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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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Retained Recruitment Services – A Viable Option for Your Law Firm?

  • February 23, 2023

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.

Why Choose a Recruitment Partner?

Utilising a sector-specialist recruitment agency will undoubtedly give firms a head start with their hiring campaigns – not only providing general market insight and that helicopter view of the hiring landscape, but also the inside track on movement and access to talent pools of active and passive legal professionals.

Consultants at recruitment firms are just that… able to provide consultative, practical advice on things like the fillability of roles, salary benchmarking, and insight into requirements and drivers of job seekers in the current climate.

They are also best placed to really ‘sell’ your firm and elevate your roles through strategic marketing, advertising, and tapping into the passive talent within their own networks.

In short, it makes absolute commercial sense to bring in the experts when the hiring landscape remains complex, and the candidate, at least for now, is King.

Then again, we would say that…

And once you have decided to partner with a recruitment specialist, the selection process and identifying the right one also needs some careful consideration.

Can’t See the Wood For the Trees?

Choosing the right legal recruitment partner can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many options available. The key to selecting the right partner is to carefully evaluate all of the factors that they bring to the table. A legal recruitment expert has the potential to save firms time, money, and headaches in the search for legal talent. However, the success of your new strategy will depend on your ability to choose the most suitable company for your firm.

You may look at things such as their own longevity (and success) in the market, their brand presence and digital footprint, and whether they are a specialist (and knowledgeable) about your practice area(s) or region in which you operate.

You may also look at the specifics of the services on offer – although this may not always be apparent from a quick glance at the website.

But understanding the recruitment model and service(s) adopted and on offer by the firm is imperative in the decision-making process. Therefore your assessment and due diligence period should always take heed of the specific framework or model that agency subscribes to.

This Way, Or That?

Whilst there are sometimes grey areas and nuances, generally speaking, most recruitment firms will offer either one or two services to their client base.

And, whilst on the face of it, the differences are largely focused on the payment structure and agreement between recruiter and client, the underlying recruitment approach is usually very different.


Contingency recruitment in simple terms works on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, whereby the client only pays a fee for the successful placement of a candidate – usually when that individual starts in their new role.

This tends to be the prevailing model of recruitment in most industries and is often used for entry-level or mid-level positions where the recruiter is likely to have a larger pool of candidates to choose from, and where there is general availability of the required skills in the marketplace.

A standard service offered by recruitment agencies, it gives firms access to the agency’s own extensive network of pre-screened candidates; saving time and allowing a shortlist to be drawn up together, quickly, in line with your instructions.


Retained recruitment refers to the type of recruitment in which the agency is paid a partial fee from the client before the process begins, with the remainder paid upon the successful placement of a candidate into that role.

Typically suitable for executive-level hires, or where there is a scarcity of candidates on the active market, this model often means the agency will enter an exclusive partnership with the client who will help to map the market and help to set goals and milestones on how the search will be conducted.

Retained – More Than Just The Upfront Fee?

Whilst on the face of it, retained recruitment services seem more expensive as there is an upfront fee to pay, regardless of the outcome – there is often much more to this methodology than just the payment structure and T&Cs.

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

This is more often than not, a fully-tailored recruitment solution where the agency and consultants will work closely with the hiring team – covering all areas of the active and passive market in a wider, more detailed search.

Is Retained Right For Me?

