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From Intent to Inertia: Why Some Law Firms Struggle To Uphold their New Year’s Resolutions

  • February 6, 2024

From Intent to Inertia: Why Some Law Firms Struggle To Uphold their New Year’s Resolutions

With the first month of the new year now in the bag, it is highly probable that those ‘New Year’ resolutions set at the back end of 2023 have already been broken – at least those set on a personal level where exercise or the quitting of bad habits are usually top of those lists.

In this regard, it is estimated that as many as 80% of people fail to keep their resolutions by February, with only a mere 8% seeing them through for the entirety of the year.

A 4000-year Old Tradition

The act of setting goals at the start of a new calendar year is reported to date back to Ancient Babylonians some 4000 years ago where ‘debts were promised to be paid to gods and borrowed objects returned’. And, whilst the new year promises were deeply entwined with religion and mythology, the premise of a ‘new beginning’ is one that has carried through for many thousands of years.

While resolutions are often associated with personal goals, they hold equal importance when it comes to business – especially around setting annual objectives and reflecting on the overall strategy in an ever-changing environment where continual review of the road ahead is crucial.

Most businesses will review their new year plans in quarter four when typically, there is enough information to reflect back on metrics and KPIs for the current year, assess whether or not objectives will be hit, and allow some wiggle room to re-calibrate and focus on ending the year on a high.

Objectives or ‘new year resolutions’ therefore have likely long been set at this juncture – and for those firms set on a growth trajectory, these will likely include executing hiring plans as well as a laser-sharp focus on staff retention.

Are Your Business Resolutions Still on Track?

At the stroke of midnight on 1st January, and the subsequent return to the office after the festive break, law firms will no doubt have set their sights kickstarting the 2024 objectives with intent. However, as the first quarter unfolds, it appears that some legal practices may be encountering obstacles in adhering to their hiring-focused resolutions.

Even one calendar month down the line, and then as the year progresses, it’s essential for law firms to reassess their hiring objectives, adapt to unforeseen challenges, and remain committed to the path of growth – especially when you consider a recent statistic that 75% of UK businesses are in a state of ‘existence’ or just surviving.

So what areas should firms be focussed on to ensure their well-intentioned goals remain on track?

Streamline (and Standardise) Your Hiring Process:

The aspiration to streamline hiring processes and avoid past mistakes holds promise, but the intricate decision-making within law firms can pose challenges. If you recruit regularly, it is worth looking to standardise processes where possible, albeit not at the detriment to the often-unique experiences of each individual candidate that comes into contact with the firm. An ethical approach to recruitment is recommended here – and is becoming a non-negotiable in the current candidate-led market.

Enhance Diversity Efforts:

Despite the emphasis on diversity and inclusion, some law firms may struggle to make significant progress due to ingrained practices and a lack of comprehensive strategies. Overcoming unconscious biases and fostering an inclusive environment requires continuous effort, which may not be progressing as rapidly as intended. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are not just buzzwords or an acronym to add to your customer-facing marketing; they are essential components of a successful business strategy of any firm that aims to remain competitive. As the glue that keeps social dynamics within a business and in turn, team competence and efficacy functioning at its highest capacity, it is indispensable to your hiring strategy, whatever your recruitment goals or objectives may be, and when done right, it can be instrumental in keeping your talent attraction and retention efforts on track.

It is perhaps concerning then, that firms are yet to treat it as more than an emerging trend in practice, and some go only as far as paying lip service when professing to make it a central part of their recruitment efforts. If you’re serious about taking your hiring game to the next level in 2024, then this is a great place to start. We look at how to build a DEI strategy that supercharges your recruitment efforts here.

 

Revisit Your Job Descriptions:

Job descriptions may be overlooked as daily legal tasks take precedence. Busy schedules can result in insufficient attention to crafting comprehensive and appealing job descriptions, making it difficult to attract top-tier talent.

However, as the hiring landscape evolves, legal candidates still rely on engaging, informative, and powerful job descriptions to assess whether or not they are a fit for their career aspirations and professional development. The best job descriptions go beyond skill requirements, offering a glimpse into firm culture and showcasing benefits that matter to the market’s top talent.

As law firms forge ahead with hiring initiatives, the importance of making your voice shine amidst the noise becomes increasingly important. If you want to turn the heads of the right people from the get-go and avoid a ‘square peg in a round hole’ scenario with regard to your hiring efforts, then your job descriptions must be compelling, engaging and effective enough to attract the market’s top talent. Find out more about how to craft a winning job description here.

Harness the Potential of Social Media:

The traditionally conservative legal industry may find it challenging to fully embrace the power of social media. The time and resources required for maintaining an active and engaging social media presence can be overwhelming for firms, leading to a lapse in this resolution, however, love it or loathe it – the fact remains that legal professionals will research the whole digital footprint of a firm as part of their decision-making process.

If you have the core channels set up and active, it’s always worth a holistic review of things like your bio information, and your wider content strategy. What kind of things do you communicate? Do you share information that gives visitors to those platforms a good idea of your working environment and culture? Is it obvious how you celebrate success? Can you utilise the voice of your existing employees to focus on things like career development?  A social media strategy is usually easy to flex and improve as and when you need to, so if that review wasn’t part of your new-year resolution, it’s always worth finding the time to conduct your due-diligence and ensure that your channels are working as hard as they can to put your best foot forward to those in the active talent pools.

Invest in Training and Upskilling:

Despite recognising the importance of investing in staff development, law firms may face budget constraints or a lack of suitable training programs. This can hinder the execution of the resolution to upskill existing staff – something that will no doubt be on the agendas of businesses up and down the country as the much-documented skills shortage becomes a harsh reality.

Similarly, what legal professionals look for in an employer has changed significantly since the pandemic and the value of career fulfillment has become a staple part of the modern legal professional’s priorities when searching for the ideal employer.

The notion of the one-employer-career has changed dramatically in recent years, and it’s not at all uncommon for legal professionals to be left with a lingering sense of stagnation after spending a few years building their skills in their current role, and consequently view the option of jumping ship as the only way to experience real progress in their career.

The resulting high turnover rate is what has brought the idea of Employee Development Plans into focus for law firms, with an aim to ensure ongoing employability through improving the individual’s workplace soft and hard skills, and industry knowledge. A good plan will strive to create a series of actions designed to help the individual develop and grow within the context of their legal career, while also developing their capabilities and meeting the needs of the employer.

Build and Maintain Brand Image:

Building and maintaining a strong brand image demands consistent effort and resources. Law firms may find it challenging to allocate sufficient time and funds to enhance their brand, especially when immediate client needs take precedence.

Candidates believe in what they can see now more than ever, and in an age where information is easily accessible online, maintaining a strong brand and a good reputation is essential for attracting and retaining top legal talent. Prospective candidates will research a firm as much as the firm will investigate the candidates’ qualifications and qualities and should your credibility fall short as an employer you can be filtered out of shortlists before a CV or profile is even read.

A proactive approach is therefore essential in order to positively influence one’s brand and reputation in the market, whether that be by building a workforce that acts as ambassadors that champion the business values, or convincingly demonstrating that your business does indeed walk the walk when it comes to employee satisfaction. Click here to find out more about how you can tap into the potential your employer brand carries and catalyse its growth.

Consider How Flexible You Can Afford to Be:

One might say that the hybrid working drum has been beaten to death ever since its meteoric rise in popularity among legal candidates during the pandemic. It’s hardly a secret to anyone keeping a close eye on the state of play across the industry over the last few years, and most if not all firms competing for the best talent available on the market will be well aware of just how highly sought after flexibility is by the talent pool in their current market.

And yet, this topic of flexibility remains a sticking point with some employers today, and as a result a barrier to rather than a buttress for hiring success. While that is in part due to expected challenges in marrying candidate and business demands, it is also due to the general rigidity legal employers are known to have towards changes to traditional modus operandi in general. When competition for talent is fiercer than ever before, can your firm afford to be flexible when it comes to working arrangements?

Ultimately, the crux of your success in your hiring efforts will come down to how well you can provide the best employee experience better than your competitors (and back it up). If it is indeed a viable option for your business then it should absolutely be part of your recruitment – and retention – strategy.  We take a deeper look at this and much more here.

In Conclusion:

With almost 11 months left of the year, arguably it is still all to play for when it comes to adherence to your annual business objectives. If however, the roadmap to growth has already hit some bumps in the road, especially when it comes to talent attraction, utilising the services of legal recruitment specialists will undoubtedly get those plans back on track with renewed insight about current market conditions and the movement of talent within your region and/or practice area.

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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6 Ways to Make Attracting Legal Talent Easier in 2024

  • January 29, 2024

Following the pandemic businesses across the legal industry have gradually started to find their feet, slowly but surely accepting and adapting to the multitude of changes the post-pandemic market has thrust on our shoulders. Employers have recognised and respected the change in status quo concerning the expectations set out in current client and employee demands and seem to be reworking their hiring strategies accordingly to keep up.

Last year however, it wasn’t quite the year of progress many would’ve envisioned, and while it’s certainly true that finding the right legal talent in today’s market is rarely ever a straightforward task, many will agree that few years have brought more challenges when it came to both the recruitment AND retention of top talent.

According to a report released last year by Vacancysoft and Search, 2023 was a less active year than anticipated for the UK’s top law firms with vacancies down 35.5% year-on-year. And, even as hiring appetite increases as a new year takes hold, according to the Wolters Kluwer ‘Future Ready Lawyer 2023’ Report, recruitment and retention are likely to still be key challenges for the legal industry in the next 3 years, one that legal professionals “are not yet ready to overcome.” A similar concern for the general outlook on recruitment in the coming years was also echoed by the International Bar Association in their IBA legal agenda, listing talent attraction and retention as one of the biggest challenges to businesses in the sector, due to the changing demands and priorities of younger legal professionals, in particular work-life balance and a greater sense of purpose in the work they do on a day-to-day basis.

For any firm intent on growth this year, there is therefore no better time than now to put your recruitment process under the microscope and lay the groundwork needed for it be successful – particularly against a backdrop of continued economic uncertainty and a skills shortage still prevalent in the sector.

Recruitment can be, and often is, a laborious and multi-faceted process, but here are 6 steps to ensure you start on the right path this coming year >>>

1. A Focus on Flexibility

A direct and perhaps one of the biggest consequences of the widely reported skills shortage is the sudden shift of the industry towards a more digital tech-oriented manner of working and the incorporation of such tools into legal practice – something that’s sure to change demand for certain skillsets within the legal profession. What is poignant about this fact however, is how it will actually emphasise the need for soft skills in the near future. With AI technology set to spearhead the streamlining of legal procedures and more work to be commoditised, what will be highly sought after by legal employers skills-wise is the ability to deal with human beings, and the qualities that best serve that purpose.

