Hiring in Legal: In-house legal teams set to grow

Silvia Quirino, Manager at Robert Walters Vietnam

Where companies outsourced the legal function to law firms in previous years, this trend reversed in 2022. “During 2022, companies shifted their focus to internalising their legal teams. This was done for cost savings reasons, but also to have an internal headcount that is closer to the business, as they deal directly with internal stakeholders,” explains Silvia Quirino, Senior Manager at Robert Walters Vietnam.

Particularly in the case of real estate and construction companies in Vietnam that have experienced growth and mergers and acquisitions, it was critical to have internal lawyers to cover such deals.

Speaking on challenges within the legal hiring market in 2022, Silvia notes, “The war for talent among law firms in Vietnam has intensified as firms have grown. Firms seek qualified candidates but there is a limited number of experienced lawyers among the talent pool. Yet overwhelmingly, companies find that they do not have the time to hire young professionals and nurture them within the firm. This talent crunch is also exacerbated by fixed impressions that candidates have of various firms’ culture and reputation, which may hold them back from considering these firms.”

Read on to find out more about Silvia’s expectations of Vietnam’s labour market and hiring trends for Legal & Corporate Governance professionals in 2023.

Bigger in-house teams, wider scope for leaders

In 2023, the drive to lessen reliance on external firms and strengthen internal legal teams will continue. Among multinational companies, the compliance function is also gaining relevance.

Lawyers sitting at Head of Legal positions will also have more exposure to their companies’ regional teams and headquarters, Silvia adds. As a result, demand for strong business acumen and English communication skills will likely go up.

Candidates with similar experiences preferred

For companies growing their internal teams, there will be a preference for candidates with in-house experience over lawyers coming straight from law firms. Industry-specific experience is also highly valued, especially for industries such as real estate, retail and pharmaceuticals which have their own distinct sets of regulations. M&A experience will also be highly sought after.

“As such, legal counsel roles will be in demand among in-house teams. On the side of law firms, we expect strong demand for M&A and corporate finance lawyers,” says Silvia.

Secure winning talents fast

“Different factors cause candidates to move jobs. The common ones include seeking out new environments or better culture fit. Many also come across a better opportunity to advance their career or obtain higher wages, or they want to enter trendy industries, like consumer or technology sectors,” Silvia observes. “The biggest push factor for lawyers in law firms seeking to move in-house is a desire for better work-life balance.”

Given the talent crunch, Silvia advises that openness and speed are vital when it comes to winning candidates over. “Move fast in the selection process and be open to high potential candidates, even if they lack the industry experience you’re looking for. Competitive compensation packages and benefits can also seal the deal,” she shares. “This new generation of professionals are drawn to workplaces that have a positive work culture, so strengthen your employer branding.”

Salaries consistent but more benefits expected

Salaries in 2023 will likely be kept consistent to present levels in the market, but companies will introduce more benefits like bonuses or flexible work arrangements.

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