There are pros and cons of going down the contingency or retained route – and ultimately, it will once again come down to:

  • Scarcity of candidates in the market for the role in question
  • The need to recruit quickly (and impact on the bottom line of that role not being filled)
  • The need to access resources you don’t have yourself
  • Budget
  • Complexity of the hiring project (volume, seniority, location, relocation, etc)

Retained recruitment can offer certain benefits over contingency including:

  • Access to a wider pool of talent – tapping into passive networks who may not be actively looking for a role (and therefore arguably not being targeted by other law firms also hiring in the same practice area or region)
  • Time-saving – the agency takes care of the entire recruitment process, including sourcing, screening, interviewing, and providing detailed shortlists for the client. For time-short individuals in the legal sector – this is often a driving force to outsource in the first place.
  • Cost effective – whilst retained recruitment may involve an upfront fee, it is often seen as more cost-effective in the long run because the agency in question has the expertise and resources to identify the best candidates that are the right ‘fit’ first time for the client. This reduces the risk of a bad hire(and the financial implications that come with that).
  • Increased retention rates – identification, and then a successful placement, of a ‘right fit’ candidate that aligns with the law firm’s culture and values on a deeper level than qualifications and experience, ultimately impacts retention rates and reduced turnover.
  • Professional expertise – a good recruitment specialist, especially those with longevity (and a good reputation) in the market can provide guidance on a consultative basis on recruitment strategies, market trends, and best practice – helping the firm make informed decisions, and moving the whole process on from a simple transactional service

In Conclusion

Retained recruitment and contingency recruitment are two different approaches to hiring – but both may be considered as viable solutions based on your hiring strategy, budget, timescales, and the type of role(s) in question.

Whichever route you choose (which may be a hybrid of the two if the agency offers both services), working with a recruitment specialist that shares your values can help to elevate your business, brand, and roles.

The recruitment process for many businesses can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and costly. Add in the tail end of a pandemic, economic uncertainty, and political instability, and the process soon becomes a minefield.

Yet the objectives remain the same for those responsible for hiring within their law firm – retain, engage, and motivate their existing people, and attract top talent in line with growth and business objectives.

Selecting a recruitment partner that addresses those goals and is mindful of things like ethical recruitment practices – abiding by the highest standards of professionalism, fairness, and transparency, is essential.

And as long as those boxes are ticked…arguably you’re already on the road to success, whichever route you then go on to choose.

Our Services

At Clayton Legal, we offer a number of different services to suit the various (and changing) requirements of our diverse client base.

The services we offer very much start with the specific requirements, hiring strategy, business objectives, and budget, and include a standard contingency service as well as a retained and RPO service offering.

We work at all times with our client’s objectives in mind – to deliver the people they need, swiftly, that are the right fit, first time.

Click here for more information on our range of services, and information on how to get in touch if you would like a more informed discussion about how we can help with your current recruitment project.

About Clayton Legal

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

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

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

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How To Identify The Right Legal Recruitment Partner

  • December 10, 2022

We’re living in a world where the demand for talent significantly outweighs the number of available candidates in search of legal roles. More than half of U.K. businesses are experiencing skill shortages, and countless worldwide organisations struggle to fill critical positions.

Factors like the Great Resignation, the rise of remote working, and changing employee priorities have made it harder than ever for legal leaders to fill their employment pipeline. In this environment, businesses must access the right support.

A specialist legal recruitment partner with expertise and experience in your industry makes it easier to find the people capable of transforming your team. Here’s how you can identify the right one to work with in 2023.

Why Law Firms Need Recruitment Partners

Currently, around 80% of organisations say they have difficulty filling positions due to a lack of available skills.. As unemployment levels continue to drop, the quest for talent will likely become even more challenging for modern brands.

Having a legal recruitment partner can be the ultimate way to stay one step ahead of the competition and ensure your firm can thrive in the years ahead. Companies like ours have spent years cultivating networks that offer extensive access to top talent.

We can tap into “passive” candidates who may not be actively searching for new roles. As recruitment experts, we are skilled at positioning firms to the right candidates by offering help with social media marketing, job description writing, and interview setting.

A legal recruitment partner gives your firm the extra support to quickly track down the right talent and build a pipeline of available experts. They know where to look for talent and can help your business to appeal to every part of the workforce.

How to Choose the Right Legal Recruiting Partner

Choosing the right legal recruitment partner can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many options available. The key to selecting the right partner is to carefully evaluate all of the factors that they bring to the table. A legal recruitment expert has the potential to save firms time, money, and headaches in the search for legal talent. However, the success of your new strategy will depend on your ability to choose the most suitable company for your business. Here’s how to get started.