However, if some of the inflexibility found in firms across the sector continues to persist, the search for talent of this calibre will only get harder. A paper published last year by Harvard Business School and Accenture revealed that a huge number of skilled hidden workers are shut out of employment simply due to the lack of flexibility present among employers today. Law firms risk being oblivious to the reservoir of talent right under their noses if they fail to adapt to the changing demands of legal professionals.

It therefore serves your firm far better to begin looking at how you can better serve the candidates you want working at your firm. Whether this requires a sit-down with your recruitment team to discuss how such accommodations can be made and communicated throughout the hiring process or a talk with your management team to improve existing firm practices to better support its employees, it is a must for any firm seeking to remain attractive to prospective candidates.

2. Update Your Hiring Strategy With a Focus on Candidate Care

As you begin to rework your hiring and firm practices with your candidates in mind, the central theme of empathy should be the thread that runs throughout your hiring process, as this is what virtually all job seekers are looking for at the end of the day.

Show your candidates you have their best interests in mind and are invested in delivering the right level of support at every stage of the application process, by implementing strategies for better candidate care. This could involve simplifying interview processes to enhance accessibility through the option of flexible interview locations or the use of screen readers during assessments. This could be especially ideal if you’re looking to hire remote and hybrid employees.

Remember to implement and establish channels of communication with your candidates throughout the hiring process too. Regular communication is key to a good candidate experience.

3. Refine Your Employer Brand

Your employer brand is what gives your law firm the edge over the competition in your search for legal talent. It’s how you ensure you appeal to candidates with what your firm has to offer, whether that be an excellent salary and benefit options, a sense of purpose, shared values or great career development opportunities.

Despite its recognised importance in any successful hiring endeavour today, many law firms still struggle to utilise it effectively to position themselves in front of their target audience. If you find yourself questioning the efficacy of your brand, then a good starting point will be to define what makes people actually want to work with you. Ask your team members what convinced them to continue with your firm, and what they find most appealing about working there.

  • Do you have a supportive leadership team?
  • Does your firm offer excellent opportunities for professional development and growth?
  • Does it foster an employee-centric culture that eliminates many of the problems legal professionals encounter in the workplace, such as burnout?

Once you know what makes your business unique, the next step is to get it publicised as much as possible.

Don’t forget that existing employees can help here – particularly those that are engaged and are already good advocates for the business and brand.

By giving them a voice to provide prospective candidates with insights into the employee experience, you add much more credibility to your message and get the attention of the right individuals. Use testimonials, success stories and positive feedback to your advantage and make them known on social media as often as possible to expand your reach.

4. Review Your Digital Footprint

Establishing a compelling employer brand is pivotal for attracting top legal talent, but its effectiveness hinges on strategic exposure to the right audience. A strong digital presence is essential for any law firm in the industry today. Presently, approximately 86% of job seekers incorporate social media into their job search, and prospective legal candidates frequently turn to the web for insights into a firm’s culture through reviews.

Ensuring that your website provides an insider’s perspective on your business operations is crucial for the credibility and authenticity of your employer brand. Clearly articulate your values, mission statement, and vision to engage the interest of potential candidates while maintaining a consistent presence across the social channels frequented by your target candidates. Don’t forget to assess and update your appearance on job review boards too.

5. Spark the Interest You Want Through Your Job Descriptions

Your job descriptions are one of the first things potential candidates will examine when deciding whether they want to work with you. With this in mind, it’s important to ensure you’re conveying the right information. Don’t make the mistake of putting off talented legal employees by listing too many unnecessary or “preferred” skills.

Highlight only the characteristics and qualities you know you’re going to need most. At the same time, make sure you’re avoiding any language in your descriptions that may show unintentional bias towards a specific audience.

When writing your descriptions, don’t forget to showcase reasons why your candidates might want to work for you. Draw attention to your unique company culture, your salary package, and even the available training opportunities in place.

More help to ensure these turn the heads of the right people can be found here.

6. Bring in the Experts

When it comes to attracting legal talent, undoubtedly the best tool you can possibly have in your arsenal is the services of an expert in the field – one that takes the time to understand your firm’s business needs, and acts with your best interests at heart, while giving you the support you need at every step of the process. This is what makes the expertise of a legal recruitment partner so invaluable for hirers as not only can they position your business in front of the right legal candidates – a task becoming increasingly harder by the day in today’s market – but they also work with you to build a talent pipeline and ensure your recruitment process remains efficient and effective even when not actively hiring.

Amongst several other benefits that come with such partnerships, perhaps one of the most beneficial is that the longer you work with them, the better they can understand the needs of your firm, and the better the fit and quality of candidates they can find for your business as a result.

At Clayton Legal, we work with law firms such as yours to make this a reality, no matter the staffing requirement asked of us, and are committed to adding real value to the businesses that partner with us for their hiring needs. Our team make it their mission to ensure you get nothing less than the support and the talent you need to make your recruitment endeavours successful – and are on hand to provide guidance throughout the process wherever necessary.

If you are currently weighing up your options and feel that your hiring efforts could do with a little extra help from a recruitment expert then there is no better time than now to get in touch with our team for an informal chat about how we could help. Give us a ring on 01772 259 121 today or contact us here.

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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Navigating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Blueprint for Law Firms

  • December 15, 2023

Workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion, commonly abbreviated as DEI, encompass the establishment of policies and procedures that actively promote the representation and involvement of individuals from diverse backgrounds, including varying genders, races, ethnicities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, disabilities, and social classes.

Creating an inclusive workplace culture has been high on the agenda of many businesses in the last few years and the benefits around this are much publicised – from aiding employee recruitment, engagement, and retention, to innovation, strategic growth, and performance of the business more widely.

In the context of law firms, embracing DEI principles is not merely a moral imperative, but arguably a strategic necessity. The legal profession, like any other, benefits immensely from a diverse array of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. In a multicultural and pluralistic society such as the UK, ensuring representation and inclusion in law firms is paramount to building trust, credibility, and legitimacy within the broader community.

Law firms that prioritise DEI initiatives are better positioned to address the diverse needs of their clients, who themselves come from various walks of life. A diverse legal team enhances the capacity to understand and navigate the intricacies of complex legal issues, thereby promoting a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to problem-solving. Moreover, fostering an inclusive environment within law firms is essential for attracting and retaining top talent from all backgrounds, ensuring that the legal profession reflects the rich tapestry of the society it serves.

The benefits are clear – and widely acknowledged across the legal landscape, but does that necessarily translate into actionable and implementable practices?

Arguably not…or at least, not at the moment.

A National Scandal?

Back in September 2023, Matthew Hill, the Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board (LSB), addressed the issue of diversity at the Law Society’s Junior Solicitors Network summit, asserting that the lack of diversity at partnership level in major law firms should be a matter of ‘national scandal’.

While discussing the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), Hill emphasised that the new centralised assessments were not intended to instantly resolve all diversity issues. Instead, he highlighted the broader concerns of attracting individuals to the legal profession and making the legal career path universally appealing. Hill identified existing working practices within law firms, such as informal strategy planning in exclusive settings, as hidden barriers for individuals from diverse backgrounds. He called for increased transparency in progression and promotions, urging a re-evaluation of how seniority is perceived in the legal profession, emphasising the need for a more sophisticated model that captures the diverse richness of professional experience.

A recent article in the Law Gazette similarly highlighted that whilst the intake of trainees from a mix of racial, gender and socio-economic backgrounds has improved in recent years – the legal profession still faces huge challenges in retaining its diverse cohort – especially when it came to a seat ‘at the top table’ and making DEI a strategic management decision.

How Diverse Is the Legal Profession? Current State of Play

According to the latest data published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in the United Kingdom at least, there has been a slow but steady increase in diversity among all lawyers since the previous survey in 2021, although there is still some way to go with certain diversity groups and categories.

Ethnic lawyers constitute only 18% of the law firm lawyer population, and the disabled make up just 5%, in contrast to the 14% representation in the overall UK workforce. While there have been some advancements in the US, similar patterns have emerged; the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) citing that although 28% of law firm associates belong to minority groups, only 11.4% ascend to partner positions.

While the lack of diversity and equal opportunities remains a significant topic of discussion in the legal industry today, it is not a new challenge. In fact, calls for enhanced diversity date back to 2008. As awareness among legal professionals regarding the significance of working for firms that advocate diversity increases, coupled with a growing client demand for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the question looms: How will law firms choose to address this issue?

DEI – A Recap

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a term used to describe policies and programmes that promote the representation and participation of different groups of individuals, including people of different ages, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, genders, religions, cultures, and sexual orientation.

Its significance in achieving long-term corporate success cannot be understated, as it forms an integral part of the firm culture that employees will be reliant on to achieve optimal performance. A good way to understand its role in business is to consider the following analogy depicted by former Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Michigan, Robert Sellers:

  • Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party
  • Inclusion means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist
  • Equity means that everyone has the opportunity to dance

This metaphor is an apt way of describing how DEI policies are to work in practice. The CIPD confirms that while U.K. legislation sets minimum standards overlaying disability, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, among others – an effective DEI strategy goes further than being legally compliant. DEI implementation is meant to unite the best interests of both employee and employer by supporting and promoting the wellbeing and engagement of the former, which in turn adds increased value to the latter.

DEI and Business Growth

The business case for diversity has been well-documented since the McKinsey reports produced on the topic in 2014. Their latest published report still confirms that the case remains strong, with a few key findings indicating that the connection between diversity on executive teams and financial outperformance has only strengthened over time. Some of them include the following:

  • Companies with more than 30 per cent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn, these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives or none at all
  • A substantial differential likelihood of outperformance—48 percent—separates the most from the least gender-diverse companies

All encouraging signs that show what is possible with enough support and focus.

However, while there is a profound awareness of the need to step up efforts in DEI, this growing imperative is not reflected in practice. The NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education revealed in 2021 that the overall attrition rate for associates was as high as 34% among legal professionals of colour. This was further corroborated by a research paper released by Thomson Reuters institute, which showed that women, minorities and LGBTQ+ associates represented the biggest flight risk for firms. Considering these are also groups that were found to struggle the most during the pandemic, this signifies a serious lack of impetus and action on the part of employers to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce.

While it is indeed logical to assume that law firms do want to attract diverse talent, based on the data previously mentioned and the skills shortage problem many are contending with, it does not take away from the fact that barriers to progress still remain among minority groups and that the homogeneous and straight-and-narrow way of recruiting is very much still a prominent amongst legal employers, which is in turn affecting their ability to attract and acquire the talent they need.

Demand For DEI Initiatives Driven By Workforce

Interestingly our changing workforce increasingly wants to join teams that embrace diversity. A post last year on the LinkedIn talent blog revealed that employers that posted more about diversity received 26% more applications from women for example.

