Stability will remain a priority for many employees and organisations this year, especially as businesses and the workforce grapple with a tough economic climate and geopolitical uncertainties.

According to our 2024 Workmonitor research in Singapore, 52% of respondents are afraid of losing their jobs – an eye-opening statistic that sheds light on the sentiments in the job market. Workers in Singapore remain reluctant to switch jobs, at least for the first half of the year, as they focus on job security and internal growth opportunities.

At the same time, companies are recalibrating and restructuring to optimise existing resources, including their workforce. With the pressure to innovate, transform and optimise, hiring expectations have only increased.

Employers are looking for skilled and experienced talent who can hit the ground running while maintaining costs. However, finding the right talent may take longer with higher expectations in tow, putting a strain on the existing workforce as they push themselves to deliver consistent, if not better, results than the previous year. Companies will continue to hire in 2024, albeit being more deliberate about their workforce decisions.

Read on to understand the industry trends and talent movements impacting the legal sector in Singapore, and how you can future-proof your workforce this year.

talent and skills legal report
talent and skills legal report

legal market trends and talent movements

The legal job market in Singapore remains resilient amid ongoing transformation. Generally, there is a sense of cautious optimism for the second half of 2024, with expectations of a recovery.

We saw rightsizing starting in the latter half of 2023, primarily in the technology industry. Similar restructuring exercises were observed across other sectors including manufacturing, real estate, and financial services.

Despite this rightsizing activity, there are still areas of growth particularly within the energy, infrastructure and commodities sectors.

Where hiring is concerned, companies are choosing to adopt a more deliberate approach, ensuring that they hire the most suitable individuals, even if it means prolonging the recruitment process. Meanwhile, job seekers have high salary expectations and may be more hesitant to change jobs due to economic uncertainty.

We have observed that hiring managers strongly prefer talent who have a growth mindset, are agile enough to wear different hats in their roles, and demonstrate the right attitude and aptitude.

In a talent-scarce market, it is crucial for employers to strike a balance between efficiency and aligning themselves with talent expectations to secure top talent in 2024.

legal workers must stay agile and adaptable
legal workers must stay agile and adaptable

in-house legal market trends & talent movements

Singapore remains a key legal hub in Asia Pacific, often serving as the regional base for global law firms. However, due to differences in legal jurisdictions and cost considerations, companies are increasingly seeking to place legal talent closer to their operations within Asia Pacific, resulting in leaner teams in Singapore.

Since 2023, salaries for lawyers have increased significantly due to intense competition within private practices. Consequently, companies often replace roles with talent who have fewer years of experience than the incumbent. The majority of talent demand at present is for legal professionals with three to eight years of post-qualification experience (PQE).

private practice market trends & talent movements

In 2024, most law firms aim to maintain their current organisational structures, with only a few planning strategic expansions, with a focus on hiring counsels or partners in specific practice areas or markets to further deepen their capabilities. Hiring for associates and senior associates is mainly to replace outgoing staff rather than for expansionary needs.

There is growth observed in dispute, project development and finance practices. However, corporate, M&A (mergers and acquisitions) and capital markets remain sluggish due to the high interest rates and macroeconomic uncertainties. To address excess capacity, firms have embarked on secondment programmes for their lawyers to clients or partner firms in the region.

Many law firms are expanding their regional capabilities. As the ideal city-state for the industry in the region, Singapore offers easy access to markets like Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. Some firms are also exiting Hong Kong SAR, mainland China and Malaysia to focus on strengthening their regional capabilities in Singapore.

2024 legal talent trends and expectations

Legal talent is highly driven by their ambition. While salary still plays a significant role, they are also guided by non-monetary factors such as career growth and having time to enjoy life beyond work.

AI skilling important to legal professionals

Notably, Singaporeans are proactive in future-proofing their careers, with 44% taking personal responsibility for training and upskilling. Among their learning interests, 39% are keen on AI education. 

The pressure to improve efficiency and services is driving the application of AI in organisations around the world. However, AI is raising new legal questions, from how we handle creative AI outputs to how we protect intellectual property. This rapid adoption requires legal professionals to adapt and understand the legal implications of this technology, particularly in copyright and data privacy laws to ensure ethical AI use by businesses.

greater flexibility needed for better work-life balance

Flexibility is another ubiquitous influence on today’s labour landscape, and legal talent is no exception. 

Many law firms continue to adopt a hybrid work model post-pandemic. However, this flexibility varies where in-house firms are concerned, with some mandating on-premise work as they conflate presenteeism with productivity.

Over the past six months, 67% of employees believe that their employer has become stricter about ensuring that staff work on-premises. This is laid in stark contrast to their ideals of flexible work: 49% of workers would reconsider their job options if their employer requests them to spend more time in the office.

Singapore has introduced guidelines on flexible work arrangements aimed at ensuring fair consideration of requests by employers. To be implemented on 1 December 2024, the work-life balance narrative will shift from structured work models to flexibility with intentionality, as employers address workforce needs in a way that promotes culture, performance and engagement.

download our legal talent & skills report for singapore

The legal talent landscape is always evolving as companies respond to changes in the macroenvironment. Download Randstad's 2024 Legal Talent Report for private practice & in-house insights to uncover talent movement trends, new skill demands, and salary benchmarks across industries like energy, financial services, technology, FMCG, healthcare, and manufacturing.

download legal report
download legal report

partner with randstad

If you’re looking to strengthen your legal team in Singapore, let us help you find the skilled professionals you’re looking for. Connect with our recruitment specialists to learn more about talent expectations and key labour trends to effectively plan your business strategy for the year.

Need to tap into contract workers to support your business growth? Work with us for tailored end-to-end recruitment and HR services solutions. Alternatively, if you are an active candidate, explore your options in today’s world of work. Check out our latest job listings and apply for jobs.

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