Recruitment Rut? Here’s How to Get Top Legal Talent in the Door

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Law firms are in the midst of a talent war: a recent survey found that nearly one-third of lawyers say recruitment is the top management challenge for their law firm.

Attracting legal talent is no easy feat. But this probably isn’t news to you. 

So how do you stand apart from the crowd of employers competing for the best candidates’ attention?

The most qualified candidates know that the experiences many top firms provide will be nearly identical, so they’ll prefer organizations that align with their values. You need to emphasize what differentiates you. 

Here are five ways your law firm can build a compelling identity that will bring your next crop of star attorneys through the door.

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1. Highlight Your Firm’s Tech Offerings and Flexible Work Policies

Cutting-edge technology and flexible work policies are two incentives that top candidates will prioritize in their job search. 

Like every other industry, legal is going digital. Millennials especially are used to interfacing with technology throughout the workday, and that means millennial attorneys won’t be interested in performing menial tasks that a computer could do for them. They want to find innovative ways to use tech to do their jobs better.   

As your firm introduces new software, hardware, and web-based resources that improve your client communications and legal services, convey that impact in job descriptions, interview conversations, and other recruitment messaging. Take your language a step beyond simply listing job responsibilities; position your firm as tech-forward. 

Recent law school grads and mid-career professionals alike agree that the days of always being in the office from nine to five are over. In a recent survey by Robert Half Legal, close to 70 percent of lawyers interviewed said that the ability to work remotely or have flexible hours is the most attractive incentive in deciding whether to join a new firm.

If you currently allow flexible work schedules, be sure to call that out in job descriptions, interviews, and recruitment messaging as well. 

Even if you don’t, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is the direction legal is headed. According to the ABA’s latest salary guide, more than half of law firms offer some sort of flexible work policy. 

2. Showcase Your Firm’s Success Stories

Your firm’s cases and clients are an essential part of its identity. To show potential hires what you’re all about, you’ll need to capture the spirit and scope of your firm’s work during recruitment. 

To do this, consider how you can use marketing collateral for recruitment purposes. However you define success at your firm, be sure to tell your success stories to potential hires.

For example, does your firm’s website have a section dedicated to client testimonials? Or a case study about a hard-won legal outcome? Maybe you’ve had an impressive variety of past clients – can a job searcher easily find that list? 

Unless your firm is a household name, a one-line description of your firm in the job posting isn’t going to give applicants a clear idea of the work they’ll be doing at your organization. This is where marketing and recruiting can work side by side – website, blog content, and social media campaigns are great channels for broadcasting your firm’s biggest wins so that applicants recognize the impact they can have at your organization. 

3. Demonstrate Purpose Beyond Your Cases

Purpose can be a key differentiator among law firms – especially for mission-driven Millennial talent. But talking about cases and clients isn’t the only way a firm can demonstrate purpose.  

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is top-of-mind for many employees and companies nowadays, and an increasing number of law firms are supporting social and environmental causes outside of their client work. If you produce a CSR report or any kind of summary of the ways that your organization gives back, include those materials in your recruitment communications. Top candidates will take note. 

But if your firm doesn’t have any formalized CSR initiatives, one way to both integrate social impact into your recruitment approach and add a personal touch is through meaningful gift giving. 

Throughout the recruitment timeline and into new-hire onboarding, a gift, in place of a phone call or email, is symbolic – it’s something tangible that shows how much you value your employees. And beyond sending any gift at all, consider a gift sourced from a company that’s making a positive impact. Think: a food basket that provides employment to survivors of abuse, a backpack created from recycled materials, or a tumbler and coffee set that offers jobs to individuals with disabilities.

Whether it’s through gift-giving or consistent donations to a charity or philanthropy, alternative strategies for giving back are also a good way to embed purpose into your organization if your firm’s reputation for client work might not initially attract a mission-driven candidate. 

4. Introduce Candidates to Your Firm’s Star Talent

Your legal staff are busy people. It’s hard to find time in their schedules for things that don’t directly relate to their billable hours.  

But whenever possible, bring your best partners and associates to recruitment events. Why? Candidates want to know who their future leaders will be. They want to hear about what it’s like to work at your firm. Give them an up-close view of the people who make your firm what it is. 

Whether it’s at a law school recruiting session or during the interview process, be sure your candidates have a chance to meet a senior partner. 

Your first instinct might be to send a first-year associate, which is certainly helpful in giving candidates a sense of what their immediate role will be like. But if they can talk with someone in a role that they aspire to someday, they’ll feel more confident that your firm cares about employee growth.

5. Provide Mentorship and Opportunities for Career Growth

Speaking of growth, another major differentiator for job seekers in legal professions is opportunities for mentorship and advancement. According to a Harvard Business Review poll of professionals across different industries, millennials want career path coaching, mentorship, and access to professional development opportunities. 

Your longer-tenured staff members can provide that. If you don’t already, consider assigning new hires to a mentor. Whether it’s through a structured program or a monthly coffee chat, top legal candidates want to know how they’ll be able to grow at a firm – and mentorship is a key part of that. 

Once you introduce stellar candidates to your stellar associates and partners during recruitment, tell them about the mentorship opportunities available at your firm. Or mention those opportunities in your recruitment messaging.

In addition to flexible work policies, Robert Half Legal’s survey also found that 25 percent of respondents considered leadership or advancement opportunities a top reason to take a job with another law firm. 

However the trajectory from associate to partner level works at your firm, lay out the opportunities for career advancement to potential hires very clearly. Because if there’s another thing that Millennials love more than flexible work and mentorship, it’s a clear career path

Recruitment and Retention Go Hand in Hand

The legal talent war doesn’t only mean your law firm is fighting to attract talent – you’re also fighting to retain talent.

All of these tips involve communicating the values and practices your company already upholds. Recruitment is about amplifying this ethos to potential hires; retention is about sharing it with your new and current employees. 

The secret to winning the war for talent, then, is weaving your recruitment and retention strategies together. Those strategies center around building a unique identity for your law firm that will catch the eyes of your next best attorneys.

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