1. Look at Their Brand Presence

Branding and online presence are growing increasingly important to the recruitment landscape. Countless candidates check a company’s “employer brand” before deciding whether to work for them. They’re also increasingly active on digital channels when searching for jobs. Around 90% of candidates now use social media in their job search.

To ensure you can adhere to the changing recruitment landscape, you’ll need a legal recruitment partner with an excellent image and a strong online presence. After all, if the company fails to market itself effectively online, it may also struggle to promote your vacancies.

Search for active social media pages across LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s also worth looking at how frequently your legal recruitment team shares thought leadership content and blog posts to support their sector.

2.Prioritise Industry Experience

Every industry has its specific nuances to consider when it comes to recruitment. People in the technology landscape are looking for different things from their employers than those in the engineering space. These groups have different messaging, unique priorities, and different expectations. As such, finding a recruitment partner who knows your space is important.

A specialist legal recruitment partner will understand your landscape and the kind of candidates you’re trying to reach. They’ll know how to position your job descriptions, what types of copy and content will attract employees, and even where to look for passive candidates.

A recruiter with a good knowledge of your sector will also be able to match a specific individual’s skills more easily to the goals and requirements of the role in question.

3.Explore Recruitment Service Options

Different legal recruitment partners can offer different kinds of services to their clients. Some work on specifically filling roles as they emerge in the company, while others fill talent pipelines with various candidates. This may even involve reaching out to the 70% of candidates who aren’t actively searching for a new job when you’re hiring.

Various recruitment partners can also offer different levels of assistance with the recruitment process. Some can help with writing job descriptions and social media posts, so you can improve your chances of reaching the correct audience with the right language. They may also offer help with your interview and shortlisting process.

Some recruitment agencies will offer ‘contingency’ recruitment services whilst others can speak to you about ‘retained’ – normally a fully-tailored recruitment service, typically suitable for more senior hires who aren’t on the active market,

The level of assistance you need and the extent of the service you’re looking for will help you to determine which partner is right for you.

4.Check Case Studies and Testimonials

Reviews and testimonials are an excellent way to get a behind-the-scenes look at the kind of support you can expect from your legal recruitment partner. Your chosen company should have a website to showcase case studies and details about previous client interactions.

Look through the messages left by other clients and legal professionals, and find out as much as you can about how happy they were with the speed, accuracy, and guidance offered by the recruitment team. Aside from checking the company’s website, you can also look across the general digital footprint for additional business comments.

A recruitment company’s social media page can be an excellent place to look for quick messages from happy clients or posts showcasing recent reviews.

5.Get in touch 

Finally, once you have a shortlist of the legal recruitment partners you might want to work with, it’s worth reaching out and arranging a time to talk. A conversation with your recruitment partner can help you to answer a lot of questions you might have about their service, how much support they can give, and how they’re going to communicate with you in the future.

Speaking to the recruitment experts also allows you to test their knowledge and build a rapport for future interactions. A good recruitment company should be ready and willing to arrange a meeting with the stakeholders in your time where you can discuss all of your concerns. Depending on their location, they may offer various forms of communication, such as video conferencing, calling on the phone, or face-to-face meetings.

Whether you already have an internal team responsible for hiring, or you outsource this to sector specialists, using the services of a reputable legal recruiter can add a huge amount of value to your hiring strategy. Finding a partner that can act as an extension to your own business and is flexible and adaptable in their approach is key.

Ultimately, in our 25-year experience, all legal clients we speak to are looking for four things – speed, a reduced workload, personalised relationships and ultimately, results.

And, although time is a precious commodity (in law, particularly), doing your due diligence in selecting and identifying an agency you can trust to deliver is time well spent in the long run.


About Clayton Legal

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

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

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