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The Importance of Networking (and Casting That Net Wide)

  • January 8, 2024

Networking doesn’t necessarily come easy to everyone, and sometimes even the thought of it can be met with apprehension or worse, sheer anxiety when placed in a situation that can be emotionally or mentally draining.

That being said, investing time to hone your skills will pay dividends in the long run, especially in today’s highly competitive legal landscape where networking will not only help you to expand your client base but also provide opportunities for mentorship, career growth, and collaboration.

As an essential skill, networking has huge potential to open up new opportunities for aspiring legal professionals and play a major part in their career success. And, whilst it’s a given that not everyone is comfortable networking, all lawyers should at least be competent if they want their skills to advance. You might be worried about what to say, or how to introduce yourself to new people, especially if you’re surrounded by reputable professionals, but, in reality, it’s relatively easy to become a pro with a little bit of extra practice. Here are some key tips to keep in mind.

Seek Guidance from a Fellow Professional  

Consider who you know to be an impressive networker and could provide you with some helpful advice on how to approach it to form professional bonds. This could be a family member or friend, colleague or even someone from your time at university or law school. At the very least, they are likely to let you bounce some ideas off them which will enable you to sharpen and hone your skills.

Be proactive

Waiting for networking opportunities to come your way won’t yield significant results – you need to be proactive. Take the initiative to attend industry events, seminars, conferences, and bar association meetings. Through your employment at a law firm, you will no doubt have exposure, and be invited to join more formal legal networking events. However, do seek out other associations that can equally provide fantastic opportunities to widen the net in your professional network. As a newly qualified lawyer, there are Junior Lawyers Divisions set up locally and regionally, as well as Trainee Solicitor Groups for those yet to qualify. These will give you a great foundation and springboard to networking in usually informal settings, yet still add a huge amount of value to those starting out in their legal career.

Always Come Prepared

Perhaps an old-school networking method, but still an effective one, having a business card on hand can be extremely useful when actively networking with legal professionals, and even more so in the non-professional conversations you have on a daily basis that could give rise to networking opportunities. When they come your way, you want to have a way of capitalising on them. This leads to an even more important factor in networking – having an ‘Always On’ mindset is crucial if you want to do this as effectively as possible. While you don’t need to shoehorn your career passion into every interaction, looking at networking this way can help you improve your social skills in these lower-risk’ situations and build confidence for the bigger conversations you might have with employers or reputable professionals down the line.

When it comes to preparation in the more conventional sense, a set of simple but clear pointers is your best friend, no matter the size or type of network event you are attending. As these events are ultimately about getting you in front of, and eventually front of mind of other like-minded legal professionals, it is essential that on the day you are confident in your ability to navigate the most common social scenarios you find yourself in.

Set Realistic Targets

This starts with going in with realistic expectations about your interactions at the event. Under no circumstance should you be expecting yourself to speak to the majority of people at any event, whether that be an event of 50 or 500. Consider your reasons for being there in the first place. Are you looking for new commercial opportunities or are you perhaps lining up your potential next employer? This will help you narrow down the scope of your search for individuals to speak with to a select few targets, and make planning for those conversations far easier and consequently more productive.

Your next step should then be to ensure you have a few pointers in mind about said conversations, how to begin them and keep them going. A simple but firm handshake and a brief introduction of yourself, your work and what you wish to speak about, before asking them about theirs, should be enough. Avoid kicking things off by firing questions at them as it disregards the other person’s involvement in the conversation and is a quick way to get them uncomfortable with talking about themselves to you.

Prepare Your Pitch

One of the most important parts of networking is your initial pitch – and first impressions count.  How will you introduce and describe yourself to people in an engaging yet concise way? Again, the best way to do this effectively is to get feedback from fellow professionals in your network; ask them to listen to your pitch and offer constructive criticism if required. However, you should also be careful not to over-rehearse, nothing sounds less authentic than an overly polished introduction.

Find Common Ground

In terms of the content of the conversation itself, this will vary depending on who you meet on the day of course, but there are certain scenarios you can prep for beforehand. For example, if you know a certain guest or speaker will be present at the event, then you should be doing your research on their background – where they graduated from/are studying, what law firm they work at and what their own personal interests are.

The best networkers don’t just stick to the stuffier topics when networking. They recognise it’s about showing empathy and finding out more about the person that they’re talking to. And, after all, most lawyers like talking about themselves so finding common ground is of paramount importance. Whether that’s football, cycling, your children or anything else you can think of, it’s easier to build stronger relationships if you have some sort of shared interest.

Your research should not just be limited to LinkedIn or a simple Google search either, or even the person themselves, but also around what you find out about the above areas like the university or law firm they studied/work at. These can commonly be found in any interviews, podcasts or panels they’ve spoken at. The reason for this is that in reality most legal professionals attending the event will already have done their research on at least a surface level, and will therefore ask largely the same questions like: what motivated you to move into this profession, what are your personal interests outside of work, etc. which the person in question will quickly find boring.

As your goal for attending the event is to build lasting relationships and expand your network, particularly with well-known legal professionals, you need to ensure you leave as strong an impression as possible on with whom you are speaking and to do that you need to make it less like an interview and more like an opportunity to talk about their most enjoyable aspects of their life/career. For example, if you have already done your homework on the above and know they happen to also regularly play badminton in their downtime, you could ask a question like:

“I found out in your interview with X talk show that you’re really into your badminton and I also happen to love playing with my friends on the weekend! I was wondering how you manage to fit it around your schedule considering your line of work demands so much of your time. Is it a serious interest you have outside of work?”

See the difference between this and a casual ‘How do you balance work with personal hobbies’ question? While the latter really only is concerned about what the answer is, the former takes care to make it relevant and personable to both parties with the aim of learning more about the person, thereby making the chances of getting an equally engaging and unscripted answer more likely.

Follow Up

It’s all well and good meeting people at an event, but it means little if you don’t keep the conversations going by following them up. If it helps, make a short note on the business cards that you’re given to remind you about the individual and then follow up on any information you promised to send over the next day. This leads on to another key point; the importance of reciprocity. People are likely to feel much more inclined to help you if you can offer something that helps them. That means if you know a solution to a problem that someone you met was struggling with, pass it across to them. People are more likely to remember you based on how you make them feel, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to make their lives easier by addressing problems they have. This is how you facilitate reciprocity in professional relationships.

Find value in online networking

Whilst face-to-face interaction is perhaps the first thing that springs to mind when you think of ‘networking’ in today’s digital age, some of the most invaluable opportunities to connect with professionals outside of one’s local vicinity comes from online networking. Platforms like LinkedIn offer a wealth of resources for lawyers to showcase their expertise, connect with peers, join industry-specific groups, and share valuable insights through thought leadership content. Actively participating in online discussions and engaging with other professionals worldwide can equally be hugely beneficial in building your personal brand, marketing your services and that of your firm, and gaining insight and updates relating to your specific role and practice area. For legal-specific online networks, groups like the Junior Solicitors Network are also a virtual hive of activity, giving members access to news and resources to support career and personal development, as well as opportunities to connect with other legal professionals.

In conclusion

Networking in the legal sector isn’t straightforward and some professionals will find it much more difficult than others, whilst others may decide to avoid it altogether.

However, learning the skills around professional networking is essential for lawyers looking to thrive in the legal industry – not only forging strong relationships for their own career and professional development, but using it as an opportunity to market yourself (and your firm) to potential stakeholders and clients.  

By being proactive, building genuine relationships, utilising online platforms, and staying connected, legal professionals can create a robust professional network that opens doors to new opportunities, enhances their careers, and contributes to long-term success.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.  

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help – whether that’s on a contingency or retained basis.  

Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here

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Take The Stress Out Of Your Legal Job Search: Use A Specialist Recruiter

  • November 1, 2023

The amount of stress that searching for the right role to advance one’s career can cause, is no secret to any legal professional. Time constraints, mounting case workloads and the resulting pressure to juggle work and personal commitments are just some of the struggles candidates often have to deal with. And that’s not even mentioning the rejection emails or calls jobseekers will inevitably have to face as part of the process, before beginning to make headway in their job search.

While a little stress can be useful for certain situations, high stress levels can quickly wear us down and drain our mental resources, robbing us of the energy, motivation and headspace we need to tackle daily challenges head-on. As many as 79% of workers around the UK have cited the source of their stress to be work-related this year, with 74% saying it has reached a level that has made them unable to cope.

Considering how demanding job-searching can be, having to deal with unbearable levels of stress is not exactly helpful when needing to be on your A-game to network effectively and make the best possible impression on prospective employers.

This is where the option of enlisting the help of a specialist recruiter would be a game-changer for legal candidates. Not only does it save you an inordinate amount of time, but it spares you the hassle you would otherwise have to contend with if you were job-hunting alone.

Here are just some of the many benefits you can gain from working with one:

A Time-Efficient Job Search

Many will be well aware of how daunting and time-consuming a job search can be, especially if you’re already employed and are trying to find a better role elsewhere. Being one of your most important resources as a legal professional, you stand to benefit greatly from utilising the services of a specialist recruiter as it significantly cuts down the time spent on scouring job boards and websites. Due to the vast network, connections and knowledge they possess of the industry, they are in the best position to find you a role that ticks all your boxes. As a result, what might have taken you months can easily be achieved in weeks or even days.

In some cases, consultants will already know in advance if a particular firm is actively on the hiring market before a vacancy is even posted. Leading firms often utilise agencies, because it’s a more efficient way for them to hire the right person. Rather than searching for opportunities that may not be visible online, you could save a considerable amount of time by working with an expert.

Valuable Market Insight & Access to Connections

While job boards can be a useful resource for identifying opportunities, firms will often opt to use their network and their recruitment company’s network to seek the right people for most fee-earner/niche roles, rather than advertising them online. The reason for this is that candidates who are right for these particular roles are often in demand and are either not on the market or are not actively seeking new employment opportunities. With a skills-short market currently making the fight for top legal talent more intense than ever, prospective employers are far more likely to rely on the help of a specialist legal recruiter to source the right candidate for their firm.

With a recruiter on-hand, you gain instant access to the information they hold about all relevant roles in the industry and current trends in the market. A good specialist recruiter will utilise the insight their network provides them to find the right fit for you, culture and skills-wise. By acting as a representative for both you and the firm, a specialist recruiter will facilitate the communication process, and ensure that the firm you are interested in is a good cultural fit for you.

