Strategic Recruitment - Winning the War for Talent

8/8/2016 - By Zachary Farrington

Competition has always been fierce for the legal profession’s best and brightest. The current upturn in the legal marketplace has only heightened the war for top talent — whether it’s a partner with a strong following or an associate with specialized skills who can plug a gap in the firm’s offerings.

With the best lawyers in high demand and short supply, law firms must be prepared to head onto the recruitment battlefield with a solid plan in place. Consider these key steps for recruiting and retaining the top-flight lawyers you need:

Get buy-in. Getting the go-ahead to recruit talent requires buy-in on several levels. For example, you will have to not only get the partners to agree on the need to recruit the necessary expertise, but also to agree on spending the money to acquire it. In addition to salary and benefits, this might include fees paid to a recruiter and ramp up time for work-in-process. 

Give recruiting proper focus and attention. Manage the recruitment process like any other important project. Develop a screening and interview process, establish milestones and articulate in detail exactly what you are looking for.

Sell the opportunity. Candidates don’t need to know that the talent supply is lean and your firm has been looking for the right candidate for months. What they do need to know is that the opportunity you are offering is the position to have and why it’s so great. This means highlighting what makes your firm a desirable place to work — everything from your corporate culture and past successes to flexible work arrangements and opportunities for career development. Remember that candidates will leave the meeting and share their impressions with their friends and colleagues. You want your firm to have the reputation in the market as the place to work. 

Work and play well with recruiters. Law firms have traditionally had a love-hate relationship with headhunters. But used properly, a legal search firm can be an effective recruitment tool. 

Small law firms, in particular, can benefit from a good legal recruiter who draws candidates’ attention to opportunities and markets that may otherwise go unnoticed. Keep the process under control by developing strong relationships with a manageable number of high-quality search firms, as opposed to engaging in a general cattle call. 

Make the right offer. If you are working with a recruiting firm, be open to what they have to say about getting the offer right. A package that falls way short of expectations may cause the candidate to walk.

Recruit the other “knowledge workers” your firm needs. It’s not only the fee-earners who bring value to a law firm. Other “knowledge workers” who can provide a competitive edge for your firm include the employees who provide specialist support in human resources, business development, financial analysis, risk management and marketing.

Win the Battle 

The recruiting process isn’t over just because your top candidate has accepted the offer. If your new hire is, indeed, the best and brightest, counter-offers may fly as a current employer tries its best not to lose valuable talent. 

The strategic approach here is to stay in close contact with your candidate. Check in to share news about a deal or a new initiative that will make the new hire realize he or she is doing the right thing in deciding to join your firm. 


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