. We have been inundated with questions from the legal community regarding how this will impact the profession and careers. We want to do our part to help you. As things change, your questions will change. Please submit your questions below and we will take your top questions and respond as quickly as we can.

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Things are changing rapidly, what questions regarding your career or the legal profession do you need answers to? We will select the top questions and provide answers on this site and on Linkedin.

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*Email questions@tcnhotline.com as another way to submit questions.

Alternatively, feel free to contact us for a confidential discussion

Dal Bhathal
Managing Partner, Eastern Canada

416.364.6654

dal@thecounselnetwork.com
Sameera Sereda
Managing Partner, Prairies

403.444.1763

ssereda@thecounselnetwork.com
Warren Smith
Managing Partner, British Columbia

604.643.1711

wsmith@thecounselnetwork.com
Alison Bennett
Director

403.444.1769 / 647.484.8312

abennett@thecounselnetwork.com
Chaaya R. Jugdeb
Senior Recruitment Associate

403.444.1767 / 647.484.8313

cjugdeb@thecounselnetwork.com
Jeremiah Hunter
Recruitment Associate

403.444.1765 / 647.484.9103

jhunter@thecounselnetwork.com
Trevin Sewell
Recruitment Associate

604.643.1714

tsewell@thecounselnetwork.com

Hotline Q&A's

As with almost any career decision, the answer is that it depends. You may have personal reasons and need to maintain employment, whereas others are in a more flexible position and can take a break. Remember, it’s a career journey, not a career ladder. There will be bumps in the road, unexpected developments, and even dead ends, but that’s okay.
This is a global event that everyone is experiencing and will remember. If you do find yourself in a less-than-ideal position, you may only need to say ‘Covid-19’ and that will be enough to dispel any doubt now and in the future.
I would highly recommend that you reach out to your legal recruiter during this time to discuss your personal circumstances and how a new role or a break will impact your career, if at all!
At the outset of the outbreak, law firms and legal departments collectively took a pause on hiring and focused on ensuring employees were equipped to work from home. It’s taken a few weeks for everyone to settle and we anticipate some organizations may resume recruitment efforts in the next week or two. Others are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach and will revisit these searches later.
As time passes, we’re finding most firms and legal departments are relying on video communication platforms to perform day-to-day tasks typically completed in an office setting, including recruitment and onboarding. Most organizations have taken to interviewing candidates via video conferencing.
Some areas of law have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic, whereas other areas, such as labour and employment, have seen a dramatic increase in activity. Some firms and companies are taking a longer-term view of their needs and are selectively adding to their team. The world hasn’t stopped, and firms will always be seeking new legal talent.
Every day is different, and circumstances will continue to change in the coming weeks.
Labour and employment law remains one of the busiest practice areas. Regulatory, tax, and restructuring/insolvency are also very active, and litigation is picking up (as courts resume in some capacity). Personal injury and family law are likely to remain busy. As things settle and people return to work, we anticipate class actions and insurance will increase significantly.
We anticipate less activity in capital markets, which was a hot spot with cannabis-related work but had slowed down prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Many corporate/private M&A lawyers appear to have enough work to keep them busy for the next month or two. Beyond that, it’s difficult to forecast given the uncertainty around Covid-19.
Dal Bhathal
Managing Partner, Eastern Canada