Expert Guidance to Boost Interview Performance

Certainly, the most stressful part of searching for any new job is the dreaded interview stage which can be particularly daunting if it has been a while since your last interview. That’s where a specialist recruiter earns their keep, as they exist to make all parts of the transition from your current role to a new one as stress-free as possible. They are therefore always on-hand to help you prepare for the big day and offer career-specific guidance on how to approach your interview preparation accordingly.

As they are well-informed of the current hiring trends and practices adopted by employers, it is undoubtedly in your best interest to take onboard any advice they give regarding common and tricky interview questions, body language and even things like dress code and travel logistics.

They Will Negotiate the Best Deal for You

Getting an offer of employment for a role that you’ve long been in search for is half the battle; the other half is of course getting what you want (what you feel you’re worth) in terms of remuneration. Salary negotiation can often be a tricky and awkward conversation with a future employer, especially at such a sensitive stage of your relationship, and so it is best to let a legal recruiter handle such discourse. In addition to ensuring that you get the best possible deal when it comes to pay and benefits, they will also iron out other important parts of the deal such as notice periods, start dates and career development opportunities available to you in your new role.

Personalised Support – Your Success is Their Success

One of the biggest advantages of job-hunting with a specialist recruiter is the vested interest and understanding they will have of your particular needs on both a personal and professional level. What you’re looking for in an employer in terms of culture, values flexibility, role and ‘fit’ can be difficult to find and even articulate at times, especially as these are not always reflected in the job descriptions. This means candidates are often left to gauge where the best fit is for their career. Whereas by working with a legal recruiter they will not only have a firm grasp of what your priorities are but will also ensure they – and you – are well-sold to the firm in question.

It is therefore in their own best interest to be selective on your behalf with regard to vacancies; by choosing the most suitable roles for their candidates to maximize success, which will not only reduce the competition candidates face for each role, but also improve their chances of getting hired. Their success lies in their ability to see to it that you’re happy in your desired role as it means they are successful with their client – a win-win for everyone.

If you would like to speak to us confidentially about market conditions, opportunities in your practice area or geographical region, or if you are actively looking for a role and would like us to help give you that competitive edge, we would love to speak to you. Contact us here or call the office on 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are looking for a new legal position or just want to speak to a recruitment expert about the current market, call our team on 01772 259121 or click here to submit your CV.

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The Evolution Of The CV – And Its Place In The Digital Age

In today’s competitive job market, it’s more important than ever for candidate profiles to stand out. With digital channels such as LinkedIn (often seen as an online CV) and video platforms becoming the norm, it’s quite normal to consider where the traditional CV lies in all of this. Is crafting a 2-4 page document still worth your time and effort as a jobseeker?

In short – absolutely.

The CV (Curriculum Vitae) continues to plays a crucial role in the job application process. It serves as a summary of an individual’s skills, qualifications, and experiences, showcasing their suitability for a particular role. But have you ever wondered how this document came to be and how it has evolved over time?

Here we look at the history of the CV, from its humble beginnings to the digital age, and explore its impact on the job search process – and it’s future.

The Birth of the CV

The origins of the CV can be traced back to the Renaissance era, specifically to the genius mind of Leonardo Da Vinci. In 1482, Da Vinci, in search of work, crafted a letter to the Duke of Milan, outlining his skills and experiences in various fields such as engineering, sculpture, and bridge-building. This letter is often considered to be the first official CV on record. Although Da Vinci did not secure the job he sought, his innovative approach to presenting his qualifications set a precedent for future job seekers.

The Middle Ages: Portfolios and Personal Profiles

While the concept of a formal CV did not exist during the Middle Ages, there were instances of artists and inventors creating portfolios to showcase their work. These portfolios, often referred to as sketchbooks, contained designs, sketches, and examples of their craftsmanship. One notable example is Villard de Honnecourt’s portfolio, which dates back to the 13th Century and includes architectural drawings and mechanical designs. These portfolios served as a visual representation of the artist’s capabilities and can be seen as precursors to the modern-day CV.

The 20th Century: Newspapers and the Rise of the Modern CV

In the early 20th century, job applications predominantly relied on newspaper advertisements. Applicants would submit handwritten or typed resumes, which included personal details such as age, height, weight, and marital status. These characteristics, as you would imagine, were often used as discriminatory factors in the hiring process. However, as societal norms progressed, legislation was implemented to address these biases. The inclusion of hobbies and interests in resumes became popular in the 1960s, allowing job seekers to showcase their personality and interests beyond their professional qualifications.

The Internet Age: Online Job Boards and the Power of LinkedIn

With the advent of the Internet, job searching underwent a significant transformation. Online job boards, such as Monster.com, emerged in the 1990s, providing a digital platform for job seekers to submit their resumes and connect with potential employers. The rise of social media further revolutionized the job search process, with LinkedIn leading the way as a professional networking platform. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn allowed individuals to create online profiles, highlighting their skills, experiences, and professional achievements. It became a valuable resource for recruiters and job seekers alike, providing opportunities for networking and job discovery.

The Future of the CV: Multimedia Resumes and Personal Branding

As technology continues to advance, the CV is likely to undergo further changes in the future. Multimedia CVs, incorporating elements such as videos, infographics, and interactive content, have gained traction in recent years. These dynamic platforms offer job seekers a unique opportunity to showcase their skills and creativity in a visually engaging format. Additionally, personal branding has become increasingly important in the job search process. Job seekers are encouraged to cultivate an online presence through social media platforms, personal websites, and blogs, allowing them to showcase their expertise and stand out from the competition.

The Role of the CV in the Modern Job Application Process

Whatever the design and format, the CV has become an essential tool for both job seekers and employers in the modern job application process. It serves as a snapshot of an individual’s qualifications and experiences, providing employers with valuable insights into a candidate’s suitability for a particular role. However, the evolution of the CV has brought about new challenges and considerations. Job seekers must adapt to changing trends, ensuring that their CVs align with current expectations and industry standards. Employers, on the other hand, must navigate through a vast pool of applicants, leveraging technology and innovative recruitment strategies to identify the most qualified candidates.

Changing Candidates’ Approach to Job Searching

The evolution of the CV has also influenced how candidates approach the job search process. Job seekers are now more proactive in building their personal brand and online presence, recognising the importance of networking and showcasing their skills beyond the confines of a traditional CV. They are leveraging social media platforms, professional networking sites, and online portfolios to engage with potential employers and demonstrate their expertise. Additionally, the accessibility of online job boards and digital application processes has made job searching more convenient and efficient, allowing candidates to explore a wider range of opportunities.

The Impact of Technology on the CV

Technology has played a significant role in shaping the evolution of the CV. The shift from paper-based CVs to digital formats has streamlined the application process, making it easier for candidates to submit their credentials and for employers to review applications. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have also become prevalent, enabling employers to efficiently screen and manage large volumes of documents. However, it is important for job seekers to optimize their CVs for ATS compatibility by using relevant keywords and formatting techniques.

Other AI-focused platforms that can help jobseekers appear on the market almost weekly – and whilst it becomes hard to see what is truly useful and what is a distraction, there is certainly more in development that can help to elevate your profile.

The Importance of Continuous Learning and Adaptation

As the job market continues to evolve, it is crucial for both job seekers and employers to stay abreast of industry trends and adapt their strategies accordingly. Job seekers should invest in continuous learning and skills development to remain competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. Employers, on the other hand, must embrace innovative recruitment practices, leveraging technology and data-driven insights to identify the best talent. The CV, as a reflection of an individual’s qualifications and experiences, will continue to be a fundamental tool in the job search process, but its form and presentation may continue to evolve.

Conclusion

The evolution of the CV from its humble beginnings to the digital age exemplifies the dynamic nature of the job search process. Leonardo Da Vinci’s letter to the Duke of Milan marked the birth of the CV, setting the stage for centuries of innovation and adaptation. From portfolios in the Middle Ages to the rise of online job boards and professional networking sites, technology has continually shaped the way job seekers present themselves and connect with potential employers. As we look to the future, multimedia CVs and personal branding will likely play an even greater role in the job search process. However, amidst these changes, the fundamental purpose of the CV remains the same – to showcase one’s qualifications, experiences, and potential to prospective employers.

We have a number of resources and guides about what to include in your CVs (and indeed, what to leave off) – CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THOSE.

Whether printed and taken in to an interview, uploaded to a role profile online, or sent as a PDF speculatively to a potential employer, the 2-3 page document certainly has to work hard to confidently ‘sell’ your suitability for the job in question. That’s why it’s also worth enlisting the help of a specialist legal recruiter to also represent you in the market. A good recruiter will take the time to get to know you – your skills and strengths, and how to leverage these when talking to a hiring manager or Partner. They will also help to bring your 2-D document to life, talking to the hiring firms about your suitability, how they envisage you fit in with the culture, and the driving force behind your move.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or perhaps have had your fingers burnt by a bad hire in the past, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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Career-Progressing Performance Reviews: A Guide

  • August 1, 2023

For career-minded legal professionals, performance reviews are an essential part of working life – helping to identify training needs, opportunities for development, ensuring output and objectives are being met, and focus on the next steps and milestones on their career path. 

Before we dive into the tactical side of performance reviews from your perspective as a legal professional, it’s important to understand what a performance review is and why it often goes hand in hand with career planning. This will give you the foundation to use your review more effectively to drive your results, and sense check continually, your progress to the next steps in your legal career.

What is a Performance Review?

A performance review is a two-way conversation between your direct manager and you about your: 

  • performance impact, 
  • results, 
  • development, 
  • and growth; 

related to the objectives you were set as part of your onboarding and review process when you joined your firm or each year at annual appraisal time. 

Depending on the size of your firm, it is often a key component of a wider performance management strategy. 

Traditionally, performance reviews have occurred once a year and have focused on evaluating past performance, although many businesses these days tend to have more regular meetings just to make sure everything is on track as you move through the year, and offer the chance for feedback, be that positive or developmental.

The reality is performance conversations can help you improve your performance when both you and your manager engage in the process.

So, let’s look at the benefits of engaging with the performance review process >>>

How Performance Reviews Can Directly Impact Your Performance

Why are performance conversations important? Because they have a significant impact on your success and that of your company too.

Discussing performance isn’t always easy. It may be tough for managers to give feedback, especially if that feedback isn’t as positive as you would like – and more than likely, even harder for you to receive it.

