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The 7 Critical Hiring Mistakes Law Firms Make

  • October 4, 2019

Even with a backdrop of economic uncertainty, we are still witnessing a buoyant legal jobs market with  many practice areas looking to hire new talent with relative urgency. However, by the same token, and amidst a still-current skills-shortage, the number of applications from jobseekers is still not accelerating along that same trajectory.

As we have seen before, demand once again exceed supply which translates to a highly competitive, candidate-led legal marketplace.

With competition at its fiercest, law firms are looking to attract the best (and often the same pool of) talent, so it’s imperative that they look for ways to create standout. And, once those candidates have expressed an interest, ensuring that the recruitment process from end-to-end is on point, engaging and compelling.

Are you making critical mistakes that could be hindering your chances of engaging and retaining the best talent to grow your law firm?

Here are some of the questions that will help you recognise if you’re in danger of making some critical hiring mistakes.

1. Is Your Recruitment Process Up to Date?

Are you clear on what you want from your ideal candidate? If your job description and person spec are vague, you won’t attract the top level of legal professional you need.

Too often, law firms believe they can reuse an old job description, but that just isn’t true. Today, legal candidates are looking for challenging opportunities in a career that will advance their knowledge and experience.

A dry, ‘dusty’ old job description that has clearly seen better days isn’t going to attract the right calibre of candidate to you.

So, think carefully about the job description, the person spec and the advert for your legal vacancy. Is your offer going to create a stir in the marketplace? Will candidates be beating a path to your door, eager to work for your firm?

If not, its time for a rethink and a revamp.

2. Is Your Offer Right?

Talking of which, it’s crucial to make sure you’ve got the offer right. And we’re not just talking about salary here.

Although remuneration remains an important factor, there are other big elements in the game that contribute to whether a candidate ultimately decides whether to apply for a legal position or not.

These deciding factors often include a package that offers additional benefits such as flexible hours, working from home options, the chance to work at different locations and with different teams, great company culture and friendly, productive environment, a clearly defined career pathway and extras such as healthcare, gym membership and profit-sharing schemes.

Now, that might seem a lengthy list of wants, but with Glassdoor reporting that 57% of job candidates list benefits and perks as among their top considerations before accepting a job, are you confident that your law firm has the right offer for the role?

Are you sure you can meet marketplace expectations?

3. Is Your Interview Strategy Thorough?

Having a well-timed plan for your interview process is pivotal in choosing the right candidate, having your offer accepted, and seeing your new legal hire at their desk.

Failure to achieve any part of the process in good time could see you miss out on securing your ideal employee.

Sorting applications and deciding who to interview can be a lengthy process if not planned well.

For a successful interview strategy, you need to consider:

  • A timely plan for processing applications
  • A crib sheet for marking to ensure all candidates are treated equally and fairly
  • Synchronised diaries so everyone involved is available when needed their role in the interviewing/marking process
  • An allocated member of staff to meet and greet – and set up tests if these are required
  • Rooms for the interview and discussions afterwards
  • Scheduled breaks for the interviewing team
  • A deadline for deciding and contacting the successful candidate to avoid the candidates accepting another law firm’s offer first

If you believe you will struggle to deal with this time frame, it’s worth considering talking to a specialist legal recruiter such as ourselves at Clayton Legal, as we can help you speed up the process because of our unparalleled access to both active and passive legal candidates.

4. Are You Exploring Future Potential?

It’s advisable to resist hiring on qualifications (or first impressions) alone.

Personality is essential, as is the right cultural fit for your team. Will the candidate gel with your other team members? Will they make a good team player, and do they have the same ethos and values that your law firm holds?

Additionally, it’s worth considering the future – apart from the initial role they may hold in your firm, do they have the skills, or the ability to achieve them, that will enable them to develop with your team? Are they potential managerial or partnership material for the future?

Don’t be tempted to reject individuals out of hand.

Although the candidate may not be the right person for the current vacancy, if they have a good range of skills and traits, and a professional outlook, they may be worth retaining in your talent pipeline for future opportunities.

A good talent pipeline will enable your law firm to quickly find a replacement for a member of staff who leaves or an additional person for an expanding team. Having someone in mind already will save you time and money.

5. Do You Have a Strong Employer Brand?

It’s easy to put all your effort into getting the recruitment process right and forget that it’s important to maintain a credible and attractive employer brand to appeal to candidates.

But what exactly is your employer brand?

It’s the way you differentiate your firm from others; your USP, and what will attract the ideal candidates to apply to work for your law firm over another.

Having a strong brand will help you compete successfully in a candidate-driven marketplace. It should reflect your ethos, culture and approach to its employees. Keep it authentic to retain a trustworthy reputation.

6. Are You Onboarding Successfully?

It’s crucial that having found your ideal candidate, you don’t fail to onboard successfully.

A recent Harvard Business Review study indicated that a good onboarding process can reduce the average amount of time for a new employee to reach full performance by a third, from six months to four.

Conversely, many new employees leave their new role in the first few months due to poor onboarding. Forbes suggests a strong correlation between onboarding and unwanted employee turnover. For example, nearly all low-turnover firms (95%) have an onboarding process that helps with retention. In contrast, 20% of high-turnover firms do not have an onboarding process.

The onboarding process will play a pivotal role in your employee’s early days perception of the firm and will influence the level of loyalty they develop as a direct consequence. So, a great onboarding process won’t just result in having a team player up to speed quickly; it can also mean better retention rates and therefore lower recruitment needs and expense for the firm in the future.

With the (albeit forced) rise in remote working last year, and the anticipated step change towards hybrid-working models on a more long-term basis, virtual onboarding may also need to be taken into consideration. We’ve created a guide to onboarding remotely which contains the critical points to remember if this looks to be a viable option for your firm.

7. Are You Getting Expert Help?

Recruiting can be time-consuming and expensive. If you are struggling to recruit to your law firm, perhaps a specialist recruiter like Clayton Legal could help?

With over 20 years’ experience of partnering law firms to build resources, we can help streamline your hiring process.

Rather than tying your staff up in trying to find and hire the ideal candidate, we can speed up the process. With access to a vast range of contacts in the legal sector, including both active and passive candidates and a well-developed talent pipeline, we often have someone suitable straight away, saving you time and money.

Our expertise in the legal marketplace makes us the ideal partner for your busy law firm when looking to hire new talent.

Next Steps

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

About Clayton Legal

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

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

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

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