What Impact has Covid-19 had on the intellectual property sector according to survey data?
In the Fellows and Associates IP salary survey this year we were able to ask respondents what impact Covid-19 had on their working life. The data was collected during May and most of June this year when the pandemic was at its height in the UK.
The IP profession is proving pretty resilient in the opinion of respondents with only 20% saying that Covid-19 will have a significant impact on their employer and 13% who said it would have a significant impact on themselves. This might reflect the balance between industry and private practice where there is likely more uncertainty in the former than the latter. 32% of respondents felt that the pandemic would have no impact on them at all. This tracks with a recent YouGov poll that said that 40% of their respondents expect their finances to remain in the same state in the next 12 months.
However, the figures above are at odds with concerns over job security with 56% of respondents saying that they are concerned about job security with their current employer as a result of Covid-19. Less people are highly likely to move jobs this year (11%) compared with last year (22%). And 40% of respondents have said that they have changed their mind about moving as a result of Covid-19.
Once again support for work life balance is the key driver for respondents when evaluating a prospective employer although interestingly remote working is only fifth on the list of priorities (after salary, atmosphere and flexible working hours).
What does this mean for employers? Well it may mean that; counterintuitively given what we have all just been through and the circumstances of the wider economy, it could be more difficult to find candidates over the next twelve months. If people are more reluctant to move positions and willing to compromise more to keep what they currently have then enticing people away will involve more creative thinking. Clear policies and strategies for delivering a great work-life balance may be crucial and potentially salary incentives as well, particularly if salary increases are frozen by the firms potential employers are trying to attract attorneys from.
Beyond the survey I am concerned about trainee positions. We have had a noticeable increase in the volume of graduate/post graduate applications recently which may be a sign that they are not able to find a position with a firm as a trainee attorney. A reduction in trainee numbers will have a long-term impact on recruitment in the future in a way that would replicate what happened in 2010-12 after low trainee numbers following the financial crisis. Some firms have told us that they are continuing with trainee postings for the autumn which is encouraging but I still worry that overall numbers will be down. For people reading this who want to enter the profession I would recommend the websites IPCareers and Careers in Ideas. IP recruiters don’t typically recruit entry level roles.
Finally, and entirely anecdotally it does appear that the IP recruitment market is beginning to pick up again in the UK. We’ve had more new instructions in July than we had in total from April to June and I do think there may be some dormant demand. We were incredibly busy at the beginning of the year and many firms tell us that they have not seen a significant drop off in overall turnover. So, one might imagine that some of the requirements from the beginning of the year will still be there and as firms begin to feel more confident about the future they will resume the recruitment process for these roles relatively quickly.
For more on the salary survey you can read the full report here.
Pete Fellows is the Managing Director of Fellows and Associates.