How Law Firms Can Stand Out in the War for Legal Talent

This is written in the context of arguably the most competitive and candidate-short period of the legal market in New Zealand ever. Increasingly we are asked by our clients what they can do to stand out amongst the crowd when trying to secure the top legal talent in the market. There are very few intermediate and senior level candidates, causing a large number of competitive multi-offer scenarios, and not everyone can win – so how do you boost your chances?

 

Here is a summary of our advice to law firms:

 

1. Make the interview process as enjoyable as possible

The interview is where the magic happens. Not only is it the best opportunity you have to find out more about the candidate in front of you, more importantly this is the firms best opportunity to sell why your firm is the best option available, considering the candidate is more than likely considering other potential moves.

How do you make an interview more enjoyable? De-formalise and de-structure where possible (within reason). Candidates feel more comfortable when the interview is conversational and dialogue can flow both ways. You still want to give the person plenty of opportunity to convey their fit and tell you about their experience to date, but steer away from the old fashioned panel interview with a regimented set of formal questions as this no longer creates a positive impression.

If you can, bring in multiple members of your team and ensure everyone is well briefed before heading into the meeting. This may include bringing in associates rather than solely partners, to increase the chances of the candidate forming positive personal connections (depending on their level, of course).

Where possible, show the candidate around the firm’s office and ensure you tell the firm ‘story’ – you would be amazed how many candidates will give us positive feedback based on an anecdotal tale of days gone by – so give them something tangible that represents your firm culture.

 

2. Be decisive and communicate the opportunity clearly

Two of the key reasons firms fail to secure the talent they are after are unnecessary delays and poorly communicated roles.

It is important that those in the interview know what is on offer and what the key selling points are. If the role isn’t fully scoped, ensure at least that you have a good idea of what the potential options are should the candidate impress.

Have you outlined:

  • The actual day-to-day, with out JD jargon – in simple terms – what does this role set out to achieve?
  • Progression opportunities/timelines and how to get there.
  • Mentorship – who will be looking after this person? Very important to establish and develop that relationship.

We always advise our clients to debrief as soon as possible after the interview, and it may be helpful to schedule a post-interview debrief ahead of time to ensure that actually happens. Providing feedback to the recruitment consultant and by extension the candidate needs to be timely. Timely feedback shows positive intent whereas delays or periods of radio silence create an impression of disorganisation within a firm. So while it is important that these big decisions aren’t rushed – be prepared to make a call.

 

3. ‘The Sell’ – let your people do the talking

A second interview is a highly undervalued recruitment tool in our opinion. It not only gives a law firm the opportunity to solidify their impression of the candidate and clear up any remaining reservations, it also gives the candidate another chance to form a positive impression of the firm, and often times they will be more relaxed the second time around.

Particularly for intermediate level candidates, but true for all, the most effective ‘sell’ doesn’t actually come from the partners of the firm, or from your recruitment consultant, but from your staff themselves. If you have a positive, happy culture full with people ready to sing the praises of the firm – use it. Get the candidate in again – even if you are totally sold they are the right person – and use it as an opportunity to close the deal. Create a relaxed social environment, coffee for example, and let your people do the talking. Many employers will be surprised how important a firm’s social culture is to a candidate when choosing between multiple offers.

 

4. Get up with the play – do you offer what modern candidates want?

The first three points have related to process and how you best present the firm to potential new employees, and while that is very important, you cannot forget the nuts and bolts of what you offer when the contract hits the candidate’s inbox.

Firstly you need to ensure your offer is competitive – ask your consultant for guidance.

But more importantly is to create an offering which holistically aligns to what the candidate wants to achieve. This cannot happen overnight and modern day firms with ambition need to ensure they are ahead of the curve and with all their ducks in a row in this respect.

So what matters most to candidates?

  • Flexible working policies – no longer a differentiator, but a must have.
  • Workload management – how do you prevent burnout in your lawyers and support staff?
  • Wellness benefits – a token of care for your people, also no longer a differentiator. What do you offer over and above salary?
  • Tech – modern workplaces demand suitable IT infrastructure, which good candidates expect
  • Clear progression pathways – what better time to outline the way forward.

 

5. Partner with a consultant you trust

Now of course we are totally biased when it comes to point five, but only because we genuinely believe in the value of the service we provide. I am very proud of my track record in helping clients to implement some of the aforementioned strategies to better compete for, and ultimately secure, the best talent in the legal market.

You need to partner with a consultant who knows your firm, understands the bottom line of your strategies, and can credibly advise on how to close deals for candidates you want to hire. The important part here is trust, and that needs to be mutual. Allow your consultant to advise you and place emphasis on your willingness to adapt, innovate and act decisively to make the deal happen.

For more information, or a confidential discussion how how we could help your firm, please feel free to reach out on 021 0443607 or eden@fluidrecruitment.co.nz

 

Published by Eden Brown

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