Latest news – Record female representation; Rising cost of hiring mistakes; Diversity tracking inadequate

[Australasian Law Management Journal,Finance & Accounting,General Management,Strategy & Leadership] August 31, 2021

Proportion of female solicitors keeps rising

New national research reveals that the percentage of women making up the Australian legal profession has hit a record.

The fifth National Profile of Solicitors report, presenting a demographic picture of the legal profession in Australia, was released in July. It reveals that over the past nine years, there has been a +45 per cent increase in the number of solicitors practising in Australia. There are now 83,643 solicitors nationally, 26,066 more than in 2011.

The majority of Australian solicitors continue to work in private practice (67 per cent). However, over the past nine years there has been strong growth in the corporate legal and the government legal sectors (+82 per cent and +88 per cent, respectively). Meanwhile, private practice has grown by +30 per cent in the same period

At the national level more than half of all solicitors are female (53 per cent) – a trend first observed in 2018. For the first time since reporting commenced, there is a greater proportion of female solicitors across all states and territories, with particularly high representations in the Northern Territory (61 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (60 per cent).

Over the past nine years, the growth rate of female solicitors (+67 per cent) has been higher than that of male solicitors (+26 per cent), further indicating that more women are entering the profession. Female solicitors outnumber male solicitors in the government legal (68 per cent), corporate legal (60 per cent) and community legal sectors (71 per cent); and comprise just under half of solicitors in private practice (48 per cent).

The report is based on data provided by state and territory law societies and regulators.

 

High price to pay for hiring mistakes

The average cost of a bad hire can be between 15 per cent to 21 per cent of that employee’s salary, depending on seniority, according to new research.

Specialised recruiter Robert Half found in its survey that almost nine in 10 (86 per cent) of Australian business leaders believe the negative impact of a bad hire is more severe today than it was a year ago. The top reasons for making a hiring mistake include focusing too much on a candidate’s potential match with company culture at the expense of technical skills (38 per cent) and over-emphasising technical skills at the expense of soft skills (35 per cent).

As companies pursue ambitious growth agendas and the competition for skilled talent intensifies, organisations cannot afford to take a misstep in their talent strategy, according to Robert Half. Among the respondents, the severity of a bad hire varies by department and business size. While three-quarters of large organisations (500+ headcount) believe the cost of a bad hire is more severe today, this rises to 91 per cent among SMEs. A higher proportion of CIOs (90 per cent) believe the cost of a bad hire is more severe today than CFOs (83 per cent).

The research shows that a bad hire can cost an employer up to 21 per cent of that employee’s salary, with the extent of the impact depending on the industry and seniority of the role. The impact of a bad-hire among technology professionals is felt more acutely than other sectors, with a bad director-level tech hire costing up to nearly a quarter more than their initial salary.

An employee who does not fulfil their job description can have a negative bottom-line impact due to lost revenue or lost productivity. Beyond the immediate costs, a bad hire can cause an expensive ripple effect throughout an organisation – from wasting time hiring and training the recruit, to decreasing morale and productivity among impacted teams, and increasing stress on supervisors and managers.

 

Survey highlights shortfalls with diversity tracking

A new annual legal benchmarking survey indicates that companies can do more to track diversity metrics.

The Association of Corporate Counsel survey for 2021, called Law Department Management Benchmarking Report, found that just 29 per cent of companies track internal diversity metrics. Of those that do, 47 per cent have a formal strategy to improve in this area.

The survey was conducted between March and May of 2021 and covered 493 legal departments in 24 industries in 30 countries.

Another key finding was that contract management software tops the priority list of in-house legal departments when it comes to spending on technology. The report, which was published in partnership with global legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, showed that of the respondents, 42 per cent nominated contract management tech as being among the top three areas of legaltech in which they invested the most.

Spending on compliance (15 per cent) and legal research services (10 per cent) took second and third place, respectively. The survey results show that for 84 per cent of the respondents, the function of compliance fell within their remit.