This data backs up The Psychological contract concept that first emerged in the 1960s related to our beliefs and expectations of our employers, confirming that employees want to work for employers with good practices where they also feel valued.

According to research from US firm, Eagle Hill Consulting circa 53% of workers stated that a company’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives play a key role in their decision about where to work. Yet only 29% of employees say their current employer has taken additional action to demonstrate a commitment to DEI in the past six months.

Fairness and equality are becoming ever more important amongst the Gen Z demographic cohort specifically – with research demonstrating that 77% of Gen Z consider it important that their company supports diversity.

Similarly, the latest research from YouGov, which looks specifically at attitudes of employees in Great Britain on the topic of DEI, found that two-thirds of working Britons (66%) said that the acceptance and inclusion of employees of all backgrounds is important to them when considering job opportunities – especially since a ‘substantial proportion of respondents’ had faced some sort of discrimination in the workplace themselves.

Looking specifically at the role of DEI in recruitment terms, Sandra Kerr CBE (race director of Business in the Community), pressed the point that businesses don’t “underestimate the importance of strong diversity and inclusion policies for jobseekers”. She also pointed out that “employers could miss out on potential talent if they do not ensure that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to grow and progress at their organisation,”

A stark warning indeed – particularly given the ongoing challenges around hiring talent and other variables such as a skills shortage and inertia to contend with.

Developing Your DEI Strategy

So, where do you start when it comes to developing a DEI strategy for your law firm? Conducting a sense check on your current practice is always a good idea, especially in light of remote and hybrid teams.

There is a well-versed quote from the personal development world that what you focus on grows. The converse is true. Perhaps the last couple of years have meant DEI, and its implementation has taken a back seat in your firm. We know from the latest headlines that the defined role of the ‘Chief Diversity Officer’ is waning, and there is more generally an exodus of DEI practitioners in businesses across all sectors.

And whilst this may, in part, have been driven by recessionary pressures or simply attrition, companies do concede that DEI in the workplace is still ‘mission critical’.

As recommended by Stephen Covey, the start needs to focus on the ‘end’ that the business has in mind. Assess your current state and where your desired state will be.

Your overall strategy needs to cover patterns in your ‘workplace’, whether that be remote or hybrid working; communication, both the what and the how; your L & D process and finally, how you will review your progress as you reinforce that your firm is the inclusive place to develop the legal career of it’s people.

Creating a more diverse and inclusive culture within law firms requires deliberate actions. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Recognise and Counter Bias – Promote self-awareness among team members by providing training on recognising and countering bias. Encourage reflection and learning about each other’s backgrounds, circumstances, and personal stories. Regular gatherings, whether in person or virtual, can facilitate open discussions and promote a more inclusive environment.
  2. Foster an Inclusive Internal Culture – Establish a culture that encourages open conversations about diversity and inclusion. Create opportunities for diverse groups within the firm to have a say in developing solutions. Have a clear plan in place to address bias and diversity issues, ensuring that every employee feels safe and heard.
  3. Embrace Inclusive Leadership – Leaders within the firm should embody inclusive practices and lead by example. Encourage leaders to listen to diverse perspectives and create opportunities for marginalised groups to thrive. Inclusive leadership sets the tone for the entire organisation and fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion.
  4. Utilise Data to Drive Progress – Measure the success of diversity initiatives by tracking relevant data and metrics. Setting clear metrics and goals allows firms to assess what is working and what needs improvement, and ultimately makes them accountable – especially when shared with all staff throughout the firm in question.
  5. Create an intentional hiring plan – If your goal is to foster law firm diversity and inclusion, then there must be a laser sharp focus on how this is considered when it comes to hiring new talent for your firm. The plan in question should, of course, fully align with your vision and objectives, but also needs to consider any potential for implicit bias when screening and evaluating candidates for the role(s).

On that last point, research from Resources For Employers highlighted that 56% of the Business and HR professionals surveyed said they did have initiatives relating to DEI in their recruitment strategy. And, whilst 24% said they didn’t, there were plans to put these in place.

The benefits of DEI in recruitment are clear, although implementation can be challenging. There may be unconscious bias at play, a general lack of diversity awareness within the hiring team or senior management, inconsistent measurement or evaluation, or simply a resistance to change.

Collaboration and partnership with a legal recruitment specialist may offer some assistance here – especially one that has a good understanding of your market, practice area, and region, and who has an extensive network of engaged candidates to approach about your role(s). Recruitment consultants can offer meaningful steps in the process including screening and helping to craft job descriptions for optimum success, and those worth their weight in gold will also abide by ethical recruitment practices and standards to ensure the highest standards of professionalism, fairness, and transparency is key.

Conclusion

The importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace cannot be overstated in today’s globalised and diverse workforce. A commitment to DEI not only aligns with ethical principles but also brings numerous benefits to organisations, including improved innovation, employee satisfaction, and overall business performance – as well as in the attraction and retention of top talent.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are not just buzzwords or indeed an acronym to promote and mention on the company website. They are essential components of a thriving and forward-thinking legal firm who understands that they must actively embrace these principles to ensure a fair, just, and representative legal landscape more widely. By adopting inclusive practices, fostering diverse talent, and committing to continuous improvement, law firms can lead the way in promoting a more inclusive and equitable future for the legal profession in the United Kingdom.

 

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 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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The Boomerang Hire: Your Answer to the Skills Shortage Problem?

Finding a lasting solution to the industry-wide skills shortage continues to be a challenge for firms in the hiring market today. Despite the evolution that the Great Resignation has sparked in hiring practices across the sector and the many approaches adopted by hiring teams to combat the increasing skills gap, acquiring the talent one needs to keep their business competitive in a cut-throat market proves to be as elusive a pursuit as ever. One approach however that has gained huge traction in recent years amongst firms is the recruitment of Boomerang Hires – a practice that involves rehiring employees who have previously left the organisation – and to employers bereft of options and under pressure to keep their business afloat, it shows a lot of promise.

Why is an ex-hire Worth it?

Purely from a cost perspective, it is a tantalising prospect – as they not only require far less onboarding than your usual new hire but their familiarity with the business’s modus operandi and established dynamics means you get something close to what any recruiting firm is looking for in a new hire – one that slots in seamlessly into the business structure and hits the ground running performance-wise in as short a timeframe as possible. And, in some cases, perhaps the icing on top of the cake is the experience and expertise your firm will be gaining twofold with their return.

Little wonder then that this has quickly become a hit with employers in recent times, and although not a new phenomenon, it’s certainly an increasingly prominent one. A HBR report released this year revealed that 28% of new hires in organisations studied were found to be boomerang hires that had resigned within the past three years. And this isn’t due to the trigger-happy response we’ve now come to expect from employees in the Great Resignation era either – businesses have become not only open but actually intentional about recruiting ex-hires as part of their hiring strategy. When necessity dictates diversity of approach, we begin to see the most interesting of them come to the fore.

High-Risk, High-Reward

There is however, an inherent risk that comes with it, considering the boomerang hire phenomenon cuts both ways for a hiring firm, as any new hire (boomerang employees included) employed is also susceptible to boomeranging back to their previous employer, or in the case of the latter, leaving your firm hung out to dry a second time, and can make retention a very counterproductive and unwelcome by-product of this hiring approach. When discussing the boomerang hire as a solution to the skills gap problem, a few things ought to be kept front of mind. Firstly, how can you avoid being on the wrong side of the boomerang hire equation and secondly, how can you leverage the value it provides to inform a hiring strategy that effectively addresses the skills shortage within your firm?

First Things First

If you are considering going down the boomerang hire route hiring-wise, then know that it requires a significant amount of groundwork to be laid first and should not be viewed as a band-aid fix for a turnover problem. Making an offer convincing enough for an ex-employee to return first requires a thorough understanding of where your firm has missed the mark with regard to employee satisfaction in the past, and what steps must be taken to address it both before and after the boomerang point.

This firstly involves a mutual understanding between management and workers of why employees are leaving in the first place, and acknowledging the part the firm has played in it. The goal of this is to address existing pain points within the company – and in particular, beyond salary and benefits, so as to avoid the trap of making a glorified counteroffer to ex-hires when the time comes to reach out. As research shows that compensation concerns do not tell the full story of why employees opt to leave, and that there are often underlying and unspoken factors at play, the act of encouraging employees to voice out their concerns serves to inform your decision-making and will likely pay off when approaching ex-hires down the line.

Whatever the area of improvement involves, whether that be investing in the professional development and growth of your employees, providing opportunities for upskilling, mentoring programs, and continuous learning initiatives or simply rebuilding the firm culture from the ground up – addressing them not only allows you to perform the open-heart surgery your firm needs, but also sets the foundation for a better overall employee experience and keeps the possibility of any new hires boomeranging to an absolute minimum.

An Open Door Requires Open (and Honest) Communication

This endeavour to maintain an open and honest dialogue between both parties should also be applied at every stage of the leaver process, especially before an employee exit, when they, and particularly their reasons, need to be treated with dignity and respect. A sit-down with departing individuals to discuss and understand what led to their decision, raise concerns, and provide assurances that the door will always be open for them should they wish to return, can be a great way to end the working relationship on a positive note and build the sense of trust and openness that is so crucial for later discourse to be fruitful. Be wary of the classic blame game that can arise in such discussions, as this can sour the relationship and leave a bad aftertaste in the mouths of both parties. Succumbing to the temptation of assigning blame or pointing fingers does your future hiring efforts no good here, even if it may feel like the most natural thing to do in the spur of the moment.

Following this should be a genuine effort to keep the lines of communication open between both parties after departure, in order to extend the quality of the employee experience post-exit and ensure a smooth transition for a return if and when it does happen. This could involve investing in an alumni network of sorts to maintain relationships between existing former employees, provide networking opportunities and most importantly, give ex-hires a means to reconnect with their former employer should the need for it arise.

This is particularly useful when bearing in mind the timing of communication. Research suggests that the one-year anniversary of a former employee’s departure is the optimal time to reconnect and make a re-hire offer. This isn’t only because it’s when they’re most likely to boomerang back to their previous employer, but it’s also because it represents the ideal and least awkward time for employers to take that first step of reaching out. For any employee strongly considering making a 180 in the other direction especially, it can be a godsend.

Protect Your Assets – Old and New

When considering what constitutes a worthwhile offer, this will largely depend on the flexibility of your firm. The key thing to bear in mind here is the balance that must be struck between making an offer worth considering – pay and promotion-wise – and making one that doesn’t come at the expense of your present employees. While it is certainly true that a pay rise can sweeten the deal, it cannot be the meat of the argument pitched to an ex-hire. Failing to keep existing employees front of mind puts the trust, commitment and relationships built at risk, as it sets an unwelcome precedent that anyone within the business can play the victim card, leave the firm high and dry and get away with it with a fatter salary in the end. What is best practice in such scenarios is to make the suggested changes outlined above the heart of your proposal and the crux of the conversation with the ex-employee. Only when this is done with a focus on prioritising equity in the firm, can the boomerang hire approach bring immense value to all parties, new or old.

