What to Expect from the 2023 Job Market: 4 Predictions on How the Legal Sector Could Be Affected

So far, it appears 2023 is going to be another great year for job seekers. Unemployment rates have continued to drop and are now hovering around 3.7 percent as of November 2022.

However, despite these numbers and a resilient labor market amid more rate hikes, not everyone is having an easy time finding employment. Opportunities vary greatly, even in this economy, based on the industry, skill level, and capabilities. So, if you’re looking for a new job, knowing what’s hot—and what is not—can lead to a more successful search.

While it is hard to definitively predict how the labor market will turn in the new year, Valiant Search, an executive search firm, has put together a list of the four most likely predictions for the labor market in 2023, and a peek into how they might impact the legal sector.

The Talent Shortage Will Continue

Unemployment has stayed at an all-time low throughout 2022, and we project that will continue in 2023. The imbalance between job openings and job seekers will remain the same. Finding new talent will be a struggle for businesses.

Whether it is fallout from the pandemic or a combination of the limits on immigration and the aging of the baby boomers, the labor market will most likely continue to remain tight. This claim is further backed up by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections for 2021-2031, which projects a large number of vacant jobs will remain through 2031, coinciding with when the youngest of the baby boomers will reach the traditional retirement age.

On the other hand, we project fewer voluntary separations in 2023, meaning employers will be able to keep current employees even as the economy continues to head downward.

While the job market could soften as economic conditions change, hopefuls should consider acting now while the market favors the seeker.

Hiring Timelines Will Get Even Faster

Candidate-oriented timelines will become the norm. With the talent shortage discussed earlier, companies are going to have to get competitive with more than just salary and benefits. Things like better work-life balance, flexible working arrangements, and investing in mental wellness were all listed over compensation and benefits in LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report. To no one’s surprise, the number of job postings listing things like work flexibility and opportunities for remote work has increased by 83 percent since 2019.

As a result, these aggressive hiring strategies will define companies that are proactively hiring and retaining candidates rather than reactively hiring.

Purpose and Value-Driven Initiatives

Bleeding into our last topic on aggressive hiring strategies, young workers are also evaluating their employers’ sustainability and purpose. Gen Z’ers are making employment decisions around a company’s environmental practices. They are weighing values much higher than previous generations and sometimes more than their paycheck. Green initiatives, sustainability, and earth-friendly values are worth investing in for your company and employees. Bringing heart into the workplace leads to more fulfilled employees and a healthier work environment.

Mental Health Awareness Will Continue to Rise

Economic uncertainty and increased virtual workspaces are going to affect employee happiness and security. Coupled with the rise of “quiet quitting” among the U.S. workforce, managers and decision-makers should put focus on connection across teams and supporting cultures of belonging. Having open discussions about mental well-being and coping mechanisms can promote feelings of connection and support within teams. Collaboration, communication, and trust are essential to productive teamwork.

Further, according to a 2022 American Psychological Association poll, “Seven in 10 workers (71%) believe their employer is more concerned about the mental health of employees now than in the past. This new focus is highly valued by employees. In fact, 81% of individuals said they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health when they seek future job opportunities.”

Additional Impact on the Legal Market

Here are a few predictions that are specific to the legal industry. The first is that solo practitioners will continue to struggle. One trend we have started to see in the past year is that many solo practitioners will look to transition into a firm or merge with a partner to relieve pressure.

Also, we expect that more attorneys will seek to change their practice areas. The rise in legal work during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to higher levels of burnout among experienced attorneys. So, with years of experience under their belts, we project job-seeking attorneys will want to fundamentally change their daily work by switching practice areas.

A Glimpse Into 2023

As always, it is hard to predict with certainty how the economy will swing; however, by keeping yourself abreast of what employees and employers are hoping for, you can best navigate the tumultuous labor market. It appears that the power still remains with the job seeker, as companies continue to try and offer flexibility and other benefits, along with opting for a more aggressive approach to hiring, to try to find and retain quality candidates in a tight job market.

Sean Macari is the CEO and owner of Valiant Search LLC, where he is responsible for assisting attorneys in their legal search and introducing top talent to law firms throughout New York and other markets across the United States.


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