However, a performance review with both parties engaged in the process can make an enormous difference for all concerned.

  • It helps you review your objectives and goals – and progress against these.
  • It is an opportunity to ask for help with any challenges you face should you need it
  • It is an opportune time to get feedback on your work from your direct manager – both positive as well as constructive to help you improve and get even ‘better’ at what you do.

Knowing all the benefits a performance review can bring you as a respected legal professional in your organisation, how can you prepare?

Preparation Is Key

It is worth noting at this juncture that not every line manager you work with will be perfect, especially when it comes to conducting a performance review(this in itself is a discipline that requires training, learning and refining).

The good news is management training has improved dramatically over the last few years, and most managers are better at what they do and are open to receiving feedback from their team on their performance too.

Something to consider as you prepare; your manager is a human being. Today,we all are part of a workplace where everyone is expected to ‘achieve’more because of our available resources.

Your manager is likely to be spinning multiple plates, of which running performance reviews is just one thing on their to-do list; remember they have performance objectives to achieve from their manager in the same way you do.

Come to the review process with the thought that we are all doing our best to achieve the success we all want, and you might be surprised how your performance review proceeds.

In brief, preparation should:

1. Start With The End In Mind

Preparation and planning are the cornerstones of achieving an exceptional performance review.

The well-known leadership author Stephen Covey authored The 7Habits of Highly Effective People – first published in 1989, but still popular today and well worth a read..One of the habits he shared through his research of effective people was to decide what you want to achieve first and work back from there.

Let’s say you are a solicitor who wants to become a partner within your firm. What will you need to demonstrate consistently over the next few months and longer to establish that you are the ideal person for the role?

Achieving your performance objectives will be your first starting point.

You may be reading this report from a different period of your own review process. The key thing to remember is to make sure you know what exceeding and achieving means when it comes to the objectives you have been set.

As an employee of your current company, you will have specific performance objectives to hit and values and behaviours to demonstrate.

The challenge for many people is that they take their objectives at face value without thinking through a plan to achieve or exceed the objectives they are set.

If you aren’t sure of the detail around howto achieve something,talk to your manager, especially if you are new to the firm.

It’s the same when it comes to values and behaviours your company want to see you demonstrate.

Our values and our behaviours drive our actions which drive our results.

For example,the following behaviours might be championed and desired within your law firm >>>

  • Accountability
  • Flexibility
  • Transparency
  • Proactivity
  • Professionalism

It’s important to understand how you can demonstrate and verbalise how you demonstrate these behaviours with examples if you can. I.e. how can you show you have acted proactively as part of your role, and how can you demonstrate professionalism?

2. The Devil Is In The Data

You have put in the demanding work of planning and prioritising what you need to do to hit your objectives. The next key step is to document evidence of what you are doing and the results you are achieving.

We tend to get diligent about tracking our wins when it’s time to ask for a pay rise. Unfortunately, not everyone takes a disciplined approach to writing down their accomplishments throughout the year.

Start a list, and jot down things that you do well and are achieving as they happen.

Be specific: Did you successfully win a new client, deliver an important presentation to senior partners, offer a helping hand
when a co-worker was swamped, or get a record number of caseloads over the line?

Write it down as you go so that you don’t have to scramble to find examples the night before your review.

3. Ask For Catch-Ups In Advance

In most roles, your line manager is not with you every second of your working day, or rather, monitoring your workload every second. If you do not have regular catch-ups where you are open about how everything is going in your legal role, they will not have the detail at the level you do.

You may or may not have regular catch-ups/mini-reviews with your manager. If regular reviews are not commonplace in your company, be bold and ask for interim conversations. They don’t need to be a formal affair,though they will demonstrate your commitment to the role to your manager and to the wider business.

The beauty of interim conversations like this means that you consistently review past performance so that tweaks can be made and results are achieved. There is nothing worse than turning up to a review and discussing something you didn’t understand or were annoyed about that happened eight months earlier.

4. Be As Prepared As Your Manager

Depending on whether you have managed people yourself, a fact to be aware of is that your manager will appreciate the enthusiasm, honesty, and positivity you bring to the process.

Ask ahead of time for an agenda,the review time frames, and what will be discussed. If this is a more formal yearly review, you should expect and plan in time to prepare.

Your preparation ahead of time and the data you have collected can now be aligned to reviewing your objectives, behaviours, and future goals.

As a rule, your manager will take the lead and ask questions. Here are a few examples of questions they might use >>>

  • What results from last month/quarter/year are you most proud of?
  •  How did you achieve X, Y or Z?
  • What do you think you could improve on?
  • What will you stop, start, and continue next month?
  • Tell me more about what happened with A, B or C?
  • What roadblocks are in your way?
  • What impact has your performance had on the company?
  • How can I support you as your manager?
  • How have you demonstrated our firm’s values of X, Y, and Z?

Many managers we work with as legal recruitment specialists will share their disappointment that team members don’t answer the questions they have been set about their performance or avoid going into detail about their highlights, challenges and what has been happening for them in their role.

5. View All Feedback As A Gift

Some people will no doubt think there is irony in this phrase, yet the truth is how can we improve unless we are given both motivational and development feedback on how we perform, what we are doing well that we could do more of to get better?

Mastering the art of receiving feedback is one of the most important things you can do as a human being.

Receiving praise and recognition is fantastic, and hopefully, your review will have this as its main theme.

However, as human beings,we live in a world where mistakes happen, and it is always a good idea to own yours and share them with your manager.

Ahead of your review, here is a suggestion to make your feedback session run well—document everything you want to share >>>

  • What you are doing well and your standout achievements
  • Your challenges
  • What went wrong for which you were accountable
  • How could you improve in your role?
  • Your development and training needs
  • Ideas you have to improve your own and the firm’s results in the future

6. Ask Questions & Take Notes

Performance conversations should be two-way, so make sure you ask questions and take notes. When your manager makes suggestions on improvements you could make and what you are doing well, write them down.

When it comes to questions, there are a few commons ones that will flow naturally throughout the conversation; if they don’t, make sure you ask them at the end.

  • What do you think were my highlights?
  • What am I doing well, and where could I improve?
  • What does the future hold for me here?Are there opportunities for growth and progression?
  • What projects could I be involved with?
  • What additional training do you think I need?

You may also wish to use the meeting to talk about about compensation, benefits and work flexibility. Whilst, as the name suggests, the meeting is designed to revolve around your‘performance’ against your goals and objectives, you may also wish to ask yourself ahead of the date:

  • Am I being underpaid for my current role or could the changes in the market mean I could earn
    more? Does my performance impact this?
  • If I want to develop and grow, will my employer support these ambitions? Or, do I need to make a
    move?
  • Realistically, I can deliver the objectives of my role working from home or in a hybrid role, so will my
    company be flexible?

All good questions to ask, which takes us back to the start of the guide; decide what you want now. We are in a unique hiring market at the moment, and as a high performing legal professional, you have many options open to you,which starts with a conversation with your manager.

As an experienced legal recruiter, we ask all the candidates who come to us for career advice if they have discussed what they want with their current manager first. Performance reviews are as good a vehicle as any to have open, frank conversations about not only your performance, but also where this puts you on your career path more generally.

A recent article by LifeLabs Learning focuses on the ‘paradigm shift’ in the world of performance reviews,where the objective has moved from‘correction or reward’ to amore holistic review of progress whilst also monitoring general engagement, putting career aspirations at the centre.

Whilst they can be daunting, reviews should also be viewed as an opportunity to shine – highlighting your achievements and ways you have met or exceeded your objectives. They also give you the chance to look at the future,talk about your ambition, and those all important next steps.

And, Finally

It goes without saying that if conversations about your future career with your current employer are leaving you feeling a little underwhelmed, it may very well be the turning point to consider your options more widely.

Wherever you are in your career journey, it is a good idea to periodically analyse your current position depending on where you want to be.When you dig a little deeper, is everything on track and working out as you expected?Or do you need to make some changes in order to meet your goals?

To help you measure if your legal career is progressing as you envisaged when you started out, we recently created a simple checklist to provide you with a snapshot of whether you’re on the right track.

And, if the results have prompted you to think harder about what your current role and company are providing you with, and perhaps made you realise that now is time for a change, then get in touch with Clayton Legal today. Our experienced team can help you in deciding what step to take next to further your legal career, and back on track with your own ambitions and goals.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Head-Turning Job Descriptions: A Guide

  • July 6, 2023

Hiring amazing talent in any industry starts with attracting the right people.

Yet, as reports of the Great Resignation rumble on, and we continue to see an ongoing transformation of the workplace, capturing the attention of amazing legal candidates isn’t easy.

According to current industry data, 95% of employers say they find it extremely difficult to fill the gaps in their team, thanks to today’s competitive market.

And, with many Law Firms continuing to press ahead with their hiring for the coming year,  managing partners need to work harder than ever to make their listings stand out amongst the clutter.

It all starts with writing the most effective job descriptions.

Even as the hiring landscape evolves, legal candidates still rely on engaging, informative, and powerful job descriptions to determine which law firm best fits their needs.

The best job descriptions combine critical insights into an available role, with a touch of marketing and a behind-the-scenes look at firm culture. It’s not enough to list the required skills and experience under a quick summary of what a job entails.

To attract loyal, engaged employees to your teams, you need to highlight information that matters to top talent. Today’s job descriptions should focus on the benefits you can offer as an employer, your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a clear overview of why legal candidates should choose your firm over dozens of competitors.

Today, we’re exploring how employers in the industry can turbocharge their job descriptions and ensure they’re attracting the widest selection of talented legal professionals.

What is a job description’s function, and is it still important?

Job descriptions are simple documents outlining the essential responsibilities involved in a role. They highlight the qualifications and experience a candidate needs to excel in a position, describe the type of work they’re going to perform, and offer insights into the benefits of a role.

Job descriptions have grown increasingly critical over the years as legal employers struggle to find the best talent. Today’s law firms are now using job descriptions to outline the key components of a role and essentially put their best foot forwards to qualified candidates.

An effective job description ensures your brand can attract candidates and fill crucial skill gaps. In fact, 52% of job seekers in a recent Indeed research report say job descriptions directly influence their decision on whether or not to apply for a role.

Job descriptions help you to outline exactly what you need from a new employee, so you can make the right decision about whom to hire first-time around. These documents also:

  • Give candidates a clear idea of what to expect from a role
  • Act as a guide when making hiring decisions
  • Communicates the expectations aligned with a role
  • Form the foundation for interview questions

What are the Core Components of a Good Job Description?