This same level of care must be taken when looking at the other side of the boomerang hire as a strategy, as largely the same rules apply with new hires, especially considering the amount of overlap between the reasons employees opt to boomerang and the biggest drivers of the Great Resignation today. Any perceived gap between what is promised and what is delivered by new recruits, whether that be explicit contractual breaches or an unspoken violation of agreement terms, is going to get heads turning in the opposite direction wondering if the grass really is greener on the other side. This is particularly important when discussing the more intangible aspects of a contract, such as promotions, benefits, or progression opportunities as these sit at the heart of a legal professional’s demands in the current day and age. When expectations begin to differ from reality here, it becomes increasingly difficult for a new hire leaving behind a lot of social and company capital to justify sticking with their decision and avoid boomeranging.

The best way, therefore, to eliminate this risk and address any issues brewing under the surface is, perhaps unsurprisingly, regular communication between management and new recruits, whether in the form of check-ins or stay interviews, to get a clear picture of what their experience has been so far compared to the specifics of the job pitched to them at the interview. This helps to bring any disparities to light and enables management to address highlighted discrepancies and misunderstandings early before they evolve into actual psychological contract breaches or a growing resentment towards management for a perceived set of broken promises. This can be further buttressed by a conscious effort beforehand to outline to legal candidates what is to be expected from a position on offer in interviews, and ensure the right picture is painted from the onset.

Does the Shoe Fit?

Boomerang hires present a fantastic opportunity for legal employers to approach the skills gap problem from a unique angle – one that offers a lot of value for firms willing to play their cards right and enables them to bolster their workforce without many of the risks that recruiting a new hire carries. But while they are a unique solution, they only tick some of the boxes that a hiring firm will have its eye on and can leave a lot to be desired when applied at scale. They don’t, for example, take into account the changing needs of your firm hiring-wise, the changes that will already have taken place in their absence or how the role has evolved to best serve the business’s needs since they left. Unlike a new hire, who is more malleable at the very start of their tenure, and easier to adapt to firm demands, a boomerang hire will already have their own ways of working set in stone and can become a square peg in a round hole if not considered carefully beforehand.

Second Chances Require a Second Thought

An equally crucial aspect of their return to look at is the state of their relationship with any existing employees and where this leaves your team morale should they be accepted back into the fold. As it is clear from the data that the reasons for an employee’s departure can at times be vague and ambiguous, there is the risk of unearthing old grudges amongst your current workforce if the cause for resignation was a disconnect between an existing and former employee, especially if it was not made clear beforehand by the boomerang hire pre-departure. The phrase ‘fool me twice’ rings true here for any employer with a boomerang hire at or near the top of their candidate shortlist, as they should only be re-hired if it is absolutely clear the second chance will not be squandered. Without a clear picture of what exactly led to their exit, you are potentially jeopardising the trust and stability of your team.

The Only One-Size-Fits-All-Solution

For hiring problems that present a longstanding challenge to law firms looking to add the right skillset to their teams, the services of a specialist legal recruiter are the future-proof solution. The grasp they have on the market and the experience and know-how they possess in sourcing the talent a firm needs, whatever the scale of change present in their hiring practices, provides far more value in the long run than what any boomerang hire can offer. Particularly in a market where change is thrust at us at an extremely rapid rate, the guidance and support they can provide to navigate the hiring process can be invaluable. What the right boomerang hire cannot solve with all its pluses, a specialist recruiter can do with minimal hassle and much, much more.

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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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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Bridging The Gap In A Skills Short Market For Law Firms

The legal industry is experiencing change at a remarkably rapid pace. The last few years have ushered in a transformative period that will come to define the future of the legal landscape in later years. Amongst the many developments we have seen emerge in the past few years, such as the gradual shift towards greater flexibility in the work life of legal professionals, the incorporation of AI technology into legal and hiring practices and the transition of the industry away from established traditional norms comes a particularly pertinent point of discussion – and contention – one that has (and will continue to) influenced how law firms will operate in years to come: The well-documented skills shortage experienced by law firms across the market.

It’s no secret to anyone keeping tabs on how the industry has fared since the pandemic from a hiring perspective, with redundancies, and a resulting candidate-led market just a few of many defining features of the post-covid era. Much has been written about its impact on business performance, and in particular, recruitment, as law firms large and small face a lot of difficulty today in acquiring the talent and expertise they need, due to a variety of factors at play.

Why is there a Skills Shortage?

Some of these said factors are simply a direct consequence of the pandemic, as businesses across the world of work have struggled to keep their head above water amidst a multitude of challenges such as economic turmoil and changing regulations, which has led to a sharp increase in client demand for legal services, one that law firms are buckling under the pressure to meet. Last year UK law firms were reported to have advertised over 2,300 jobs for London-based associates between January and November the year before – a whopping 131% increase on 2020’s numbers – but struggle to actually fill them.

And with the increasing effort to expand workforces to address this issue, comes an inevitable squabble for the top legal talent on the market, leading to stiff competition between law firms for the same candidates and consequently the difficulty in recruiting we see amongst businesses today. Chris Sullivan, head of Clifford Chance’s London private equity division echoed this sentiment: “The hires we are making are about growing our business to meet client demand…The aim is to grow our headcount and given the demand we’re seeing I wouldn’t put a cap on that. It is certainly a very competitive market for talent, there’s no question.”

Law firms are consequently plugging the gaps with an attempt to turn the heads of legal professionals with much-improved remuneration packages, including ‘retention bonuses’, offered to those wanting to leave for a rival firm, and a host of other benefits now known to be in high demand amongst candidates, such as flexible working arrangements. Such a shift from practices expected of legal employers in hiring points to another reason the fight for talent is so intense, and that is the changing needs and priorities of legal candidates.

Partly borne out of the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic, the idea of flexible working has quickly become a staple in the list of demands of candidates today, due to a greater need for better work-life balance in such turbulent periods and is now expected to be part of any benefits package worth considering from legal employers. Hybrid and remote working have been warmly welcomed amongst legal professionals, and any idea of returning to a type of culture that, according to a recent article in Bloomberg,  pushed so many to leave for the sake of their well-being is firmly rejected. The rising demand for other desirables such as development opportunities, and a real sense of purpose that provides lasting satisfaction beyond a handsome salary, makes meeting candidate expectations while fulfilling business obligations a real challenge for law firms, especially considering how averse the industry is in general to changing established practices.

Perhaps one of the biggest drivers of change in the industry today, and a big reason for the skills gap, is its movement towards digital integration and a technology-centric approach to business. The pressure of rising costs and shrinking budgets on firms across the sector has pushed many to embrace the value that digital technology holds in streamlining legal procedures, improving productivity, and bolstering efforts to comply with data protection regulations, giving rise to the need for lawyers who are digital-literate and capable of adding such expertise to their value as a professional. As the legal industry has always held fast to its very straight-and-narrow approach to cultivating legal talent in terms of culture and education, there is now a lack of ‘business of law talent’ in the skillset of legal professionals, with ‘practice’ narrowing as the ‘business of delivering legal services’ expands.

Where is the Gap?

Amongst the most desired hard skills missing in the repertoire of candidates, cloud computing and cybersecurity rank the highest, and unsurprisingly too, considering the level of efficiency (collaboration and cost-wise), flexibility, and scalability the former offers firms looking to keep pace with increasing client demand and adapt to changing workloads. Hand in hand with that comes the necessity of ensuring client data privacy and security can be maintained across cloud-based systems, (especially considering this is a sticking point with the use of such technology) explaining the high demand for competence in cybersecurity. With the world shifting towards a digital-oriented way of working over the last couple of years, the skills gap present in firms and general counsel in this area, is increasingly striking. A 2021 EY CEO Imperative Survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of respondents (which comprised of business leaders and senior legal officers) admitted that they lacked the data and technology required to respond to a data breach. Sixty-eight percent of General Counsels stated that they lacked access to accurate, real-time info on their legal entities, highlighting a real lack of confidence from GCs in their ability to handle increasingly complex corporate risk management.

With GDPR in the EU a big driver of the use of technology amongst firms, and GDPR regulations tightening the noose around businesses failing to comply, the need to ensure client data security, as well as competence in risk management, has never been more evident for employers active in the hiring market for legal talent.

However, a notable by-product of the industry’s sudden shift towards digital technology is the difficulty of younger candidates stepping into the profession during the post-pandemic era in building core soft skills essential for career success, leading to a soft skills gap in the today’s talent pool. Many will be well aware of how the divide in digital literacy has created multiple issues in building and maintaining relationships – personal or professional – over the last few years. As consultant and psychologist Kim Tasso eloquently put it, those who missed out on acquiring these key skills while the world grappled to cope with the impact of Covid and lockdown now find themselves playing catch-up.

So what exactly is missing when it comes to soft skills?

At the top of employers’ lists when looking at an ideal skillset for advancing employees is attention to detail according to research conducted by Business Name Generator, with more than a quarter of respondents within the legal industry stating it was the most important skill to have in the workplace. Self-motivation came in close second, with 22% highlighting the need for it in a new recruit’s repertoire, and this was further echoed by Kim Tasso in her piece on what soft skills legal professionals will need this year: “Set goals…and keep these goals front of mind. You will need to constantly check them against data and evidence to see if you are still on track; and know when it might be appropriate to revise or update them.”

Communication & Emotional Intelligence

One important skill, however, that atrophied in many due to the nature of the pandemic era is communication – both verbal and non-verbal. It’s no secret to any aspiring legal professional the importance of active listening, good conversational skills and confidence when interacting with peers, colleagues and clients, as it is a non-negotiable for key areas of the profession such as client and relationship management, effective networking, and conflict resolution. The ability to present cases and ideas persuasively, whether through a Zoom call or in front of hundreds of conference delegates, is indispensable for any legal professional who wants to be taken seriously.

Even more important for things like effective client management is the awareness of and ability to pick up non-verbal communication cues such as body language and facial expressions, particularly when cultural barriers are involved. As it comprises the vast majority of overall communication, it can and often is the difference between a closed deal with a client or a major career opportunity, and a failing endeavour to achieve lasting success on an individual and corporate level.

Another highly sought-after trait that comes hand-in-hand with, and actually facilitates excellent communication is a high EQ (emotional intelligence). As the single biggest predictor and strongest driver of leadership and excellence, it is also a must for employers to have among their legal teams in abundance. This can be broken down into several different skills: self-control (ability to understand one’s emotional triggers and manage one’s own emotions), empathy (ability and desire to recognise and understand the emotions of others), and the aforementioned self-awareness (ability to recognise our own emotions, and impact on others).

