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Legal Recruitment Learnings of 2021

Legal Recruitment Learnings of 2021

There is sure to be a couple more twists and turns to navigate before we can move on to living a ‘normal’ life with COVID amongst us, however, as we head towards that moment, I wanted to share some of my recruitment process learnings over 2021.

1.  Hybrid working for the legal industry is here to stay. In 2022 the vast majority of lawyers will be working 4/3 days from office and 1/2 from home.

2. Video calls.  While interviews over video call have been necessary, nothing can replicate a face-to-face interview. Over a ‘Zoom’ you can’t get a feel for an office, you don’t pick up on subtle (yet critical) cues on people’s personalities.  It is really hard to have a conversation with more than 2 people, there is no eye contact and ultimately you don’t get a strong sense for the ‘vibe’.  This goes both ways.

3.  Lack of commitment.  As a likely result of conducting everything virtually we have seen a rise in unacceptable candidate behaviour; particularly among junior lawyers. I think for some people they don’t feel they have participated in a ‘real’ process. There is no emotional buy in and as a result we have seen a sharp rise in:
i)   Lawyers signing contracts but continue to interview for other jobs during their notice period and even after they have started a new job; and
ii)  Lawyers starting a new role and within 3-4 months resign and join another firm.

4.  Personal engagement.  If a virtual employment process is unavoidable the best way to conduct video call interviews are one-on-one.

5.  Tighten up your processes.  The onboarding process and a deep understanding of managing remotely has never been more critical. Some firms have made some real leaps over the last 20 months and will reap the benefits as we settle into a hybrid working model.

6.  Salary isn’t everything. While salaries have risen sharply over last 12 months and competition is fierce, the firm that offers the highest salary doesn’t necessarily secure the candidate. Of course, if you are not in the ball park you will miss out, but when the difference is $5K – $10K, other factors definitely come into play.

7.  A positive work environment.  Company culture, respect and employee welfare are back at the top of the agenda. Lawyers, for the most part, accept and often enjoy working hard, however, in the current competitive environment no one needs to put up with bullies or stressed, grumpy, angry, aggressive and unpleasant people. Firms and partners are increasingly realising who their problem employees are and they’re less likely to tolerate their behaviour, as it in turn affects their whole brand. The old adage ‘1 rotten apple spoils the barrel’ is turning into a reality for some firms/teams.

8.  Good recruiters in general are honest with their candidates and will provide them with all the intel they have amassed over their recruitment lives. Our aim is to provide the candidates a better, more suitable role; not put them into a team with a difficult hiring manager. In a highly competitive market with so many options, firms that are failing in this area will literally see no candidates.

9.  Use a quality legal recruiter! Finally, using a quality legal recruiter to manage your process has never been more important. With demand at an all-time high, pressure on law firms to secure talent has ramped up. If you are a lawyer trying to manage multiple processes through a mixture of direct approaches and multiple recruiters… good luck! You will be pulled and pressured from pillar to post and the experience will be vastly more stressful. The job of a recruiter is to manage all the competing interests and be your conduit to multiple firms at once. We absorb the firm pressure, we manage their expectations, we prevent them from going rogue and allow you to just concentrate on interviewing and gathering information so you can focus on selecting the right role for you.

Sam Gray

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