Many firms have a unique process for writing job descriptions. Those responsible for hiring within the firm may work with existing employees to build descriptions based on feedback from staff and, importantly, what they need the employee to deliver in that role.

Others leverage the skills of legal recruitment agencies like ourselves to boost their document’s performance. According to Indeed, to write an effective job description, companies must find the right balance between providing concise, straightforward information, and using the right details to engage, excite, and intrigue candidates.

Typically, your job description will include the following information:

A Title & Summary

The first component of a good job description is a role title and a summary of what the position entails. Highlight the nature of the role (whether it’s permanent, full-time, or contract) and how you expect your employee to work (in-office, remote, or hybrid). Keep in mind flexible working options could make your job descriptions more attractive. 76% of professionals say they’d like to work fewer traditional hours and want a flexible approach to when and how they work.

Remember to use a specific, easy-to-understand job title to avoid confusing your potential candidates with jargon. Talk to your legal recruitment agency if you’re unsure what your title and summary should be – especially in order to widen the net and attract more suitable candidates.

An “About Us Section

This section is where you can really ‘sell’ your firm and provide an introduction to who you are. Whilst some law firms can rely to some extent on the weight of their brand and reputation in the market, the best talent these days are looking for evidence of an empathetic, inclusive, and reliable employer – so focussing on how you bring this to life is paramount. You can highlight your firm culture, vision, and purpose here and give your potential candidates an insight into your values, such as a commitment to innovation, collaboration, and evolution.

The “About Us” section is also a fantastic space to highlight critical DEI information. 50% of employees currently believe their employer isn’t doing enough to promote diversity, so highlighting how you address this from the get-go will undoubtedly pay dividends amongst jobseekers in the market.

The Role and Responsibilities

Your job description is important in setting expectations for your legal employees. You should outline the core purpose of the role straight away and what your team members will be responsible for in this position. Make sure your list of responsibilities is as clear as possible, with no industry jargon, unclear acronyms, or confusing language.

Be precise and let team members know what kind of systems and software they will be working with, what case loads they will be dealing with, and what the short and long-term objectives of the role might be.

Competencies and Skills

This section of the job description tells your legal candidates what characteristics you’re looking for in an employee. Essentially, it’s a checklist of everything a good employee will need to perform well in the role. Avoid listing educational requirements and skills that aren’t entirely necessary here, as it could stop potentially good candidates from considering your opportunity.
Create a list of specific skills and qualifications your team member will require. Highlight whether they need experience working with certain programmes or platforms, and draw attention to any on-the-job training you can offer. You may also want to outline some basic traits you’re looking for, such as punctuality and proactivity.

The Benefits and Salary

Finally, you’ll need to show your candidates what’s “in it for them” if they decide to join your team. Provide an insight into the kind of salary your candidate can expect. You can choose a salary “range” if you’re open to negotiations. Just make sure it’s in line with the average for that job role in that particular region.

Don’t forget to draw attention to benefits too. Many employees find benefits to be just as attractive as a good level of remuneration. For instance, maybe you can offer flexible and remote work, a four-day workweek, or access to in-house therapy and mental health support.

A good way to make your benefits more attractive is to write them in a way that helps your candidates envision what it might be like to work with you. For instance, instead of writing “4-day work week”, write, “Start your weekend early every week with a four-day schedule, so you have more time for family and friends.”

Remember to discuss your decisions with the recruitment agency working with you on the role. They speak to candidates daily, so they can tell you exactly what the candidate you are looking for wants in a role.

Top Tips for More Compelling Job Descriptions

Writing effective job descriptions for candidates in today’s current legal landscape isn’t just about ensuring you include all the right information. In competitive markets, it’s important to look for ways of making your job descriptions more compelling and actively ‘sell’ the role to jobseekers.

Here are some quick tips to help you attract more candidates.

1.  Improve the Opening Section

It’s becoming extremely difficult to make job descriptions stand out these days. Your potential candidates will be scanning through job listings daily. That’s why it’s important to make sure you instantly grab your talent’s attention.

A good way to make your descriptions more compelling is to focus on the benefits the candidate can expect immediately. Rather than starting with a phrase like “The ideal candidate will”, talk about what your employees will get from you. For instance, “This role gives you a unique opportunity to work with world-class clients on a flexible schedule.” Focus therefore on ‘what’s in it for them’ rather than your list of stipulations and requirements.

2.  Communicate Your Compelling Culture Clearly

Legal candidates are a lot pickier about where they work in today’s jobs market. With that in mind, it’s important to highlight the culture of your firm straight away, so talent can determine whether your firm really fits their needs. Introduce your brand’s vision and mission, values, and commitment to building a diverse workforce.

Discuss the firm culture employees can expect, introducing concepts like remote work opportunities, flexible schedules, and team-building exercises. Consider including genuine insights and quotes from your existing legal employees. This is a great way to demonstrate your firm’s credibility and authenticity.

Whilst a written job description can only do so much to demonstrate such things as ‘culture’, why not include links to your website, or even better…a dedicated landing page focused on hiring where you can include such things as employee testimonials, videos that highlight the working environment, and any other feature of your firm that you believe is attractive to potential new hires.

3.  Make Information Easily Accessible

Job descriptions need to be informative, but candidates don’t want to be overwhelmed with huge amounts of text and complicated words. Consider cutting down on lengthy sentences and switching to bullet points where possible. This will help your candidates scan your content and find the necessary information to determine whether they should apply.

Experimenting with different kinds of content is a good way to make your job descriptions a little more engaging. Alongside paragraphs and bullet points, again, link to videos to provide insight into your firm with statements and stories from current employees. Show candidates the office space, and let them hear the hiring manager’s voice to make your content more memorable.

4.  Double-Check Your Content is Inclusive

As demand for diverse, equitable, and inclusive employers continues to rise, it’s more important than ever to double-check that your content doesn’t include any evidence of bias. Unconscious bias can easily creep into job descriptions and prevent crucial talent from applying.

For instance, you may use words like “young go-getter” or “experienced veteran” without malicious intent, but these terms alienate whole age groups within your candidate pool. When writing your job descriptions, watch out for any language which might make your description less appealing to a specific gender, age group, or ethnic group.

If you’re worried your diversity message isn’t clear enough, talk to your recruitment consultant, who will be able to advise you on how to include your commitment to DEI, and ensure your job descrptions don’t inadvertently trip you up.

5.  Be Transparent About the Candidate Experience

Setting expectations in the job description is an excellent way to save time for your team and your potential candidates. Being open and clear in your job description about what the interview will entail and how decisions will be made shows your candidates that they can expect a straightforward hiring journey with you.

Highlight whether there are likely to be any post-interview tests your candidates will need to complete, and let your potential employees know if interviews will happen in person or virtually. It may also be worth introducing some basic information about the onboarding experience for successful candidates.

(It’s also worth reading our blog on ‘ethical recruitment’ here to ensure that all your recruitment practices ensure the highest standards of professionalism, fairness, and transparency).

6.  Ask for Feedback

As employee and candidate expectations change, it can be difficult to consistently update your job descriptions in a way that generates real results without a little help. Fortunately, there are various places where you can cultivate feedback. Ask your existing team members for help in making your job descriptions stand out. They can tell you what benefits make your role more compelling and what information you might have missed.

Speak to your legal recruitment agency for advice on how to make your job listings stand out. After all, these professionals have years of experience reviewing and communicating job descriptions to the market in order to help law firms attract top talent.

The Mistakes to Avoid in Your Job Descriptions

Writing the most compelling job descriptions can be a complex process, particularly in today’s competitive hiring landscape. It’s easy to stumble into several potential mistakes, which could mean you miss out on the most valuable legal talent for your team.

Aside from following the steps above to make your descriptions more compelling, it’s also worth ensuring you don’t fall victim to any of the following common errors:

1.  Using the Wrong Job Title

As law firms continue to rely on “marketing” strategies to attract new legal talent to their team, recent trends have emerged among organisations trying to make their descriptions more compelling. For instance, some companies try to showcase their unique personality and culture by switching out job titles with more inventive but unusual ones. You may have already seen listings for various legal “superstars” or “rockstars”.

While weird and unusual job titles can be fun, they’re also highly confusing. Most people in today’s digital landscape are actively looking for job descriptions which include specific keywords. And in a sector as traditional as the legal industry, this can make your efforts counterproductive as using unusual job titles prevents candidates from finding your posts. Additionally, complex job titles can make it harder for employees to determine whether they’re applying for the right roles. It’s worth sticking with titles you know your current legal employees are familiar with.

2.  Using Hyperbolic Language

In an age where legal candidates are looking for more genuine, honest, and empathetic employers, they’re increasingly less likely to apply for roles where law firms use a lot of superlative and hyperbolic language. Telling your candidates that working with you gives them a chance to be part of the “best law firm in the world” won’t increase your chances of attracting talent.

Instead, focus on the clear, authentic benefits you can offer. Don’t just tell your candidates your firm is the best in the world. Highlight what makes your job offer special. Can you provide flexible working schedules, consistent education and training, and access to unique benefits no other law firm can offer?

3.  Failing to Include Relevant Information

While legal candidates in today’s fast-paced environment have less time to browse through job listings, this doesn’t mean you can “skip” parts of the job description. Failing to include important information means you’re less likely to attract candidates because they won’t know what to expect from your role.

Make sure you highlight all of the position’s key responsibilities, the benefits on offer, and any other information that might be necessary for legal candidates. Include details where relevant too. For instance, what makes it flexible if you’re listing a “flexible” role? Can team members work from home whenever they like, or will they be able to change their schedule easily?

4.  Alienating Crucial Talent

In a competitive legal market, you cannot afford to accidentally alienate qualified people from your role. With this in mind, it’s worth double-checking that you’re not driving possible candidates away. For instance, it might be a good idea to remove any requests for a specific number of years of experience from your job descriptions.

Experience is great, but it’s not the only factor determining whether potential employees will thrive in your role. Adding requests to your job descriptions for an employee with five years of experience in a specific practice area can prevent qualified candidates from applying.

A candidate with an excellent growth mindset and two years of experience may be better for your law firm than someone with ten years of experience and a laid-back attitude. Focus on the skills you need your employees to have and the results you want them to achieve instead.