While these are already highly relevant and desirable, they are set to become even more so in future for employers as the industry continues embracing the value of digital and AI technology in streamlining processes and automating more mundane, non-complex tasks. With this highly likely to lead to a big jobs slash across the legal sector, ‘what will be left is the capacity to deal with human beings’, as Fuller stated in HBS’s publication Working Knowledge. Only the high value, complex or newest areas of law will need human input, among which will inevitably be client and relationship management, pointing to an even greater rise in demand for legal talent with a well-developed set of soft skills in the near future, something that Fuller also emphasises in the above publication: “Bosses will be hungry for good judgement, strong motivation and the ability to collaborate and articulate a vision.”

It is therefore concerning that, despite efforts to attract the candidates of today, businesses are failing to hire on a permanent basis, and are at risk of becoming oblivious to the gold mine of talent right beneath their feet due to the issue of inflexibility still present in the hiring practices of many firms today. It’s one thing for a skills gap to be present due to a lack of candidates available in the current talent pool with the desired kind of profile, and another thing entirely for such a profile to be the actual reason there is a perceived skills gap in the first place. According to a report from Harvard Business School and Accenture, there is a huge pool of skilled hidden workers shut out of employment by inflexible working requirements established by companies.

Just under a third of respondents of a survey conducted by Managing the Future of Work stated that they are only able to work part-time due to caregiving obligations, a reason highlighted as the ‘single biggest driver’ of hidden talent by Fuller in HBS’s publication. With 91% of that number being women – who are said to have better social skills in general – and this preference for flexible working set to only grow amongst candidates, the inability to show ample flexibility when it comes to working arrangements in the legal industry poses a major threat to the hiring efforts and overall success of firms unwilling to budge, especially considering what the future looks like from a business perspective.

In light of this, it is, although expected, prudent to ask oneself: How do employers combat the ongoing skills shortage to avoid a grim trajectory and futureproof their tomorrow? To answer that there are a few things you must consider:

Work-Life Balance: The Cornerstone of Individual – And Corporate Success

Starting with the most obvious but perhaps least straightforward aspect of the solution, the relaxing of stringent rules around working arrangements is very much the way to go for any law firm serious about standing out to today’s candidates. This isn’t just a matter of policy, but a cultural shift that should be embraced internally. With research increasingly indicating that employees able to achieve a better work-life balance are more productive, the priority a firm places on its workers’ wellbeing is evidently inextricably linked to the level of corporate success they see. This is the first step any business is advised to take when struggling to recruit, as it not only makes your accessibility to talent looking for a supportive culture far higher but also enables you to better facilitate their success.

What will determine the amount of value you get out of these decisions, however, is the prep work you do internally – that is, the commitment you show to building that kind of culture in your firm. Yes, what this will look like will differ slightly from individual to individual and it is multifaceted in nature but the most important rule to follow is communication with both your employees and leadership team. You should aim to have regular, frank and open conversations about what kind of culture you wish to establish and what every employee can do to help the business do that. This might be easier said than done, but there are steps you can take to make every candidate sure that you are an accommodating employer when it comes to culture.

This doesn’t just apply to working arrangements. Candidates are more discerning about where they work when it comes to career development and work culture, as this plays a large part in career satisfaction and work-life balance. Considering the nature of the problem at hand it is in your best interest to prioritise and invest in an employee development plan to upskill your workforce and ensure they are well-equipped to thrive in their roles in order to shield your business from the impact of a skills shortage and mitigate the problems it can cause down the line.

Setting Your Employer Brand Apart

Once these boxes have been ticked, the groundwork has been laid for your employer brand to shine. Taking a proactive approach to changing the culture and practices of your firm ensures it has the platform it needs to position the firm as one that values and invests in its workforce. In an age where the candidate experience is more important than ever, it’s imperative that you not only have an established employer value proposition but are also capable of communicating it effectively and convincingly to candidates. We break down how to build a winning employer brand in this guide here.

Your Personal Reservoir in a Talent Drought

The value that a specialist legal recruiter holds for firms running dry in their search for talent cannot be understated. With access to a wide pool of candidates, active or passive, a profound insight into current market trends and changes at every level, and a commitment to understanding the hiring needs of your firm, they are your ultimate ally in navigating a talent drought and staying competitive in a harsh climate. By simplifying what is often such an expensive and time-consuming process for hiring managers, they help to save your firm two of its most valuable resources, while ensuring you get the skills and the talent your business needs to thrive and excel.

That’s why our team at Clayton Legal are on hand – we take the stress and complications out of recruitment for your firm so that you can focus on what really matters. If you feel that the time has come to make an important hiring decision regarding your team, get in touch with us here.

Next Steps

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 – especially if you have your heart set on a new challenge for the new year.

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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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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Are You Failing to Plan for Growth in Your Law Firm?

  • October 18, 2023

As a successful legal professional, be it a Senior Partner, Managing Partner, or on the Board, you are a primary driver of success for your law firm, determining its growth. Ultimately, you are pivotal in creating your firm’s story and building a pathway to its goals. Hopefully, you are experiencing current success and business is doing well – but don’t fall into the trap of overlooking areas where you could improve. It’s easy to become complacent, and before you know it, you will start to slip backwards. So how can you ensure you don’t fail to grow? In the current climate with market forces, as they are, you must strive to remain successful – and the key to that lies in planning. 

Sometimes it’s natural to overlook areas where you could make improvements if the firm is experiencing overall success. It’s easy to miss opportunities to progress. Alternatively, you may feel that your business is suffering due to market forces out of your control and you’re unable to take a step forward in the current climate.

However, there are always ways to improve and move forward – and that involves taking a step back, first of all, to review your law firm holistically; its customers, systems, processes, and people to reassess your goals and ensure you are making the most of your business. 

Talk To Your Clients:

It doesn’t matter how qualified your employees are or what specialist services you provide if you don’t focus on customer service first. Customers define your firm, so your priority is to ensure you understand their needs (and indeed challenges).

You can do this by conducting surveys and research – both quantitative and qualitative –  to gain valuable insight. Just ensure that your surveys facilitate honest feedback, or you’re wasting your time, and theirs. Having a spotlight on your customers’ thoughts about your service will allow you to leverage the elements that you’re already doing well, as well as focus on any hot spots where you need to reflect and make improvements. It’s essential to take the extra step to make your customers feel valued and unique, so make sure you talk to them and listen to (and address) any problems they have. That way, you will inspire loyalty – and loyal consumers won’t just come back to you – they will recommend their friends and colleagues to you too.  

Come Out Of The Bubble: 

In a volatile market – where the economy is impacting all facets of running a business,  one of the quickest ways for a firm to stunt its growth and cripple its potential is to conduct business blindly. By that, we mean lacking awareness of what your clients’ needs are, how they have changed over time, and how your competitors have responded to such needs to stay ahead of the curve. It can be tempting to get wrapped up in the business-as-usual of today, respond to immediate needs, and push anything deemed important but not urgent – however this can have disastrous consequences for your firm. Opportunities to capitalise on market changes, strike deals with highly after clients or scale business operations can pass you by if you fail to pay attention to how your competitors are conducting their business in the market. Coming out of your ‘bubble’ to look at other firms in your practice area and/or region can really impact how you trade competitively. As the saying goes, ‘no man is an island’ and if you’re looking to increase market share, you need to fully understand where and with whom that market is buying from.

This makes the presence of a regularly updated and detailed target persona an absolute must in your business strategy as it will ensure you have a Unique Selling Point that is consistent. A target persona consists of who your clients are, where their interests lie, what pain points they have, what they want from your services, and much more. Having this level of insight into your target market enables you to not only address their problems at the right time, but it also allows you to make your marketing and specifically your branding effective by communicating your USP at every touchpoint of the buyer cycle. This helps to create a strong brand that utilises both its position and performance in the marketplace to develop a reputation for being an excellent firm to do business with. 

Lack of an EVP: 

Going back to red flag number one, a firm’s culture, people strategy, and EVP (Employee Value Proposition) live or dies by its values as that forms the foundation for its competence in attracting, retaining, and developing top legal talent. As legal professionals are now becoming increasingly demanding in their search for the ideal employer, one of the biggest mistakes any firm can make in today’s market is failing to consider the priorities and preferences of its employees or jobseekers they are looking to attract. Without such a foundation, it is incredibly easy for a firm to slip into reactive mode and allow external factors such as economic pressures, market changes, and consequently, business performance to dictate how it treats its employees.  

And even though you will hopefully have ironed out your values as a business at this point, it does not guarantee immunity from making such blunders. The key to a strong EVP is the ability to create and sustain a positive, productive workforce, and that is only made possible through a regular, honest, and thorough review of your people strategy, to ensure your firm culture and environment remain the focus of it, and not the business goals – no matter the external or internal situation at hand.

According to Brett Minchington, who coined the phrase Employee Value Proposition in the first place, this comes down to largely five elements:

  • Fair pay

  • Personal development and growth

  • Meaningful work, making a contribution

  • Good reputation

  • Working with friendly colleagues

Your work environment should have employees feeling valued, respected, and motivated and should regularly facilitate open communication, effective collaboration, and a healthy work-life balance. We have seen a big shift in the market in recent years towards flexibility, hybrid working, and employee satisfaction so ensure that your EVP focuses on these areas while remaining aligned with your goals for business growth. 

Consider Your Leadership Contingent – Are They Suitable For That Role? 

The last few years have been challenging for the legal sector. Dealing with the fallout of the pandemic, increased workload, and the impact of overworking on employees’ well-being means that many firms also now need to uplevel their leadership skills alongside recruiting new lawyers into their teams to lead their firm moving forward.

In turbulent times, everyone looks to great leaders for guidance. Leadership resonates throughout a business, and the quality of your leadership can be the difference between your firm’s ultimate success or failure.

A successful law firm requires leadership that is transparent, emotionally intelligent, resilient, empathetic, focused, and inspiring.

If you believe your leadership could develop in some of these areas further, take steps now. Training in personal development and upskilling where needed will enable you to lead from the front. Failure to invest in leadership will result in good ideas coming to nothing, so start at the top. 

Invest In Building A Top Team 

A high-performing team is what any employer would want. A high-performing team of solicitors that is efficient, drives profits and gets results is no doubt the utopia that business leaders strive for, which requires excellent leadership, support in their development, and constant engagement (even before any recruits join the firm).

Developing a high-performing team that works collaboratively will enable your law firm to achieve its goals, both short and long-term. It will create a positive mindset and ethos of encouragement and positivity that will allow your firm to excel and grow, keeping you ahead of the pack in the competitive legal marketplace and making your law firm attractive to further top talent.

