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Technology Legal Market Update

Posted on December 2020 By Anthony Hanna

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The Selby Jennings Legal recruitment team has expanded its coverage to include support in securing exceptional legal talent across financial services as well as technology. Our Technology Legal team, who exclusively focus on in-house roles within the Technology industry, have had to adapt to a new way of working to ensure we continue to support the legal advancements in the market. We are pleased to report that it has been another record year for the team, growing 221% over the last 3 years. Efficient and fast delivery into essential open positions and the continued growth of our candidate and client network has been our priority.

To find out what types of Legal vacancies we have available, click here.

Throughout this unprecedented year of 2020, we have seen movements in all industries when it comes to the ever-changing legal recruitment market. We wanted to share an update regarding skillset trends we are seeing in the Technology Legal space and tips on running an effective hiring process in the COVID-19 environment.

What skillsets are hot?

We witnessed a slowdown in hiring during the early lockdown months of March and April. However, the demand for Legal talent has stormed back and hiring is once again a priority for many firms. We have seen the following skillsets in high demand:

SaaS and Software Licensing– Legal professionals with experience drafting and negotiating SaaS and software licensing agreements have been in demand throughout 2020. Many clients prefer candidates with in-house experience that have collaborated with Sales and Business Development teams. The hotspot has been 4-7 years of experience. We haven’t seen too many clients seeking more junior individuals as they want experienced hires who can hit the ground running from day one as virtually training people is not as easy as doing it in-person. These vacancies have been common at smaller start-ups and larger companies as well.

DaaS and Data Licensing– Data vendors have been resilient throughout the pandemic and some have expressed to us things have gotten even busier. GCs we’ve spoken to have cited that prospective clients have specifically sought “new” data to provide insights into the current environment as historical “non-pandemic” data might not be as useful due to changes in consumer and enterprise behavior. Financial services firms, mainly hedge funds, asset managers, and banks, have been highly active in seeking new data sources.

The best candidates will not only have experience drafting and negotiating data licensing agreements, but also have client-facing skills and an ability to discuss the data in a meaningful way with customers. Clients have also asked for candidates to have Privacy experience, especially those that deal with consumer data.

Corporate and Securities – We have seen an uptick in roles seeking candidates with corporate and securities experience, primarily with late-stage/pre-IPO companies. Investors are becoming more active again in utilizing their capital and the IPO market has been hot. These attorneys will help firms through financing rounds, IPOs, and dealing with securities matters once they are public. Companies that have gone public this year have done quite well in terms of stock price, and other firms are looking to follow suit and capitalize on this environment.

Privacy– As the pandemic has accelerated the shift to all things digital, Privacy experience has been in demand. Many technology firms have seen an increase in demand for their products and services and Legal hiring for this skillset will help them grow safely. Knowledge of GDPR, CCPA, privacy by design, and cyber-security regulations have been regularly sought after for these positions. Many clients have asked for candidates to be CIPP certified as well.

Product Counsels– Product counsels have continued to stay in demand, mostly for pre-IPO and public companies. Lawyers that work cross-functionally across different business units such as engineering teams, marketing departments, operations teams that have a combination of experience with tech transactions, regulatory compliance, privacy, and IP typically perform the best in interview processes.

Antitrust – Our larger Technology clients have sought to hire in-house attorneys to handle current and anticipated antitrust legal issues. Some expect the incoming political administration to be more bullish on legal challenges revolving around antitrust and unfair competition. Ideal candidates will have 8+ years of experience; junior candidates are typically not sought after as this space requires a great deal of expertise. Associates within Antitrust groups at law firms have also seen these clients ask for secondments to deal with these matters in the short term.

Regulatory Compliance – Technology companies that focus on hardware and infrastructure products, such as microchips and data centers, have been adding attorneys to their Legal teams with strong regulatory backgrounds. These individuals will have experience developing compliance frameworks and ensuring adherence to global regulations dealing with advertising & promotions, fraud & abuse, anti-kickback, and privacy. Typically these positions are looking for 5+ years of experience.

COVID 19 Hiring Practices – How to Run an Effective Process

Evaluating talent in the current environment is certainly different than what we are used to. As most firms are in a work from home setting indefinitely, the ability to meet people in person is difficult. This also presents other challenges that we address below.

  • Zoom calls and Microsoft Teams meetings– Video conferences have been a backbone in interview processes for many of our clients. What used to be first round phone screens have turned into first round video interviews. For final round interviews that were traditionally all-day in-person meetings, they are now done over video.

  • Evaluating personality/culture fit – This has the been the biggest grievance of not being able to meet people face-to-face. Clients have made a point to have discussions with candidates on non-work-related topics to help assess this. Additionally, we have seen some clients ask for more references than usual and place a bigger emphasis on culture and personality related questions in these references check calls.

  • Pace of the process– It is easier for processes to move more quickly during the work from home environment as candidates don’t need to find space to get away from the office to take calls or physically go to an office for an interview. As switching jobs during this environment is new for most candidates, we have seen clients space out interviews to keep a pace that is not too quick so that candidates feel comfortable with the opportunity by the time an offer comes out. As opposed to all-day interviews, we have seen clients split final rounds into 2 different sessions to help with this. We have also seen clients offer candidates a chance to have follow-up conversations with hiring managers after final rounds so that candidates can ask any last questions and clear up concerns. This has been one of the most helpful tactics we have seen to quell any concerns that might arise from a process moving too quickly.

Looking Ahead to 2021

We expect the Technology Legal space to continue to grow as we move into 2021. Consumer outlook seems to be optimistic as vaccines are being approved and rolled out across the world, and the work from home environment has created a demand for products and services that likely won’t dissipate at things get back to “normal.” We have already started having discussions with some of our clients regarding their hiring plans for next year to get a head start on sourcing talent.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any hiring needs or would like to have a general chat about trends in the market.