5.  Failing to Get the Right Help

As the legal market continues to suffer from significant changes, it’s harder than ever for law firms to find the talent they need without a little extra help. Ultimately, going it alone isn’t an option if you want to attract the right talent as quickly as possible. No matter how big or small, every company should consider working with an expert.

Working alongside legal recruitment specialists will help you to enhance your job descriptions, build your talent pipeline, and increase your access to talent. Not only can their team of consultants give you tips on improving your job listings based on their extensive experience, but they can also ensure your listings reach the right people by promoting them on the correct channels.

Final thoughts

Designing the ideal job descriptions is one of the most important things you can do as an employer trying to attract the very best legal talent. In such a competitive market, it’s crucial to ensure your job descriptions not only show your would-be employees what they can expect from your role but also give them insight into culture and benefits.

If you struggle to update and enhance ineffective job descriptions, contact your legal recruitment agency for help. They’ll be able to provide behind-the-scenes insights based on years of experience working with similar firms – and will also help to further market your role and your firm when liaising with potential candidates.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

 

Click here to speak to one of our experienced Legal specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

 

 

 

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Do You Need To Review Your Performance Review Process?

  • June 8, 2023

The employee performance review has received a lot of criticism in recent years. Traditional employee appraisal processes have been causing headaches for both managers and employees, yet most employees believe performance reviews are ineffective at driving performance. 

There’s still a place for the annual performance review. But success-driven organisations know it must be part of a bigger performance conversation strategy. 

Regardless of whether you’re conducting an annual appraisal, a quarterly review, or a monthly performance check-in, performance conversations can be challenging if a consistent review process isn’t followed. 

A goal for all business managers is to create a positive experience that motivates employees and consequently drives high performance. 

Before we dive into the tactical side of performance reviews, it’s important to understand what it is and why it is important. This will give you the foundation you need to start using them more effectively in your firm. 

What is a Performance Review?

A performance review is a two-way, individualised conversation between managers and employees about performance impact, development, and growth; related to the objectives set for an individual. It is a critical component of an organisation’s overall performance management strategy. 

Traditionally, performance reviews have occurred once a year and have focused on evaluating past performance. 

But reviews are now changing. 

Modern performance reviews work well when they happen monthly, where logistically possible, and focus on driving and improving future performance through motivational and developmental feedback. 

The classic performance review has taken a lot of flak over the past several years. Yet, the reality is, performance conversations are a crucial part of effective employee engagement and retention strategies, especially in the current economic climate. 

How Performance Reviews Improve Individual, Team, and Firm Success

Why are performance conversations important? Because they have a big impact on the success of your employees, teams, and firm. 

Discussing performance isn’t always easy. It’s tough for managers to give feedback and even harder for employees to receive it. How employers handle these conversations plays a huge role in an employee’s engagement and overall experience. 

Performance conversations will often make or break trust. An open, honest, and regular dialogue helps build trust among employees, managers, and your legal teams.  

Ongoing performance conversations can boost employee success by: 

  • Helping employees identify their needs, goals, and challenges. 
  • Informing line managers on challenges, obstacles, and decisions before they impact performance. 
  • Opening opportunities to discuss feedback, celebrate recognition and reinforce alignment. 

Performance conversations help managers evaluate team performance by giving them a clear picture of that of their team members. They’ll know where the team is strong and where the team needs help or development. 

If employees aren’t aligned and on a clear path to success, organisations will have difficulty achieving important goals and objectives. Performance conversations allow managers to connect employees to the bigger mission, vision, and goal of their law firm. 

They also give managers and leaders the data to make important decisions about compensation, promotions, development, role changes, exits, etc. 

Knowing all the benefits a performance review can bring, what are the key elements that make up a successful review?  

The Vital Elements of Performance Reviews

Performance reviews give employees and managers a chance to discuss how they meet their objectives and do better together. 

Delivered well, they can engage and motivate employees to maximise their efforts. Delivered poorly, they can send employees down a disengagement spiral—and even decrease performance. How do you choose the right performance appraisal method? Below are a few elements to consider.  

Frequency Is Critical

Our experience as a specialist legal recruiter for over 23 years in the industry has shown that successful law firms, and those highly coveted by legal candidates, ensure performance conversations happen more frequently. They also make them more engaging too. 

Managers and employees equally contribute to the discussion, and employees are as invested in the preparation. 

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for all performance discussions, every conversation should promote trust by reducing anxiety while creating clarity for all concerned. 

Performance conversations like these aren’t only about performance; they can also address: 

  • Career growth, development, and training 
  • Business objectives versus time 
  • Changes or key messages from senior leadership 
  • Recognition 
  • Peer feedback 
  • Customer feedback

Make Them Future Focused

Old-school style performance reviews would often look at the past, what happened versus what didn’t, mistakes made, values not aligned, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, something that happened months ago could have been continually repeated because it wasn’t addressed at the time.  

Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t exactly motivating for an employee who hasn’t been given an opportunity to change because they weren’t given feedback at the time. 

However, employees do have the power to change what happens in the future—and this is where the bulk of your performance conversations should focus. It’s good to reflect on the past, but managers and employees should also spend time looking forward.  

Make Them Transparent & Objective

Performance reviews can be anxiety-inducing for any of us. One of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to bring employees into the process early and involve them in the preparation and planning.  

Managers should work with each employee to create a clear, shared, and collaborative agenda with main discussion points. Both parties should know exactly what to expect. And if you have implemented the suggestions about frequency, there really should not be any surprises. 

Reviews have no excuse not to be objective. Today we have a huge volume of data to use alongside our ability to base our assessment on behavioural observation versus our judgment about what we think we saw or heard. Managers can come prepared with data from various sources such as recent recognition, 360-degree feedback, talent review ratings, one-on-one notes, goal progress, observational coaching, feedback, and more. 

Every statement made should be fueled by data or observation—not by a  manager’s personal opinion. 

To recap, here are some key differences between traditional performance reviews and modern performance reviews.  

Traditional Performance Reviews

These tend to be a six-month or annual affair. It is generally one-sided, with a line manager informing the employee what they did wrong and right, focusing on developmental feedback. 

This is usually subjective with a grading that either does or does not result in a salary increase.  

Modern Performance Reviews

Everything a traditional review isn’t. They happen every month or quarter at least and involve two-way conversations and focus on the future.  

They review recent performance and involve coaching to impact the employee’s development and growth. The conversation is always based on data and facts. The conversation is then followed up the next month too.  

Preparing To Run A Performance Review

There is nothing worse than being unprepared at work. Even though our knowledge and experience can get us through most situations, somehow, that never seems to work when interacting with another human being.  

What makes it even more critical to prepare in advance is the impact your lack of planning has on your employee. Always approach any performance conversation with thoughtful preparation and lots of data and examples.  

Making Time & Setting Expectations

You have a lot of responsibilities on your plate as a manager in a law firm and conducting performance reviews with each team member can be time-consuming. But the payoff is worth the investment, and it’s critical that you carve out appropriate time for each member of your team. 

If you forgo important performance conversations, you risk missing out on new opportunities for promising employees, and the negative actions of under-performers will go unchanged. 

You begin setting expectations the moment your invite arrives in their inbox. Hot tip: Don’t just send a calendar invite out of the blue; a personal email works so much better. 

Schedule the meeting at least one week out, or ideally at the end of your last review. You want to give yourself adequate time to look into an employee’s recent performance.  

Make it clear what will be covered in the meeting; a clear agenda works well. Employees should have a complete understanding of what will be discussed, one of the many benefits of conducting reviews regularly. 

These topics should be a part of any performance conversation:  

Current performance: Both parties should enter data on how the employee performs against the objectives originally set at the start of the year. Have your employee consider current barriers and if there’s anything you can do to help them. 

Make sure you get an update on why they are failing or achieving their objectives so far. 

The original performance objectives were set in good faith between the two of you, and they play a big part in determining whether the employee is succeeding or failing.

Career goals: Employee performance is usually fueled by their view of the future. Motivated employees continually push themselves and seek additional responsibilities and the potential of their next promotion. Get employees to consider where they want their legal career to go and how those motivations impact their performance.  

If there are performance issues, make sure your employee understands that it’s about developmental feedback and a plan to move forward. 

When employees aren’t achieving goals or objectives, these meetings can help determine why and how to help an employee improve.  

Start on the right foot by aligning expectations for the meeting itself.  

An employee should know their role in preparing for the meeting. They should review the agenda, add topics they’d like to cover, and know where and when the meeting will occur. 

Second, employees should know what to bring to the meeting and what information might be referenced or pulled into the discussion from the manager’s side. 

Finally, employees should have a clear idea of their responsibilities after the meeting and how their manager plans to help them succeed. 

Above all, managers and employees should have a shared understanding of what good performance looks like.  

When necessary, managers should clarify each employee’s role and how the firm perceives their contributions. By aligning expectations with your firm’s established performance criteria, your employees won’t feel misguided or alarmed when their review begins.  

Select Your Setting

Depending on the culture in your firm, there may be a standard procedure or way of conducting reviews. If in doubt, a private setting is best. It demonstrates to your employee how important they are and the level of respect you have for them. 

Catch-up chats are fine in communal areas; performance reviews are different.  

How long should the review be? That is up to you, and remember it is key to make your staff member feel important. Managers in a fast-paced work environment are often stretched for time, but this is one area to allow more time. An hour is a time frame to consider. 

If it is physically possible, choose a training room or conference facility away from your own office. Neutral ground, no matter what you are discussing, is always best so that all parties can have at least a few minutes of processing what has been said before they return to their desk. 

For example, suppose you are meeting with specific developmental feedback, and creating an improvement plan. In that case, you’ll want to choose somewhere private, so your team member can focus on the plan and less on what others might overhear.  

The Power of Questions

As a manager, it is your role to lead the review and ask questions to reveal what is related to the objectives. 

One of the easiest ways to do this is to list performance objectives and related questions. 

Brainstorm a list of open questions that encourage more than a yes or no answer. These generally start with who, what, where, why, how, and when. 

Always build rapport and put your employee at ease. Though you might feel awkward carrying out a review, remember your team member is feeling that too. 

Here are a few examples of questions you could use. 

  • What results from last month are you most proud of? 
  • How did you achieve X, Y, or Z? 
  • What disappointed you about your performance? 
  • What will you stop, start, and continue next months? 
  • Tell me more about what happened with A, B, or C? 
  • What roadblocks are in your way? 
  • What impact has your performance had on the firm? 
  • How can I support you as your manager? 

