Why Your Legal Department Isn’t Finding the Talent It Wants

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The hiring market is hot. Everyone is saying it—and has been for most of the past year. But what exactly does that mean and what is causing the demand?

The pandemic caused people to rethink their career paths—some retired early, others quit the law all together. Those that were let go during downsizing efforts may have gone back to school or started exploring entirely new career fields.

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Once businesses began to rebound from the initial economic downturn, many found themselves with an abundance of positions to fill and a shortage of interested lawyers to fill them—and thus a run on talent began.

In the midst of the talent war, many lawyers made moves, taking advantage of increasing law firm salaries, retention bonuses, flexible work arrangements and perks never before offered. Many law firm lawyers stayed put due to the high salaries or increased flexibility, and some in-house lawyers even turned their attention back to their law firm roots. The booming market gave lawyers options and allowed them to make decisions based on what they wanted, not only on what’s available to them.

Preparing to Hire in the Current Market

Even as the market begins to cool to more normal levels, organizations might be wondering why they are not attracting their top candidates. With the power still in the hands of the talent, organizations need to first gain an understanding of the current state of the market and the key factors inhibiting their ability to attract the best person to their role.

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You’re looking in the wrong geography. Geography matters when hiring, and talent pools in each city differ, especially with respect to different substantive areas of expertise.

Your compensation range for the proposed position is not competitive. Law firms and legal departments have recently been increasing pay ranges to attract talent. Evaluate whether current market conditions require you to adjust your compensation within your legal department to retain talent and adjust for internal equities.

The profile you are looking for is too narrow. In certain markets, the pools of talent for certain specialties are particularly in high demand or are naturally limited by geography. If you’re having trouble finding talent, consider broadening the scope of the role requirements to allow for an expanded candidate pool. For example, if you are looking for a commercial contracts lawyer, could you be open to exploring litigation experts who focus on commercial contracts in their practice? This might help to greatly expand the pool of candidates who are already working with contracts day-to-day, but in a slightly different manner, with a slightly different perspective that might ultimately help to broaden the purview of the legal department.

Winning Over an In-Demand Candidate

You extended an offer to your dream candidate, but unfortunately, they decide to pursue a different opportunity. While this is a normal part of hiring, it’s important to understand the other factors that might be at play when it comes to candidate decisions.

You took too long to make a decision.  In this current market, speed is everything. A hot market requires agility; legal departments need to get feedback to candidates faster and move candidates through interview processes more efficiently and effectively. Many candidates are exploring multiple opportunities and sometimes have multiple offers. Developing streamlined hiring processes and procedures can truly help companies avoid losing out on top talent for their legal departments.

You required the candidate to relocate. Candidates stepping into a new role may be willing to relocate, whether it’s to be closer to their families or for a change of pace. However, for other candidates, taking on an exciting opportunity while working remotely is more appealing to them. If you can adjust to a remote role this may greatly expand your pool of potential talent.

You’re requiring the employee to work in the office five days a week.  Flexible working arrangements are a big draw for candidates in today’s hiring market. Over the course of the pandemic, many lawyers became increasingly comfortable with working from home and not having to commute and are looking to retain these benefits in a new role. Allowing flexibility can make the role more attractive for a prospective employee.

Flexibility and an open mind are necessary when approaching hiring in today’s market. What you have to offer matters to candidates more than ever before—the more you can appeal to their lifestyle and expectations, the better. If you take the time to understand the landscape, you will have a better chance of finding the exact talent you want.

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