416.364.6654

dal@thecounselnetwork.com Connect with me on LinkedIn
This is a good question. The answer is firm-specific. Some firms are still keen on seeing candidates, especially to fill niche roles or gaps in the firm’s practice areas. Success for lateral hiring will largely come down to timing. For a candidate who has a demonstrable ‘fit’ with a firm, now is still a good time to move forward. While the actual hiring process may be slower than usual, firms don’t want to miss out on good lawyers. We’re finding employers may do screening interviews via videoconference so they can act quickly once things settle and they have the green light to hire again.
Due to social distancing, some of us may find we have more free time on our hands. One of the best things you can do right now is self-reflect and assess your skills and career plans for the near, medium and long-term future. A self-audit dovetails perfectly with updating your resume. Your resume is a snapshot of your past and present, and updating it prompts you to think about the next steps in your career.
External crises, like the Covid-19 outbreak, may cause you to recalibrate your feelings about your current position. Perhaps your current role looks better now than it did a few months ago. Or perhaps the thought of returning to work fills you with dread and you feel more motivated than ever to find something new. Either way, there is nothing to be lost by taking some time to self-reflect and think about your career goals. You’ll be more ready to take the actual steps to make that happen.
For further information on career planning, please see our blogs on SWOT Analysis for Lawyers, A Three-Stage Process for Law Career Success and Should I Stay or Should I Go: Conscious Career Planning.
Have you been putting off professional development due to lack of time? Is there a course you’ve always wanted to take, but couldn’t shoehorn it into your schedule? As technology changes, so does the way we live, learn, and work. So much is available is online and the Covid-19 pandemic has given some us more time to focus on skills development. I suggest using this time to take courses that may be of professional or personal interest. Dedicating some time to your development can give a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in this new normal.
For further information on furthering your professional development, please see our blog on Setting and Owning Your Goals for the Coming Year.
Some countries may see an increase in contract roles, but it remains to be seen what will happen in the Canadian legal market. Contract/locum lawyers have been popular abroad (e.g. the UK) for over 30 years, but they haven’t gained as much traction in Canada.
To date, there have been relatively fewer layoffs for in-house lawyers compared to private practice. Alberta may see more in-house counsel layoffs, which was the trend prior to Covid-19. In previous recessions, as the market recovered, Canadian companies still preferred to hire permanent in-house counsel or offer secondments.
This time, a key difference has been the widespread shift to WFH. As organizations become accustomed to working remotely, legal departments and law firms may seek lawyers open to flexible work arrangements like contract roles.
We’ve also seen an increase demand for on-demand legal services or alternative legal service providers. As technology improves and cost-savings become more important, we may see higher adoption of these services.
Temporary options may be worth considering depending on your individual circumstances. Reach out to your legal recruiter to discuss the considerations for these types of arrangements.
Even pre-Covid-19, some organizations can be slow in responding to applications. Silence from prospective employers can be incredibly frustrating, especially now. Ideally, employers should answer applications quickly; however, right now, even the best PD directors and HR departments have a lot on their plate, making it difficult to make conclusive hiring decisions.
So, what can you do? You may want to consider following up on your application, in a professional and respectful manner. Generally, we suggest a maximum of two follow ups, each spaced one week apart. The first, one week after submission, can often be just a friendly check-in to confirm receipt, with the second (and last) follow up a week after the first. If the employer does not respond, it’d be best to focus on other applications.
If you’re struggling with getting a response to your job applications, it may help to get a second opinion on your materials. Speak to a legal recruiter for more insight on the hiring process during this current climate and how it affects your unique situation.
The answer depends on your personal and professional circumstances. The key here is to remember your career will outlast the pandemic. One framing question we have frequently been discussing with our clients is to ask whether a potential role and/or company is one they will be interested in working with over the long-term. Be brutally honest with yourself (or talk to someone who will hold you accountable to such a standard!).
If this is merely a move to find a ‘safe space’ in turbulent times, consider whether it is worth the move at all. If the role is one you see as a long-term fit, in the current environment it may be prudent to also consider the economic stability of the organization and how they will fare through (and beyond) the recovery. Due diligence on a prospective employer is critical (especially in times like this) in selecting your next career move.
It’s safe to assume that even if an employer is actively recruiting right now, most hiring decisions will be made slowly. Patience is key – some positions that are currently posted may not be active or may be in a holding pattern. Law firms and legal departments still want to hire great talent and may keep a position posted, even if it’s on hold.
If you’re interested in a posting, it’s always worth applying. The search process can be long and frustrating, but you’ll never be considered if you don’t apply. A legal recruiter can provide insight on the hiring process and work with you on how to best approach your job search in the current legal market.
Few lawyers anticipate entering the profession during an economic downturn. Through my conversations with junior lawyers, I’ve found there are two ways they’re forwarding their careers during the pandemic:
1- Building their network
We should always be networking, no matter the circumstances. Although we’re practising physical distancing, now is still a great time to build your network. For further information on networking during the pandemic, please see our blog How do I network right now?
2- Developing resiliency
The downturn caused by Covid-19 is unlikely to be the last economic decline you’ll face in your career. Take the time now to cultivate resiliency skills that will carry you through any challenges you face in the future.