Using questions like this will give you more information and data to add to what you already have. Performance conversations should be two-way, so make sure you’re facilitating a discussion and actually listening.  

Remember to take notes so you have a record of how the discussion proceeds. As human beings, we have an innate desire to be heard. Asking questions, listening, and taking notes demonstrates this to your team member. 

Listening to your employees helps you learn and understand rather than simply giving someone equal air time. Ask follow-up questions to help you dig deeper and paint a fuller picture. 

Now is the time to focus on feedback, both developmental and motivational.  

The Gift of Feedback

I know some people think there is irony in this phrase, yet the truth is, how can we improve unless we are given feedback on how we perform and how to get better? 

Successful business owners employ a coach to improve their performance. The good news is that you can become a performance coach for your team. 

Mastering the art of giving feedback is one of the single most important things you can do as a manager.  

Feedback comes in two forms. Motivational feedback is when you’re congratulating or praising a team member for something they’ve achieved or done well. Developmental feedback is where you highlight a performance issue or behaviour that requires development to improve. 

Of course, the key lies in balancing the two types of feedback and how they are delivered. 

Many managers focus on developmental feedback only, which the team interprets as only noticing ‘the bad things.’  

Sometimes the manager does this because they appreciate developmental feedback. They think that others prefer this style too – or more commonly, they had managers who didn’t give motivational input, so they’re not accustomed to its benefits.  

On the other end of the scale, some managers praise a lot but don’t offer enough feedback for development. They don’t know how to give good developmental feedback, and so avoid giving it. Many managers haven’t been sufficiently trained in giving feedback or have had poor role models in their past managers. As such, no one knows where they’re going wrong or how their performance could improve. 

It isn’t helpful to give vague or ambiguous feedback to your team members, whether it’s positive (motivational) or negative (developmental).  

Yes, it can be helpful to tell someone they are doing a great job, yet it’s far more beneficial to let your team member know exactly what performance traits you have seen that has contributed and want to see them continue to use. 

As a generalisation, it’s easier for individuals to receive motivational feedback compared to developmental. However, suppose you invest time nurturing your relationships with each team member and stocking up their emotional bank account with sufficient motivational feedback. In that case, it is then easier for them to handle the developmental side. 

Too often, managers focus on what an employee can improve first and consider praise as a second thought. While this can be quickly rectified if you see someone every day, it’s not always the case if some of your teams are now working remotely. 

Research from the CIPD suggests that anything from five to six pieces of motivational feedback to one developmental is the right balance. This will vary by individual, and there is no better person than a manager to know which team members need more praise than others. 

As the review ends before developing a follow-up process, let’s discuss a topic that is often pushed aside, the conversation around compensation and benefits.  

The Compensation Conversation

We are currently in a volatile hiring market, which is highlighting discrepancies in salaries and compensation in some law firms. 

Interestingly, a recruiting MD colleague in an aligned sector shared with me how a candidate he was working with was made a counteroffer from her current employers when she submitted her resignation.  

They offered to increase her salary by 35%, and, with one of their star performers about to leave, they were also willing to consider remote working – something they had refused a year earlier.  

The employee took up the offer from a new employer as her trust in her current company had been ruined. 

This isn’t a one-off occurrence. 

If compensation conversations are not commonplace in your organisation, maybe they should be. 

If a high-performing employee asks for a pay rise or additional benefits, be prepared. No matter who’s making the request, your star performer or an average one, you’re likely to feel taken aback or annoyed at being put in this position. 

Don’t react with the common platitudes I am sure all of us has heard; “not my decision”, “if it were up to me, of course, I would give you an increase.” 

Depending on the size of your organisation, you may have flex; however, take stock as you plan your next steps. 

Be curious and use the time-tested strategy and phrase, “Tell me more.” Then listen and take notes.  

Ask open questions to uncover as much information as possible, depending on the individual’s explanation and reasons why you can then make a case or not for their request. 

Ensure your employee feels heard and agree when you will get back to them. Though you might have been ‘miffed’ at their request, remember it won’t have been easy for them to raise the issue in the first place. 

As a first step to handling the situation professionally, are you paying the ‘going rate’ for the role and responsibility? If you are unsure, ask your current legal recruiting partner, who will know the answer. 

If you are underpaying, then be prepared for the consequences in the current market, which will be losing a good employee with knowledge and experience of your firm and how you operate. Legal professionals are on the move more than ever before, and for the sake of a small pay increase, in the bigger scheme of things, is it worth losing a valuable employee? 

The conversations have happened, so what next? 

Post Review Follow Up

One of the common errors in managing effective performance reviews is the lack of follow-up. A great conversation happens, and then no follow-up communication occurs, and the impact gets lost. 

Your employees need support to achieve the next steps you have agreed to together. Ideally, put a development plan in place with milestones, timelines, and actions. 

Plan in the diary your next meetings and agree on what all parties will do between meetings. 

Follow this process, and you will have a comprehensive and fair process that will benefit your employee, team, and firm.  

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

Click here to speak to one of our experienced Legal specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

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Succession Planning in Law Firms: It’s never too early…but don’t leave it too late

  • May 17, 2023

The COVID-19 Pandemic taught businesses many things. How to adapt (and quickly), how to navigate unchartered territories, and most of all, how to be as prepared as you can for the unexpected. Those businesses that had business disruption plans in place were naturally given a head start, while others arguably had their fingers burnt when the world turned upside down.

One factor that all businesses face at some point in their future, is the potential disruption that comes with a key individual leaving – be that for another role, or as they head towards retirement.

And it will undoubtedly be small and medium-sized boutique firms that are the most at risk from disruption as the required skill set and knowledge will be concentrated amongst a few key individuals.

Put simply, firms without a succession plan risk losing revenue, reputation, and relationships, and whilst it’s hard to find the time to plan for the future when you are busy running the day-to-day, putting a clear strategy in place will only help to protect the business when the time comes to put it into action further down the line.

Here we look at the 9 steps to take to start a succession plan for your law firm:

 

1. First things first: look for signs your key people are thinking of leaving

Legal professionals can choose to leave your firm for a variety of reasons. They may be looking for a new opportunity or challenge in their career, want to move into another area of law perhaps, or simply have become dissatisfied in their current role.

The first step to planning for the future is to be ever aware of the warning signs your top talent is thinking of leaving.

This might include:

  • Avoidance of long-term projects and growth
  • Visible signs of the stress connected to the role
  • Signs that the individual is not as creative or intuitive as usual
  • Performance is beginning to suffer

In today’s changing legal landscape, issues like disengagement, burnout, and even “quiet quitting” are becoming increasingly common. Fortunately, if you can recognise these signs ahead of time, there are still things you can do to re-ignite your staff’s passion for your firm and prevent them from seeking other employment options.

If that is not an option, or all avenues have been exhausted and the individual has progressed to handing their notice in, you might want to consider step two…

 

2. Consider whether a counteroffer is the way forward

When you are faced with the prospect of losing a key individual from your law firm, it can be tempting to enter straight into negotiations to counteroffer. Not only can it be expensive to replace key people, it can also damage morale and affect client relationships. If there is a glimmer of light that the decision can be reversed, it is no surprise that many employers go down this route to mitigate any collateral damage.

However, business leaders should think twice before making a counteroffer as there are both pros and cons that should be considered.

There are times when negotiations are worth entering into, especially if that individual can still see a future at the firm, still finds the culture and working environment a ‘fit’, and any identified obstacles can be overcome.

However, if the counteroffer is based around salary expectations, take heed. Will offering an increase lead to an imbalance across the rest of the team? Will it start a snowball effect with other individuals? Can you actually afford the increase?

Finally, it is also worth noting at this point that any negotiations around encouraging a key individual to stay will not be relevant if the reason for leaving is retirement. However, with a presumed notice period that will be required in this instance, following the next steps are still key as that person works through those final months (or years).

 

3. Review your current team in depth

As a business leader – whether as a practicing solicitor or not, the structure of your business should always be reviewed periodically. Of course, you may have an ongoing hiring plan in place to fill certain ‘gaps’ or around a growth strategy as you increase headcount. But consideration should always be made around highlighting key individuals across the business that are likely to cause some element of disruption if they were to leave suddenly (either enforced by the firm or due to extenuating circumstances).

A good starting point would be to look at ‘vulnerable’ vs. ‘critical’ positions

  • Vulnerable = There is no identifiable successor. Risk is loss of functionality and knowledge as there is no obvious replacement.
  • Critical = A leaver in this category would significantly impact a firm’s operations. All leadership positions are critical by this definition – in particular CEO, CFO type roles.

Assuming you prioritise planning for the departure of these roles first, ask yourself if there is someone else in the business that can take on those responsibilities for example. What would happen to that individual’s clients or caseload? What clients are a flight risk and would potentially follow that individual to a new law firm?

These are the initial key questions when putting a succession plan in place: understanding the risks and ensuring that business continuity is key.

 

4. Develop your future leadership team

At any given point, having a pipeline of future leaders in the business is incredibly important – whatever the size and structure. Having clear progression paths in place is a good starting point so individuals can envisage their future at the firm, supported with robust training and upskilling where needed as part of the wider package of benefits and employee support.

When it comes to creating a succession plan, however, more careful consideration needs to be taken when assessing the exact skills and experience needed  – applicable whether you are planning to move people into that role from within or recruit externally.

You need to consider for example:

Key skills that may be lost  – If the individual leaving is a business leader or managing partner, these may not only be around their skills as a practicing lawyer. Business acumen, entrepreneurship, strong financial control, and managing a team are all essential skills that you would hope their successor would have. Above all, someone who has experience in change management would be ideal to take the business from its current state to a desired future state – executing change, mitigating risk, and minimising resistance.

SPOFs – ‘Single Point Of Failure’ – an acronym that originates in the world of IT, it refers to a component or part of a system that, upon failure, would cause the entire system to fail or significantly impact its operation. In business terms, therefore, you need to consider if any individuals have sole knowledge of a particular process or system or hold a set of critical skills that no one else in the business currently has. To see these, quite literally walk out of the door, may significantly impact your business, so ensuring that knowledge is shared is good practice.

