It should as no surprise that the I am writing about recruiting during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has indeed impacted all our lives, both personally and professionally. While I certainly understand and have my own challenges due to the pandemic, there is good news in the world of legal recruiting.
First, many law firms have adapted to using technology to effectively recruit lateral partners. Zoom is now part of our everyday vernacular and has become an essential online tool for hiring. In the early days of the pandemic, I thought that legal recruiting would veer off a cliff. However, the legal world has adapted. It turns out, in many ways, virtually interviewing is an efficient way for both law firms and candidates to get to know one another. An added benefit, especially for lateral candidates that do not want to be seen entering the physical location of a competing firm, is that virtual interviews offer a level of confidentiality.
Second, integrating a new hire into a new firm is an essential part of the recruiting process. Firms have been innovative in onboarding their new hires. One example is that firms are setting up practice group Zoom meetings so that the new person can present his or her expertise, clients, and marketing ideas. I also know firms are using this technology to welcome new hires through social events. One firm does a Zoom welcome breakfast where all of the attorneys bring their own coffee to the meet & greet. It is great to see these firms get creative with remote work. And like I said, it is important, from a recruiting perspective, for lawyers to feel welcome and accepted at their new firms.
Third, and unrelated to technology, the market remains quite active for lateral hires. Firms continue to look to acquisition for growth. So, partner-level lawyers with portable business are in demand. As I am a candidate-facing recruiter, I see more lawyers with these attributes open to changing firms. As reported around the country, there is an exodus of people leaving urban areas. Therefore, I see lawyers who want to get out of the city and practice more in the suburbs. I suspect this trend will grow as remote-work wanes. Also, I see lawyers that want to work closer to home due to family obligation. Those with kids home-schooling or with care issues for family members not only want to be closer to home, they want to find a firm with more flexibility. This is where law firm culture may matter the most. Law firms that recognize these increased stresses and adapt will keep their top talent. Those who do not are at risk.
Last, with financial uncertainty, law firms are being very careful before bringing on lateral hires. For a partner wishing to join another firm, he or she must do some due diligence. You will need to know what portable business you have with a higher degree of certainty. Further, the hiring firm most likely will want to see a business plan that will outline how you will retain existing business, attract new business, cross-sell your services to existing clients and so forth. Also, candidates should be prepared to articulate what support will be needed. Examples of such support include marketing budget, associate assistance, and administrative help.
These are some of the trends that I see in my world. Again, while COVID-19 has caused havoc in our lives, there are opportunities for lawyers who want to find a better fit law firm.