Pandemic or not, building a strong network and developing resiliency will serve you throughout your career. Each lawyer’s scenario is unique and there are many additional routes you can explore. If you’re seeking further advice on navigating your career right now, please feel free to reach out.
Given the state of the market, I understand lawyers are hesitant to make a move. Regardless, now is still a good time to discuss opportunities with your legal recruiter.
Changing roles takes time (usually one to three months). You need to have a clear idea of the type of role that is right for you, research firms, and apply. Then, there’s interviews and the decision-making process. If you wait, firms may already be in discussion with candidates by the time you start applying. In addition, competition for roles will only increase with time. Stay ahead of the curve by taking the time to explore the market now.
Use the time you have now wisely. Start with a confidential discussion with your legal recruiter today.
I know a few lawyers in this scenario right now. My first suggestion is to remain patient. In this market, ‘not now’ is not a ‘no’. Firms and companies are also trying to navigate this situation the best they can and ensure that when they bring you on, you’ll be stepping into a stable environment.
I also suggest keeping in regular contact with your prospective employer and let them know you remain interested. Try reaching out to someone else on the team to learn more about the organization and/or keep up to date by subscribing to their newsletter and following them on LinkedIn.
You can also explore other options. Some firms and legal departments are still hiring right now and there may be other opportunities where you can be brought on without delay. You can still interview for other roles, even if you’re in the running for a search that’s been put on hold. Position yourself in a way where, when the time comes, you’ll be able to accept an offer without extra delay.
This has been a frequently asked question since the Globe and Mail’s article on major law firms conserving cash by cutting lawyer salaries (published April 5, 2020). The article reported that two national law firms have reduced salaries between 10% to 15% for lawyers and staff.
So, the question is: will other Canadian firms follow suit?
As we keep saying, things are changing, and we don’t know how long it’ll take to return to some sort of normalcy. It’s safe to say that most (if not all) Managing Partners and Executives are closely observing budgets and forecasting, as best as possible. Firms are closely monitoring expenses, WIP, and receivables, while also figuring out which bills are likely to be paid. Uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 makes analysis difficult; however, it’s essential to ensure firms remain up and running.
At the time of writing this, we hadn’t heard of other firms reducing salaries; however, a protracted period of lockdown will inevitably see other firms follow suit.
At this moment, we haven’t seen mass layoffs at larger firms, but some smaller law firms have opted to temporarily let go of lawyers and staff.
Dal Bhathal
Managing Partner, Eastern Canada