Using notice periods to your advantage – if a successor has been identified, and there is a notice period for the leaving individual to serve, it may be worth considering if there is an opportunity for the two to work side-by-side for a period. Obviously, you will need to consider internal costs here and the impact on billing criteria if you have an individual mirroring a new role, but the time spent shadowing or preparing for the shift of responsibilities could be a sensible move in the long run.

 

5. Active management of client transitions

Unless the individual is leaving your firm because of retirement or to cease employment altogether for other reasons, there is always the risk of clients following that individual to one of your competitors.

So what can you do to mitigate the risk (and impact on your bottom line)?

Once again, the starting point is taking time to analyse your book of clients, particularly those who you would class as ‘high-value’. Do these have a team of people that you deal with regularly, or is it just one individual? Understanding these relationships is key, as is ensuring that all leads and client data is shared internally through your database or CRM.

If it is appropriate, ensure that the client has contact with a number of people within your firm, not just a single person. Regardless, open and transparent communication with your key clients is vital to uphold those valued relationships, maintaining service quality, and contribute to client satisfaction with the proposed changes ahead.

From an internal point of view, and if there is a formal transition in place between leaver and successor, make time to transfer knowledge about that client. This should be on a deeper level than the information found on a CRM or caseload platform. Ongoing projects, key individuals, processes, and how they like to do business are all vital nuggets of information that will equip the person taking over the relationship with the inside track over and above facts and figures on a much more personal level.

6. Creating an external comms plan that maintains stability

By now it is evident that clear communication to all stakeholders is a key part of continuity and succession planning. Creating a plan that also addresses ‘the market’ is also key here – particularly if the individual leaving is senior, a managing partner, or a CEO for example.

The objective of general external communications is to mitigate any potential damage to the firm’s brand and to reassure clients and potential clients about the continuity of service.

And, whilst a smooth and well-managed transition can have a positive impact on a firm’s brand, a poorly executed or mishandled succession process can actually tarnish its reputation.

Communicating future plans here is key – when people observe a well-prepared and seamless transition of key personnel, it instills confidence in the firm’s ability to maintain consistent service quality, fostering trust in the brand and reinforcing its reputation for reliability.

What’s more, succession planning allows a firm to strategically position itself by identifying and developing talent in specific practice areas or industries. By aligning succession plans with the firm’s strategic objectives, it can communicate its expertise and wider value proposition to clients and stakeholders. This further strengthens the firm’s brand reputation as a trusted authority in those areas of law.

 

7. Focus on internal communications and vision

Having a clear roadmap for the future; setting a vision and the steps in place to get there is crucial for any law firm, whatever their size or practice area. Engaging team members, ensuring efforts are aligned, and facilitating personal growth and development are key elements of successful internal communications.

When a key individual has given their notice to leave, it may very well lead to discontent and worry – albeit temporary – on the supposed disruption ahead. It’s therefore vital to be completely transparent with the remaining team about what plans are in place, and how they will affect the business in the short, medium, and long term.

Some key areas to focus on in your communications include:

Providing a clear roadmap ahead –  outline the future strategic direction particularly if this will change as the individual departs.

Engage in 2-way communication – encourage team members to share any concerns, thoughts, and ideas openly about what the future will look like.

Promote personal growth opportunities – ensuring the remaining team members can still see opportunities for their own growth, progression, and personal development is crucial.

Visualise the vision – where you can, make your firm’s vision tangible and relatable.  Use visual aids, and real-life examples to help team members connect on an emotional level.

Managing change communications is a critical aspect of successfully navigating organisational transitions and ensuring the smooth adoption of new initiatives and significant changes, including the departure of key individuals. Done well, this can help your remaining team transition with clarity, understanding, and engagement for the road ahead.

8. Consider hiring strategy as structure changes

Depending on the role in question, you may not want to hire someone external – rather, promote from within. This has clear benefits – these individuals are already a good fit for your firm, understand your tech stack and processes, and may already have fostered good relationships with key clients.

However, external hiring may be needed to back-fill the role of the successor for example. A shift around of roles and responsibilities internally inevitably leaves gaps somewhere – so consideration of what a revised or likely business structure should be taken to feed into a plan around hiring.

If you are responsible for hiring within your law firm – either wholly, or as part of your role as a practicing lawyer, one of the choices you have as part of your hiring strategy is whether you go it alone, or enlist the services of a recruitment specialist.

This decision may be based on a number of variables including £budget, speed (the need to get the position filled quickly), and the potential scarcity in the market of the hire(s) in question – but there are clear advantages to engaging early with a sector-specialist to give you a head start as you continue to focus on handovers and the transfer of knowledge of your departing employee.

9. Keep internal admin up to date

Job descriptions and the roles and responsibilities of individuals are likely to change over time – particularly if they progress along a defined career path, or the business changes and roles have to flex to accommodate those.

It is therefore prudent to keep documentation up to date to make it easier to recruit into that role when the time comes – be that from your internal talent pool or externally.

Even if the ‘new’ role may change with the departing individual, it at least allows you to benchmark and assess areas of the role that may need to pass to the successor.

And, ensuring that key processes are documented and shared internally is crucial if you don’t want to end up with SPOFs in the business who take that knowledge with them as they depart.

 

Conclusion

Whilst it’s not always the case that business leaders get a heads up on when the key individuals of their team are leaving, it is still worth having succession planning as part of the annual strategic review – particularly if a SWOT analysis is conducted where this could be classified as a very real threat to business-as-usual.

Where reasons for leaving are around retirement or taking a more permanent step back from current responsibilities, as much time to plan ahead should be taken. Using notice periods strategically to help document processes and pass the baton over to a suitable successor is time well spent.

And, if there is no one in the wings that look like they have the right skills and mindset to take on additional or alternative responsibilities, engaging with a trusted and reputable legal recruitment specialist as soon as you can is key to ensure you kick start the process and find a suitable candidate that is the right ‘fit’ from the outset.

Successful succession planning is about putting solid plans in place before key individuals leave – not scrambling to fill gaps and manage ripples of worry or discontent as they walk out of the door. And, as Vijay Parikh, Owner of Harold Benjamin Solicitors wrote recently for The Law Gazette whilst succession planning may not be something on many senior partners’ agenda, it is an absolute necessity, like any other future planning for a successful business.

In short, it’s never too early to start thinking about putting a strategy in place  – even if it only comes into force sometime in the future.

 

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help – whether that’s on a contingency or retained basis.

Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Sailing Through The First Month Of Your New Legal Role

  • March 5, 2023

The truth is that the interview process lasts a lot longer than you might think…

According to a survey shared in Entrepreneur, approximately 46% of workers plan on finding a new position in 2023. And, despite the uncertain economic climate, those considering a move are just as confident in their job prospects as they were six months ago.

If you’re one of the many likely to take the next step in your career path this year, it’s important to think carefully about how you will make the right impression from day one – after all, getting through the interview process and being offered a role is very much stage one. And whilst there is (rightly) much cause for celebration, even after a hiring manager has offered you a role in their firm, it is still crucial that you validate their decision that they made the right choice in hiring you.

The first 30 days in a new role can be both nerve-wracking and exciting in equal parts. There are new processes and technologies to get used to, new people to meet, and new expectations to live up to. Plus, this first month will likely form part of a formal probation period where your employer (and you) will be assessing suitability and ‘fit’ as a new employee.

Knowing how to orient yourself in the first month in your new position not only improves your chances of impressing your boss, but it could also mean you start experiencing the full benefits of your new job much faster.

Step 1: Form Crucial Connections

Internal networking is one of the most important things you can do during the first few weeks in a new role. Getting to know the people you work with will improve your experience within your new firm and make you feel more comfortable in your position.

Communicating with others is also a great way to capture the attention of your managers and senior leaders. During your first couple of weeks with a new company, find out who you will be working with regularly, and commit some time to get to know each colleague.

It’s also worth finding out who you should be approaching if you have questions or concerns about your role. Discover when your contacts are most likely to be available, and determine how they prefer to communicate (E.g. in person, email, chat, or video).

For individuals who are working remotely, technology has advanced at lightening speed over the last few years – so there is no excuse to not reach out and get to know your team members, albeit virtually.

Step 2: Learn as Much as You Can

Even as an experienced legal professional, during your first month with a new law firm, you’ll have a lot of learning to do. You’ll need to become familiar with the internal processes you’re expected to follow, the policies you must adhere to, and the general workflow of the people around you.

Focus on expanding your knowledge in areas relevant to your role. For instance, asking for more information about the clients your law firm serves or how your team manages projects and deadlines might be beneficial. Read up on the documentation given to you during your onboarding session, and consider asking for extra training if necessary.

It’s also worth paying attention to your surroundings, so you can learn how to embed yourself into the company culture. Consider the company’s values and how you can showcase them in your work. Ask yourself how people communicate and collaborate so you know what to expect when connecting with others.

Step 3: Confirm Expectations

Hopefully, during the hiring and onboarding process, your firm will have given you some insights into what kind of work will be expected of you and how that work will be assessed. However, it may be helpful to confirm the expectations of your manager or supervisor with them.

Arrange for a one-on-one meeting with your manager if this has not been covered during the onboarding process, where you can discuss exactly what your leaders will be looking for when evaluating your work. Make a list of key performance metrics your business will monitor when assessing you.

It might be helpful to arrange additional meetings with your manager, bi-weekly or monthly, during the first stages of starting your new role. This will allow you to collect feedback and ensure you’re adhering to the expectations set for you. Many firms will have a formal performance review system in place, particularly for new starters – but if not, do ask for regular feedback. You don’t want to get to your probation review in 3 or 6 months time and learn things aren’t going as planned….especially when it will be too late to do anything about it.

Step 4: Find the Best Time to Ask Questions

When starting a new legal role, it’s tempting to ask many questions straight away. Asking questions is a great way to learn and show you’re invested in succeeding in your new position.

However, there’s a time, a place to ask, and a time when you need to listen.

Focus most of your time on what’s happening around you. If you have questions or need clarification, write down what you need to know. Prioritise the information you need first and ask yourself when it might be best to put certain questions off until you have a chance to meet with your manager face-to-face.

Step 5: Constantly Demonstrate Your Value

Once you know what’s expected of you in your new role and clearly understand the firm’s vision and mission, you can begin to demonstrate your value. During the first 30 days of a new legal role, you have a unique opportunity to prove to your hiring manager that they made the right choice when selecting you.

Start implementing strategies for quick wins based on what you know about how your work will be evaluated. For instance, if you know your manager is concerned about ensuring projects are completed on time, plan your schedule carefully, and keep them up-to-date with your progress as you complete each task.