As part of this, professional development should play a significant role in ensuring your team keeps ahead of trends. Training and development of both hard and soft skills will not only instill a sense of pride in specialist knowledge and ability but also make employees feel valued by the firm. This, in turn, will lead to better staff retention saving you the costs of hiring and onboarding new employees. Additionally, happy staff are more productive, so you will see positive developments in the bottom line. In a working environment where individuals are part of a capable team, the quality of an individual’s sense of purpose in understanding big goals is enhanced. They feel ‘included’ in decisions, and their ideas and concerns are listened to and acted on. 

Keep On Top Of (And Ahead) Of Tech  

The legal sector is growing at a rapid pace. If you’re standing still in terms of digital ability, then you might as well be going backwards. Using digital strategies to grow your law firm allows you to reach a much larger number of potential clients than ever before. As well as building your client base, if you regularly post industry articles online, you will develop a reputation as being an authority in your specialist areas – attracting both top talent to want to work for you as well as establishing you as a credible law firm in the eyes of competitors. Your website should also reflect your forward-thinking by embracing new technology. Refining your online platform will make it more responsive, and maximizing your SEO will enable you to reach more viewers online, as well as offer you the opportunity to connect and network with others – crucial in moving forward. Additionally, a social media strategy will enable you to reach more clients, develop relationships and strengthen existing ones, gain insight into competitors, and demonstrate your industry knowledge. 

Plan For Headcount Growth Early 

As firms consider their strategy and business objectives, whether that’s on a quarterly basis as a checkpoint, or a typical 1-, 3- and 5-year plan, any kind of compound growth inevitably goes hand in hand with the need to increase headcount and upskill where required.

Firms may have their own Hiring Managers whose remit is to attract new talent to the firm, or this may fall to HR or even practising Solicitors and Partners in some cases. Either way, reaching out to a specialist legal recruiter as those strategic discussions are taking place will undoubtedly pay dividends in the long run to get a true birds-eye view of the market, your competitors, the movement of talent (and scarcity which may impact your plans) – invaluable insight that you can readily tap in to.

Ultimately, a strategic plan is the tool that will enable you to move forward and grow your legal firm. Using your knowledge of what has worked well previously, you can build a pathway to achieve your ultimate goals, avoiding strategies that have failed in the past. A good plan will move you from where you are now to where you want to be. Including milestones, and achievements will keep you focused on the end goals and provide you and your team with motivation along the way. Make your strategic plan achievable (but aspirational) and timely – and don’t be afraid to amend it as you progress if your law firm’s requirements change.  

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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Why Every Law Firm Needs an Employee Development Plan

What legal professionals look for in an employer has changed significantly since the pandemic, with work-life balance being the theme that has taken centre stage in job discourse amongst legal candidates. As the importance of employee satisfaction has grown massively in recent years – whether that be in the form of hybrid working or strong DEI practices – the value of career fulfilment has become a staple part of the modern legal professional’s priorities when searching for the ideal employer. 

Today it’s not at all uncommon for employees to be left with a lingering sense of stagnation after spending a few years building their skills in their current role, and consequently view the option of jumping ship as the only way to experience real progress in their career, in part due to the negligence of their employers to ensure their continued growth with a long term development plan of any sort.

The resulting high turnover rate is what has brought the idea of Employee Development Plans into focus for law firms, as it provides a range of solutions that can benefit all parties on an individual, collective and corporate level. Such plans centres on work-related skill development, and is owned by both the employee and the line manager. As a continuing process that is consistently and regularly reviewed and updated, an EDP should aim to ensure ongoing employability through improving the individual’s workplace soft and hard skills, and industry knowledge. A good plan will strive to create a series of actions designed to help the individual develop and grow within the context of their legal career, while also developing their capabilities and meeting the needs of the employer. 

 EDP: Goal & Objective

As mentioned above, the goal of Employee Development Plans is not just to meet the needs of the individual – when done right it should also help employers effectively tackle the problems that are brought about by a lack of professional and career growth, the biggest of which, is replacing key skills and people your team without having to invest so heavily. The difficulty of doing so in today’s market is no secret to any Hiring Manager or Partner and while utilising the services of a specialist legal recruitment agency can mitigate this, it is still very much advisable to eliminate other causes of persistent turnover issues by demonstrating a genuine commitment to your employees’ professional development. This in turn will create and facilitate a productive workforce that gives back that same level of commitment across the business because it: 

  • Meets their career/professional needs. 
  • Provides that sense of security and support they need from their employer to thrive as individuals. 

It also ensures your firm doesn’t constantly run the risk of being hit by a skills shortage, and helps avoid additional costs involved in recruiting, onboarding and training up new staff. 

 With the importance of an Employee Development Plan in a firm’s people strategy now established, let us look at what makes a great EDP. 

How To Create A Great Employee Development Plan 

 There are 6 key points to consider when mapping out Employee Development Plans, and although not exhaustive, are certainly a good place to start:

1. Where does the skill gap lie?

  •  Begin with an audit of the individual’s skills and see how their existing skillset aligns with the demands of their current role. You’ll want to consider how your clients’ needs have changed over time, what skills the role will demand of the individual in question and how the role will develop/evolve based on this. Knowing where the employee needs to be at the end of the training will enable you to measure progress, and gauge what the next step forward will be at each stage. 

 2. What training and development is required? 

  •  Leading on from the initial skills audit & your vision of the role, your next step should be to establish what the employee’s personal and professional goals are. This is important because it encourages them to develop a holistic view of their own growth. Remember that the goal at this stage is alignment between their professional goals and the business needs, and the best way to achieve this is to have employee buy-in right from the start. Having them understand their perspective on where their competencies, capabilities and flaws lie, as well as how to build a training plan that addresses all aspects of their growth makes them more likely to be invested in an EDP. 

 3. Building Your Action Plan: 

  •  The next area of focus should be the training itself – what training courses, qualifications or knowledge the employee will need. The 70/20/10 rule can prove helpful in this regard – 70% of learning should come from experience on-the-job, 20% from other colleagues and 10% from training and courses. This is important as it helps the individual avoid viewing the training as separate to their daily work lives. Any training scheduled should be built into the role itself or based on already established relationships with others. 

 4. Why this needs to be done: 

  • Transparency and communication of long-term goals helps to instil a sense of belonging and ownership in the employee. Making them aware of how their learning and development will benefit not only their own career but also the wider business can provide them with clear guidelines and focus on how they can contribute in their role. It will also give them a sense of place – how they fit into the firm as a whole – and help them build a sense of pride in their work. T his in turn will fuel productivity and accountability for their own progress in their training.  

5. When is it needed? 

  •  It is advisable for managers and employees to have agreed achievement milestones put into place. These can reflect the overall aims of your legal firm where appropriate. Monitor progress regularly to encourage and provide direction to the individual, and to show support on their journey. 

 6. How can progress be measured? 

  •  Methods for measuring training and development can be in the form of formal appraisals, informal meetings and open discussions. The method chosen may depend on the goal(s) and the timeliness set. For short-term training it may be appropriate to have a 1:1 with the employee at an agreed time (for example, after completion of a training course). For more long-term goals, or where several employees require the same upgrading of knowledge, it might be more beneficial to have an open discussion on progress. 

 Staying Ahead to Stay on Course 

 A regular and thorough review of the latest and most relevant, procedural and practice development processes is paramount to the continuity and eventual success of the EDP. Ensure you do your due diligence in establishing where training needs to be updated, improved or changed and don’t forget to change training needs as the requirements of your firm develop and expand. Encourage your employee to offer suggestions on where development needs should be considered and where the training can improve. Regular meetings to discuss and record progress, as well as reflect on what is and isn’t going well should be conducted to ensure smooth and successful progression. 

EDPs present a fantastic opportunity to address longstanding needs of both employees and employers and ensure lasting success through a continuous alignment with individual and practice progression. The long-term benefits are undeniable, as the value of having employee satisfaction from a real sense of involvement, and employer commitment and satisfaction shows in the effect a that skilled, up-to-date workforce – who are committed to your firm and are future-proofed – can bring to your firm. 

Of course, the entire process can be made much less of a burden – and significantly more successful – by getting the right hire through the door first time. The best EDP is no substitute for effective recruitment and as a business your best shot at maximizing the value of your EDP is to recruit individuals whose career goals and aspirations run parallel to those of your firm’s from the get-go.

That’s why our team at Clayton Legal are on hand – we take the stress and complications out of recruitment for your firm so that you can focus on what really matters. If you feel that the time has come to make an important hiring decision regarding your team, get in touch with us here. 

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 guide here.

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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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The (Real) Cost Of Getting Your Hiring Wrong

  • September 26, 2023

In the last few years, and notably since the pandemic, the hiring landscape across the legal sector has presented a number of challenges.

Some firms were forced down a redundancy route, whilst others, despite the appetite and budget to grow, were met with an apathetic talent pool and skills shortage.

What is a common challenge for all businesses, almost irrespective of market conditions, is the importance of getting hiring decisions right – the first time.

That said, with competition for the best legal talent on the market the fiercest it’s ever been, the time, resources and money spent on training a new hire make the investment stakes in recruitment & onboarding far too high for the hire in question to underperform. Not only does this put your firm in the awkward position of restarting that recruitment process to look for a replacement, but it also means that possibly more time & resources will need to be spent to avoid such an issue the second time round.  

 Here we look at the real cost of a bad hire in the current market and what you as an employer can do to mitigate any risks in your recruitment process. 

The Consequences of a ‘Bad’ Hire

Fact – making the wrong hiring decision costs your firm money. 

What is shocking is not only the number of poor hiring decisions that are made but how little hiring managers are aware of the true cost involved, especially considering how cut-throat the legal market has become in a post-pandemic era. According to a study done by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, 85% of HR decision-makers admitted their company had hired someone who was not right for the job and despite 33% of businesses not believing it to cost their business anything, it was found in the same report that a poor hire at manager-level with a salary of £42k can cost a business over £132k – more than 3 times the person’s annual salary – when factoring in costs for training, onboarding and more. 

Due to the growth of the legal sector in certain areas, some law firms have struggled to find the right talent to meet their needs – which has led to a lot of rushed hiring decisions and consequently, an uphill struggle to adequately replace them. When considering how much time & resources are wasted on a bad hire, how much it takes to find and recruit a new one and the risk factor that virtual interviews and onboarding processes now bring into the equation, having to replace a bad hire is far too costly a venture for firms to make in 2024. 

The key is finding the right candidate for your vacancy who not only ticks the boxes in relation to the role, but who will also fit in with the existing team, who can envisage a long-term future with you, and who has room (and the desire) to grow professionally. 

Hiring In The New World – What to Hire for Now?