416.364.6654

dal@thecounselnetwork.com Connect with me on LinkedIn
Right now, any movement you may see in the legal market is very selective. There are some lateral moves taking place, especially for searches that were started pre-Covid-19. Law firms and legal departments are generally in a ‘wait and see’ pattern and are reviewing things on a weekly basis.
Over the last two weeks, my colleagues and I have had many conversations with lawyers about the market and potential opportunities. Candidates are often surprised when we approach them about opportunities. Don’t be surprised! Although movement may have slowed down, the world is still moving forward and conversations about new opportunities always happening.
While options may be limited right now, lawyers should take the time to analyze where they are at in their legal career and really nail down their overall goals e.g. if you want to pivot to a new practice area, move in-house or continue along your current path, in the wake of Covid-19, that all requires careful thought and planning.
Now is the time to update your resume and transaction sheet. Beyond being essential for a job search, updating your resume allows you to reflect on your career to date. I recommend writing down all your skills, responsibilities, and accomplishments in detail. This information may be too much to include on a resume you would submit to a potential employer, but it provides a full scope of your abilities. You can always remove material later, but it’s incredibly valuable to capture it all. As time passes, it’s easy to forget details of things we did early in our career. Dedicate some time to self-reflection and do a deep dive into all aspects of your work history. Doing this now will pay off in the future when you may not have time to do this comprehensively.
It’s also important to have a knowledgeable recruitment consultant review your materials; they can provide feedback and shed light on relevant market trends and insights. So, if you’re considering a move, please send us your resume and we’ll be happy to review it for you.
For further information on writing resumes, please see our blogs on 10 Tips for Writing the Perfect Resume and New Year, New Job: Resumes.
Although hiring has slowed down, it doesn’t mean you should coast on your career. Think about what you like and don’t like about your current role, and how it aligns with your overall career aspirations. Consider what you need to do to advance within your current firm or company. If the outlook in your current organization isn’t promising, something as simple as making a mental shift in your thinking is a huge step towards moving into a role that better suits you.
In the meantime, get the most out of your current role or situation. Does your firm or company have an excess of work in some areas and a shortage in others? Do you have any skill gaps you would like to address? Say ‘Yes’ to work you may not have had an interest in before. This is an excellent opportunity to grow and broaden your skills, as well as increase your adaptability to open more doors in the future.
For further information on positioning yourself for the career you want, please see our blogs on Knowing When to Move Law Firms and In-House Lawyers Must Define and Pursue Own Career Vision.
Even prior to Covid-19, we frequently spoke with lawyers who would describe themselves as ‘busy’. We’re all busy. How often do we get the time to think about our career goals and position ourselves for success? Regardless of whether you’re currently employed, now is a great time to pause, take a step back, and assess your career thus far.
Our general advice is that you should always have a sense of where your career is going. Yes, these are unprecedented times, but that doesn’t mean you should ‘coast’ on your career. Obviously, other factors do come into consideration – say you’re unemployed and there are other obligations in your life making it impossible for you to have too big a gap on your CV. In this case, an alternative would be to take up a contractual role, if available.
If you’re actively seeking opportunities, it’s important to seek out advice from knowledgeable recruitment consultants with expertise in the legal market. Friends and family may lend a sympathetic ear; however, you need advice from an expert on managing your career now and in the future. Your legal recruiter may not have an immediate role for you, but they can provide up-to-date information on the market, work with you to identify your career goals, give advice on updating your CV, and connect you with the right role when it comes about. It’s about networking – this pandemic shouldn’t stop us from networking!
Here at The Counsel Network, we work closely with forward-thinking clients. Some law firms and legal departments are still actively recruiting; as things settle, the initial panic will cease, and we anticipate hiring will resume.
No matter your circumstances, we believe in taking a proactive approach to your career. Remember, career management is not just for dissatisfied lawyers, it’s for everyone. For further information, please see our blog on A Three-Stage Process for Law Career Success.
Although hiring has slowed down, some law firms and legal departments are continuing to add to their teams. Select areas of law remain highly active, including labour & employment, restructuring/insolvency, regulatory, cybersecurity/privacy, tax, litigation, and wills & estates. We also anticipate family law, class actions, and medical malpractice law will experience an uptick in the coming period. This could be an opportunity for lawyers to diversify their skillset and possibly integrate the aforementioned areas into their practice. Adaptability is key to reap the rewards change can bring and we encourage you to constantly challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone.
As things settle, we anticipate hiring will resume as both firms and companies still need to provide services to clients. We find many of our clients are taking a long-term view of their needs and are looking to take advantage of this time to focus on strategic talent needs, so that when we do turn a corner, they’ll be ready to hit the ground running.
Here at The Counsel Network, we are working with law firms and inhouse clients on exclusive opportunities. So please reach out to find out more about the opportunities available right now.
Currently, notwithstanding the pandemic, we have active mandates in every major market in Canada. As the markets recover, we are mindful any underlying economic issues specific to a region may become a greater factor in how career opportunities present. In the short term, we are seeing increased demand for litigation, insolvency, banking, tax, family, wills & estates to remain active across all markets – a trend we expect to continue for the balance of 2020.
Recruitment remains active in all markets, as star talent is, as always, in short supply. Many of our clients continue to actively recruit in the market, though understandably are proceeding with greater caution as they try to better understand the implications of the pandemic on market conditions. We are seeing early signs of optimism as both provincial and federal governments are beginning to ease social distancing measures, suggesting the most difficult stage of the pandemic is now behind us.
As the emergency phase of the pandemic wanes and the world reopens, we will be re-entering a working environment very different from the one we left in mid-March. We anticipate a permanent shift in many aspects of our workplaces we once took for granted.
Work-from-home arrangements will likely be normalized given its success over the past few months, especially if firms adopt a ‘start/stop’ approach to working in the office. When coworkers feel unwell or are symptomatic, even if it’s not Covid-19, we can expect WFH to be enforced without hesitation. There will also be much less travel for conferences, client meetings and other events.
Our social lives at work will change in other ways; it’s hard to imagine people being comfortable shaking hands, blowing out birthday candles, or sharing snacks. Law firms and legal departments will cut back on discretionary expenses, and we anticipate that in the lean times ahead, with smaller, more targeted forms of networking being favored over large party style events, both in response to the perceived health safety issues, but also wanting to avoid excessive displays of wealth.
As provinces rollout their ‘back to normal’ plans, lawyers are wondering whether it’s a good idea to reach out to a recruitment professional to discuss the market and potential opportunities.
As a legal recruiter, I’m always happy to chat with candidates. And sometimes it’s just that – a general conversation. Simply introducing yourself and describing your current situation can be the best conversation starter. Be authentic and honest about your expectations. If you’ve found an opportunity you’re interested in or need career advice, feel free to ask any questions you may have. Have gaps on your CV you’re concerned about? Your legal recruiter can help you navigate the matter.
Know your experience, know your why, and just be yourself. While the job market has slowed down, a good legal recruiter should always make time to speak with you about any questions or concerns you may have. For further information on working with a legal recruiter, please see our blog on What Your Legal Recruiter Needs to Know About You.
My advice is to get as much experience in as many practice areas as you possibly can. Don't be too narrow; even if there are areas you know you don’t want to focus exclusively on, gain some experience anyway in case you need to draw upon that experience later. Pull out all stops to learn and gain broad exposure to clients, lawyers, and work. Participate in CBA and local Bar events and get to know your peers beyond your firm. This can be an incredible network for you as your career progresses. Seek feedback on your work and continuously improve your skills. Finally, remember the pandemic will eventually pass, and you will likely have a very normal career in the decades ahead. Build yourself a strong foundation and social network now that will serve you well in the future.
For further information on networking during Covid-19, please see our blog How do I network right now?.

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