Show your commitment to constantly improving and growing by volunteering for extra training sessions, asking for a mentor to guide you, or requesting feedback whenever possible.

In Conclusion

The first 30 days of your new career can be critical to your long-term career plan. Regardless of whether you’re starting in a position with a new company, or you’re exploring the new responsibilities that come with a promotion, be prepared and know how to put your best foot forward. By learning what to focus on from day one, discovering which skills and habits you need to demonstrate, and letting go of the things that might be holding you back, you can impress your manager which will
affirm in their mind that they made the right decision.

The good news is that there are a number of time-tested strategies that you can implement from day one.

As well as the top tips already mentioned, we have also produced a more in-depth guide to provide you with everything you need to know to streamline the transition into a new role. From habit-forming, to the types of questions you should be asking, the guide will ensure that you will be ready to hit the ground running, and make the right first impression in your new company. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help.

Call us on 01772 259 121 or get in touch with us here

 

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Is Your Feedback Worthwhile to Your Legal Team?

  • October 1, 2019

Feedback is something of a controversial subject.

Some argue that it doesn’t fulfil a valuable function in the legal workplace; that it merely wastes the time of those giving and receiving it and that it can undermine an individual’s confidence in their ability to do their job.

But feedback can be a powerful tool in your legal team.

Useful feedback has benefits for the giver, the receiver, and your law firm as a whole; it can be used to make critical decisions.

Continuous improvement is not just the latest buzz word; it focuses your law firm on building performance by helping individuals make better decisions going forward, doing more of what is already going well, and establishes a culture of ongoing two-way communication.

Feedback is a Skill

Firstly, it’s essential to recognise that giving and receiving feedback is a skill.

Good feedback relies on your ability to embrace emotional intelligence – using your self-knowledge to enable you to accept positive criticism and use it to learn and grow, and using your empathy to put yourself in another’s shoes to see things from their point of view when providing feedback.

Feedback also requires active listening – making sure that both parties know they have been understood and that what they said holds value (more on this later).

So, the trick to implementing valuable and worthwhile feedback to your legal team is to understand what it provides and to use it correctly.

Feedback is a Constant Process

Most law firms, when asked, would say feedback is given during employee surveys, at performance appraisals or in training evaluations, and that’s true. But, feedback is also there all the time in our day to day working lives.

So, be aware of feedback being a constant – and aim to use it wisely when communicating with your legal team. In effect, good feedback between senior partners or managers and their teams can enable you to grow the firm by instilling a sense of support across all employee levels, from trainees to Senior Partners.

Feedback is a Two-way Conversation

Feedback provides an effective way of giving value to and acknowledgement of another’s thoughts – it’s also critical to ensure that for everyone concerned, feedback provides an opportunity to speak and be heard.

That means providing feedback and allowing for comment back on your observations.

It involves practising active listening to ensure that both parties are on the same page with exactly what the feedback means.

It’s so easy for comments to be misinterpreted: I find it useful to repeat what someone has said to me to be sure I’m clear on their meaning.

So, for example, if you are giving feedback to your legal secretary, you might say, “So, from what you are saying I understand that you are unhappy with the level of caseload work and would like to know if it’s possible to introduce a software package to help speed up the admin process. Is that correct?”

This sort of clarification opportunity ensures that you don’t misinterpret the message – which of course can lead to problems further down the line.

Feedback Provides Opportunity

Feedback should be an opportunity to help individuals know where they are doing a great job and where they need to focus on developing skills and abilities.

Without feedback, there is a lack of understanding for an individual as to how they are measuring up in their legal work and therefore, limited opportunity for them to improve.

If individuals do not receive feedback or don’t know how to receive it in a constructive fashion, they are likely to lose out on potential promotion and the chance to grow in their skill set, knowledge and capabilities – and gain a fulfilling career in law.

Feedback Addresses Specifics

Feedback should be delivered with respect – always.

Even if the feedback is negative, it’s critical for the giver to be aware of the manner in which they are delivering their comments to ensure that the feedback is constructive and specific.

That means referring to specific incidents rather than vague statements, for example, “In the meeting last Thursday you interrupted Jim before he had a chance to put his case” rather than “You’re always talking over other people.”

The feedback should be non-judgemental – so, “I believe you may have misunderstood the reasons for the client costs going up?”, rather than “You were wrong to say the cost shouldn’t have been increased.”

It should also let the individual know the effect their action or comment had. For example, “After you talked over Kim’s suggestions in the meeting last week, she felt upset and undermined, which affected her confidence in her professional opinion.”

Feedback Enables Growth

Remember, feedback isn’t just about the negatives.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to acknowledge where good work has been done and to formally recognise it as part of your employee development plan.

Positive feedback provides a significant morale boost and is part of the learning process – reinforcing what a team member is doing right. It shows you recognise excellent performance and enables the employee to be able to move forward, doing more of the same behaviour.

Of course, we’re all only human, so feedback can never be entirely objective.

It’s crucial, though, to focus on delivering all feedback in a way that minimises the chances of the recipient feeling threatened or defensive and allows them to take on board comments (good and bad) and see them as drivers to inspire learning and development.

This will enable individuals to grow and flourish in their legal career and will allow you to develop a legal team who perform at the top of their game.

Initiating Feedback

Asking for feedback unprompted shows that a team member is more likely to accept it as a positive and learn from it.

These are the employees who are more likely to advance in their legal career. Conversely, it’s often the case that those who never ask for feedback are less open and likely to be more defensive if they feel challenged in their behaviour.

If you have team members who actively seek your feedback, then be prepared to provide constructive comment to help them.

And don’t forget, asking for feedback yourself shows excellent leadership qualities – after all, no-one’s perfect!

Feedback, either informally requested or as part of a formal review process, can provide an excellent platform for improving performance.

Instilling a culture of feedback in your law firm and seeing it as positive will enable you to remain aligned to overall goals, help create strategies for the firm, develop services, improve relationships and achieve success.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking for the next move to grow your legal team, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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The 5 Legal Interview Mistakes

  • September 28, 2019

You may be a legal professional with knowledge, experience and the right soft skills to nail your next role, but it’s still easy to slip up in an interview.

Preparation and knowing how to act at your interview will allow you to showcase your talents, but if you don’t prepare sufficiently or think carefully about what you are saying on the day, you risk falling into the trap many legal professionals make, scuppering your chances of getting that ideal legal role.

Here are the five most common interview mistakes legal professionals make – and how to avoid them.

Not Being Prepared

Fail to prepare; prepare to fail. Failure to do your research and preparation can make you look lazy and uninterested in the role.

Reading up on the firm’s background, noting its place and competitors in the legal sector, its specialisms and recent positive news will put you in a great position to arrive confidently ready for anything. Your background research will give you a ‘feel’ for the firm and will demonstrate to the interviewer your understanding of both the firm, the market/verticals in which it operates and the role on offer.

Research can be as simple as checking out the firm’s website for information. Additionally, you could dig a bit deeper by checking out individual LinkedIn profiles, reviews, blogs and articles to give you a rounded view of the firm you hope to work for and help you prepare for the questions you may be asked.

Not Looking the Part

Legal roles, be they at trainee or Senior Partner level, require a certain level of professional dress.

I know it sounds obvious, but some candidates do fail to dress suitably for interview.

You should arrive for your interview as you would expect to arrive at work. Smart, professional, clean and tidy. First impressions do count in the legal world, and you won’t impress an interviewer if you roll up in creased, worn or just plain inappropriate clothing.

If in doubt about how formal you should go, lean on the side of caution – too formal is better than not formal enough and of course check in with your legal recruitment consultant who will be conversant with what is expected at the firm where you are being interviewed!

Looking the part will also give you an air of confidence: if you know you look professional, you will feel it.

Oh, and remember to switch your phone off too!

Talking too Much (or Clamming Up)

There’s a fine line between showing you’re interested and taking over the conversation. You don’t want the interviewer to think you’re going to be the employee who spends all day chatting to colleagues, but neither do you want to hold back and appear disengaged.

Waffling is a common side effect of nerves, so if you feel yourself beginning to ramble, take a moment to gather your thoughts and think about the question you’re being asked before giving your answer.

Conversely, being too concise in your answers can make you appear indifferent to the job or worse still lacking knowledge.

Practising answers to the type of questions you are likely to be asked will help enormously. You can practice with a friend or your recruitment specialist. The more you rehearse your answers, the more you will find you are confident in what to say. This will go a long way to help alleviate your nerves on the day and will allow you to deliver your answers calmly and with confidence.

Remember, interviewers are human too, and they know that nerves can be an issue. So, if your mind goes totally blank, it’s fine to take some time to gather your thoughts or ask if you can come back to that question to give you time to think about your answer.

Bad-mouthing Former Employers

This is an absolute no-no.

Regardless of how you feel about a former workplace or colleagues, your interview is not the appropriate place to indulge in a rant about how awful your ex-team was, or how you believe the Senior Partner was incapable of doing their job.

Nothing will put your interviewer off you quicker than listening to you complain about former colleagues. It gives a terrible impression of you and will make them wonder what you might say about them in future!

I always advise candidates that diplomacy is called for if you are asked about former work situations. If they weren’t great, try to focus on the positives by concentrating on how you dealt will potentially tricky occasions (without going into detail) so you are seen as loyal and proactive, rather than hostile.

Not Thinking About Your Own Questions

Preparing for the questions you will be asked is only one half of the interview. It’s a two-way conversation, and you are almost certain to be asked if you have any questions.

Whatever you do, never say you don’t have any or ‘I think you have covered everything’, even if your interviewer may have!

As part of your preparation, it’s ideal to come up with three or four questions to ask when it comes to your turn. Suggestions include:

“What does a typical day look like?” (shows you imagine yourself in the role)

“Is there scope in this role for me to add value to it?” (shows you are keen to develop and expand your abilities)

“Do you see the firm scaling up/taking on additional specialisms in the future” (indicates you are planning to stay, and are interested in helping the firm grow)

Questions you definitely should not ask include anything related to salary or annual leave. Those concerns can be discussed once you’ve been offered the role.

Remember, preparation is vital for interview success; prepare well, and you will have confidence in yourself on the day.

Your interview is an opportunity to showcase your talents, interest and character, and be memorable to the interviewer – for the right reasons!

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking for the next move in your legal career, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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