It starts with establishing what you are looking for in your legal hire, what they are looking for from you and how you are going to find a sizeable overlap between the two. Only when this occurs will you get the right ‘fit’ – the ideal candidate that wants to stay and build their career at your firm. 

However, as you will likely have noticed by now, what legal candidates are looking for has changed somewhat. Flexible and hybrid working now sits near the top of their priority lists as the value of an employer that can offer such arrangements is now very apparent, considering the positive impact it has been shown to have on employee performance due to a greater work-life balance.   

Additionally, with candidates now in a time where they are always connected enough to express as well as access a range of opinions however and whenever they wish, they are now increasingly looking for firms with a strong employer brand. Thus, in an industry where reputation rules, how your firm comes across on a cultural level to the average candidate is now more important than ever. With increased importance placed on DEI and an imperative now placed on employers to support candidates on all sides of the neurodiversity spectrum, how your employer brand positions your firm to compete beyond things like remuneration and job titles and offer such candidates something more, now becomes the difference between a great hire and a bad one. 

If you aren’t making the ‘right’ offer to legal talent, you will find your applicant shortlists filled with candidates who don’t meet your expectations. When the time comes to make a hiring decision, the chance of you making the ‘wrong’ recruitment decision will then be significantly higher due to your reduced talent pool both in terms of volume and ‘quality’. 

If you want to know what turns heads amongst candidates, and how to rework your hiring practices to better bridge that gap between what candidates want and what you offer, check out our guide on how to tap into what legal candidates today are looking for.

The Importance of Head-Turning Job Ads to Do The Heavy Lifting

When it comes to your hiring requirements, and the importance of getting the attention of the right legal talent the first time around, how your job descriptions are written is key. Despite how much the hiring landscape has evolved in recent years, legal candidates still rely on engaging and effective job descriptions to determine which role is the best fit for them personally and professionally.  

 Your job descriptions should not only be informative about the role but should also be easily accessible, communicate your EVP clearly, be transparent about the candidate experience during and after hiring and ensure inclusivity in all stages of the hiring process. It’s also important to consider whether the skills and personality traits you usually look for in your employees have changed. Many legal specialisms have exploded since the pandemic, you may want to ensure your job adverts aren’t alienating the right legal talent with hyperbolic language or setting rigid and unnecessary requirements that can deter otherwise well-suited candidates. 

Mitigating The Risk By Enlisting The Help Of Experts

Whilst the hire/no-hire decision ultimately comes down to the firm in question, using the services of a specialist legal recruiter will also help to ensure that only the right candidates are short-listed from the get-go. Not only will using a 3rd party save time – especially in the early stages of reviewing CVs and applications, you will also have access to passive talent; widening the net and ensuring that the role(s) in question are visible to a much larger talent pool.

What’s more, many agencies also offer retained services as well as contingency, with additional features designed to impact the likelihood of a successful outcome.

This model is often more rigorous in nature and may include additional features such as:

  • Bespoke market mapping
  • Salary benchmarking intel
  • Psychometric testing
  • Video interviews and candidate profiling
  • Dedicated Account Manager or team of specialist consultants<
  • Regular face-to-face updates and reporting/analysis
  • Strategic headhunting
  • Integrated marketing campaigns including advertising

Whilst there is no absolute guarantee that your new hire won’t leave through utilising a recruitment agency, the belt-and-braces approach and additional screening will undoubtedly help to mitigate that risk.

Finally

Often, we hear responses of 70-75% retention said with pride but we’d ask you to turn this statistic upside down – and consider the direct impact that 25-30% is actually having on your bottom line. Therefore, we’d encourage you to make use of our True Cost of Hiring Calculator, particularly if you have hired legal professionals in the last 12 months, and have unfortunately found that some have left before their 1-year anniversary. The presentation of your results and accompanying report contains a wealth of information to further demonstrate why getting that fit right first time is imperative. 

Remember that if you want to avoid making the wrong hire, you need to find candidates who are truly a great fit, not someone who will be looking for a new role in a few months. 

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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Is Having a PSL An Advantage for Your Law Firm?

  • August 30, 2023

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 whilst you hopefully have a succession plan and strategy in place ready to put into action, realistically it could take several weeks or months before you find a suitable candidate that fits the bill on all fronts.

Enlisting the help of a specialist legal recruiter will no doubt pay dividends here, and as part of your overall hiring strategy, is key to ensure you kick start the process and find a suitable candidate as soon as possible. This is of particularly importance if the leaving employee will directly impact the bottom line with their impending departure.

But if you only hire every now and again, you will also have to go through the process of researching which agency is the most suitable. Which has a good reputation in the market? Which are likely to have a ready talent pool of individuals? Which offer the most ‘value’ when it comes to their fees and terms of business? This in itself can take much-needed time and a concerted effort to ensure the agency/agencies fully understand your firm, and your hiring requirements.

An alternative scenario?

Whilst the impact of a key individual leaving will still be felt by the firm, you may be in a position as a business where the first step is to refer to your Preferred Supplier List (PSL). Depending on your prior relationship, the process is likely to be much-simplified, whereby you make contact and are instantly connected to a recruiter who knows you, your firm, your ethos and exactly what you need.

They may even have someone in the pipeline already who’s ideal for you.

Which of the above scenarios do you prefer to be in?

When you’re busy running your own law firm, we know all to well that time is often, money – and is a scarce resource in itself. Streamlining processes, without compromising on your requirements or cutting corners is key – and establishing a PSL may prove invaluable to get the best out of your hiring efforts.

In this blog, we look at the many benefits it can provide:

Time-Saving

We’re sure you’re well aware of how time-consuming and exhausting looking for the right candidate can be, and this is firstly, and perhaps most obviously, where having a PSL can be advantageous, as it will help to save you a potentially inordinate amount of time in the whole process – especially as you will have built up that trust with the recruiting agency already.

A good legal recruiter will have the network connections, industry knowledge and insider information on candidate movement in your specific practice area and/or region. They should also have a talent pool of passive candidates not presently searching for roles, but are already engaged and have built up their own trust of the recruitment brand as a credible resource when that sentiment changes.

Agencies will also have a wider awareness of your competitors – who are hiring in the same space/practice area, and are on a growth trajectory or looking to back-fill roles where individuals have left.

Having this at the fingertips helps to speed up the entire process and eliminate potential sources of stress for your recruitment team. Additionally, your PSL will provide you with a list of pre-approved agencies who have already committed to an agreed rate and service level, so there will be no need for further lengthy negotiations. As a result, what might take you weeks or even months to achieve can frequently be actioned in a matter of days.

Reduced Costs & Increased Value

Whilst recruitment costs are still a consideration, having a PSL in place can create a huge amount of value and a cost reduction for your firm in a number of ways.

With a PSL in place, organisations can significantly expedite the end-to-end process. Instead of starting from scratch with supplier evaluations and negotiations each time a need arises, they can turn to their trusted list of pre-approved suppliers, saving valuable time and resources.

Such agreements often enable organisations to negotiate favourable terms and pricing with their preferred agencies too – especially if there is a volume of hires required (and an exclusivity clause in place).

Having gone through a vetting and selection process prior, firms will also ensure a level of quality and reliability in the services they procure. In turn, this mitigates certain ‘risks’, ensuring that the agency in question adheres to legal, professional, and any regulatory standards – and ultimately negate the likelihood of costly disruptions down the line.

A Re-focus On Core Competencies

Embracing a Preferred Supplier List empowers law firms to redirect their invaluable internal resources towards honing and excelling in their core competencies – whether that’s in a HR or hiring capacity, or if lawyers themselves are involved in the wider process.

This strategic move frees them from the time-consuming and resource-draining tasks associated with advertising, CV reviewing, shortlisting, negotiation, and management of the process. As a result, teams can channel their expertise and energy into innovating, strategising, and delivering exceptional value to their clients and stakeholders.

In this way, a PSL becomes not just a cost-saving measure but a catalyst for organisational growth and excellence, ensuring that the firm remains agile and competitive in its chosen region and specialism.

Continuous Improvement In Your Supply Chain

PSLs offer a dynamic framework that goes beyond initial supplier selection and contract negotiation. They facilitate a culture of continuous improvement among suppliers. This ongoing process involves regular performance evaluations and feedback mechanisms that encourage suppliers to consistently enhance their quality and service levels.

Through periodic assessments and audits, law firms will identify areas where suppliers excel and areas in need of improvement. This data-driven approach allows for constructive dialogue, helping agencies continually understand the firm’s evolving needs and expectations.

The incentives for agencies to improve are multifaceted. First and foremost, maintaining a position on the PSL is typically contingent on meeting or exceeding predefined performance benchmarks. This competitive aspect motivates recruitment businesses to consistently deliver value and strive for excellence.

Moreover, the feedback loop in a PSL fosters innovation. Agencies will proactively propose new ideas, technologies, or process enhancements that can benefit the firm and impact the hiring strategy more widely. These innovations can lead to more efficient operations, cost savings, and better outcomes, all of which contribute to a stronger partnership all parties.

PSL Vs. Exclusivity

A PSL and an exclusivity agreement are two distinct but equally valuable arrangements that law firms can employ to optimise their supplier relationships and get the most out of these for a successful outcome; namely, a new hire that is a great fit on all fronts.

If a PSL is not a desired route, an alternative option would be an exclusivity or agreement granted to a single agency with exclusive rights to hire for a particular role/roles.

While both options offer advantages, they do serve different strategic purposes. A PSL provides flexibility by offering a range of pre-vetted options for various needs, promoting competition and potentially lower costs. Exclusivity agreements, on the other hand, foster deeper, exclusive partnerships with agencies, which can be beneficial when a specific hire is needed, ensuring consistency and a focused supplier relationship.

Ultimately, the choice between a PSL and an exclusivity agreement depends on the firm’s specific needs, priorities, and the nature of its supplier relationships. Both approaches aim to enhance efficiency, reduce risk, and create value, but they do so through different means.

In Conclusion

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.

External factors may also impact the decision. The current market, still impacted by headwinds from the pandemic, is undeniably tough as we enter a new year against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and a much-publicised skills shortage. Attracting (and then retaining) talent can be arduous at the best of times, but balancing squeezed budgets, keeping existing staff engaged, and still focusing on growth and expansion is certainly a big ask for law firms who also have the ‘day job’ to do.

Consideration of a PSL, an exclusivity agreement, even a retained recruitment service is worth doing – each with their own unique benefits and advantages but all focused on a collaborative approach to sourcing the next hire for your 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.

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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Supporting Neurodiversity in Recruitment

The term “Neurodiversity” is not exactly new – although there is still arguably some uncertainty about what it means, and how specifically it is relevant to the world of work.. The topic has become a much-discussed aspect of DEI in recent years and the impact of its cultural recognition and widespread advocacy – having made many aware of the potential that lies untapped in this group of individuals – has seen the term not only find its way into everyday vernacular, but also spark a change in company hiring practices, with a genuine attempt now seen from businesses to understand and embrace the value such talent can offer, and strive to support them by adapting their hiring practices. 

But despite the focus on the latest update of today’s DEI initiatives, the question remains: has all the buzz translated into a real change in the fate of cognitively diverse professionals when it comes to employability?  

As widely acknowledged, diversity plays a pivotal role in recognising and embracing the inherent differences in human brain functionality. It should, therefore, be clearly reflected in a company’s recruitment process if they genuinely aim to empower neurodivergent candidates and support their success at every step of hiring. The significance of accommodating neurodiversity cannot be underestimated, as it profoundly influences the potential success of these individuals in any position they occupy. However, the question remains, do most recruitment processes today truly embody these principles?

Are Businesses Just Paying Lip Service?

The latest ONS research revealed that the employment rate for people with autism in the UK sits at just 29%, a figure lower than the rate for those with other kinds of impairment, with unemployment rates for the neurodivergent community overall at 30-40%.. A later report written by Auction, an IT consultancy, as part of a survey to investigate neurodiversity in work, found that a third of people with autism admitted that going through traditional recruitment processes was the most difficult part of their career. 

It was also found in a recent EqualTech report by SpartaGlobal that just 21% of survey respondents actually work for businesses that tailor their recruitment practices to neurodivergent candidates, despite 87% of them stating that neurodiversity will be an absolute priority for their companies in 2023. 

So, are employers simply paying lip service? While a lack of commitment to changing engrained recruitment processes to support neurodivergent individuals is a plausible (and apparent) reason for the disparity in expectations and reality, another probable one is the failure of employers to make this aspect of their DEI initiative part of a structured, wider recruitment strategy. Efforts to adapt hiring practices for the benefit of neurodivergent candidates are more often seen in only some stages of the recruitment process, rather than at every point possible, ultimately leading to a disjointed and ineffective approach. 

Eliminating Unconscious Bias In Hiring

Take blind hiring for example. It is a DEI strategy employed to eliminate unconscious biases that can arise from relevant but unnecessary information (such as names, age, years of experience, or level of education) that employers pick up at certain stages of the hiring process. It makes the employer unable to discriminate against candidates because of the lack of information that triggers unconscious biases.

While its value is clear, with successful implementation increasing the likelihood of candidates from minority or disadvantaged groups making it to the interview stage, its potential cannot be maximised unless it is supported by complementary strategies at other stages of the hiring pipeline. One such strategy is the targeted recruitment of neurodivergent candidates through the use of a talent pipeline, which addresses the fact that the strategy of blind hiring cannot increase the diversity of interview pools if not many candidates from the neurodiversity community apply in the first place.  

Building the Foundation for Holistic & Bias-Free Hiring

When talking about implementing complementary strategies, certain things must be set in stone. To begin with, a law firm must be clear on its objectives for its recruitment process. As the starting point and the thread that will be running through your entire recruitment process, how well your objectives are clearly defined and communicated throughout your team will determine the quality of the changes you make in your hiring practices and how effective they will be in facilitating the achievement of said objectives. Whatever that objective may be, whether it’s to improve efforts to adhere to corporate social commitments through an inclusivity-centric process, or to simply improve workforce productivity across the business, it must be well-conveyed and well-supported by the leadership team in the firm at all levels. 

Creating Your Target Persona

Once clear, your objectives should inform the creation of your target persona. The profile you create to represent your key target will not only give you a concrete idea of the skillset you are looking for in your ideal candidate but will also give you the opportunity to test and falsify pre-existing notions and ideas about what you believe is needed to be successful in the role. Are there any assumptions about the importance of social skills or personality traits in the performance of the role? What impact would it have on performance if these skills were absent? Critically assess your selection criteria to eliminate possible biases that can creep in, and ensure it is fully justifiable. 

 It is your target persona that will then determine how you rework and adapt your hiring practices, at every point of the entire recruitment journey. This aspect is where organisations tend to err in meeting the needs of neurodivergent candidates. The true purpose of the hiring process, which is to assess the necessary competencies and traits required for the role, as well as the candidate’s willingness and aptitude for growth, is only partly acknowledged, and at certain stages of recruitment.

This leads to the many flaws still seen in hiring practices, such as the emphasis on social interactions in interviews, which can be particularly difficult for some neurodivergent individuals who struggle with social cues and communication (verbal and non-verbal). 

Stage One: Effective Job Descriptions 

Any recruitment process built to facilitate the success of neurodivergent candidates must be reworked and adapted from the starting point to the endpoint; in other words, it must begin supporting candidates before they get to the interview stage.

Its success starts right from when candidates read the job descriptions that advertise these roles, and get both the information and the accessibility they need to proceed with the application, not simply one or the other. This involves things such as the kind of language used, as well as the choice of terminology to describe the skills required for the role. With job descriptions that are designed to cater to neurodivergent candidates, the watchword to follow is clarity; your choice of words should clearly and plainly describe the role and the requirements necessary to be considered for progression. Outline which ones are must-haves in a simple and presentable format (a simple bullet point of skills required works best here) but avoid unnecessarily broad and generic phrases like “must be a good communicator or “must have strong teamwork skills’’, especially if they are not traits required to be effective in the role. They attach an unneeded sense of exclusivity to the required competencies that can mislead candidates into thinking they are not adequately qualified to apply.

You can add in a section clearly listing skills that are desirable, but take care not to bloat your job advert with a skill wish list, as this can equally be as off-putting to neurodivergent individuals. 

Consider An Accommodation Statement

Another good way to demonstrate your willingness to support applicants is to explicitly let them know you intend to do so through an accommodation statement. This is a crucial but often overlooked aspect of job adverts (if they’re even included at all), as it can help to eliminate the source of their worries when considering applying. Letting them know that they will receive the necessary support and accommodation should they need it, helps to break down the initial mental barrier that can prove problematic during this first stage of the hiring process.  

Stage Two: Review & Interview

Whist an adapted ‘traditional’ application process is still the best method of assessing candidates for some businesses, unconscious bias does remain an issue at this stage, and the adoption of alternative evaluation methods can help to mitigate this. In addition to the practice of blind hiring suggested previously, you can consider using a scoring system against a set of questions. This approach puts the focus on experiences and skills that can be overlooked in favour of good CV writing skills or a first-class honours degree. Other methods like video submissions, workshops, and telephone applications are approaches you can and should be open to – the onus is on you to experiment and get creative with your recruitment practices! 

The interview stage has always presented the biggest challenge to overcome for neurodivergent candidates. And, whilst it’s not realistic to discount this stage in its entirety, they should not be the sole evaluation method, but balanced with other assessment techniques in order to provide a fairer and more accurate appraisal of candidates. For example, consider assigning less weight to interviews in the overall evaluation process and couple them with a work trial instead, to allow for a more skills-focused assessment of suitability for the role. 

Equally as important, is your level of proactivity in offering reasonable accommodations during this stage. Not only does this create the optimal conditions needed for the interviewing candidate to perform at their best, but it also helps to quell any anxiety that may arise because of the occasion. It also communicates a willingness as an employer to do everything you can to see that individual succeed. Whether this involves arranging for flexible interview locations, permitting the use of screen readers during online assessments, or even providing interview questions via chat during virtual interviews or before an interview to enhance accessibility, you should ensure you’re well-prepared to facilitate their success. 

Stage Three: Post-Interview Process 

Following the interview or review stage, the focus should be on providing constructive and prompt feedback to candidates. Avoid the common mistake of ‘ghosting’, and instead communicate your reasons for your decision on the outcome of their application process, openly and transparently. Let decisions made on their suitability be made primarily based on the competency demonstrated for the role, and avoid making hasty judgements based on what might be perceived as ‘awkward’ moments, unconventional body language, or a perceived lack of social skills, as these may not have any impact at all on the candidate’s ability to perform the job effectively. By building this two-way line of communication you are not only fostering transparency across the recruitment team but are also improving your hiring process. 

The recruitment process for any legal candidate can be overwhelming – and the same applies for the law firm itself, particularly when market conditions are challenging. Recruiting under pressure can mean that processes aren’t followed in the same manner, including ethical recruitment practices and standards, albeit temporarily. In short, practices designed to ensure the highest standards of professionalism, fairness, and transparency is key. 

Stage Four: Onboarding 

Although it is one of the less obvious aspects of the recruitment journey when the contracts are signed and the start date has been agreed, onboarding is a process that requires just as much attention and preparation as any other stage when welcoming a neurodivergent employee into your team.

Onboarding neurodivergent employees is not a one-size fits all approach. Employers need to be acutely aware of how their new recruit works, in order to understand how best to engage and optimise the potential their talent brings. 

Educating the existing team with diversity awareness training in advance of a neurodivergent colleague starting is crucial, as it will ensure that colleagues know how to communicate with the individual, learn about and understand particular characteristics and preferences while respecting their privacy & dignity. It also helps them avoid making presumptions about what the best way to carry out the onboarding process is. For example, common icebreaker activities that are used to help introduce new employees to the team can be quite stressful and anxiety-inducing for neurodivergent individuals and often end up becoming counter-productive. A better way to approach it would be to speak with your new starter beforehand to find out how best they would like to meet their new team members and ideally have a conversation with the management or other senior figures about their new colleague so that the team better understands what to expect in the short, medium, and long term. 

As such, a line manager or management team that is willing to be supportive and patient enough to train up their new employee is key to the success of their onboarding. They need to know that no matter the need, their manager is always approachable and available to help. This is also where the help and input of colleagues to help the new employee ease into their new environment can be instrumental. Quick but regular check-ins via email or inviting them out for a bite at lunchtime can go a long way in helping the individual to settle in and quickly feel part of the team.

And Finally

Much is written about the importance of organisations reviewing (and amending) their recruitment process to enable cognitively diverse candidates to showcase their strengths. However, recognising the value of neurodiversity in the workplace and facilitating their success, is just the beginning of a larger journey towards fostering an inclusive and thriving workplace culture. Efforts to support neurodivergent candidates should extend beyond the recruitment process, as neurodiversity should be embraced as an asset that brings out the unique perspectives and talents of all employees. This is how you as an employer can build an inclusive culture in the workplace and maintain a supportive environment, to ensure your workforce is fully optimised. 

In a much-documented skills-short market, ensuring that the proverbial net is cast far and wide is critical for law firms to remain competitive, and their hiring objectives on track. Revaluating your recruitment process is an easy way to tap into the wide range of neurodiverse talent who may have been overlooked for employment, or put off reaching out proactively by that critical first experience and interaction with your 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.

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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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice