Law firms must adapt in the war for legal talent

How you can beat the competition in the search for your next hire

The impact of COVID-19 has limited headcount movements in the legal sector, reflecting a cautious approach to a new hybrid way of working and employees’ needs for security and stability. However, the labour market has changed so much in the last six months alone and whilst many sectors are slowly recovering and seeing an increase in hiring activity, the legal sector has not only proven to be more resilient but also rebounded at a rate above most industry sectors. Whilst this may vary to an extent by firm and practice area, most firms are now looking to grow their headcount, think differently about the way in which they deliver legal services and are adapting to the changing market.

The competition for legal talent and the shift in mindset means that firms are having to rethink their recruitment strategies and fast to secure their first-choice candidate, or risk losing out. The traditional offering is no longer enough, and candidates are not only expecting the adoption of the new ‘hybrid’ working model but an investment in technology, to enable them to work smarter not harder. There is also the additional threat from recognised challenger law firms such as Keystone Law and Gunnercooke, who offer lawyers an attractive consultancy model and allow them to dictate how and where they want to work.

At Birchrose Associates, we actively consult our clients on how they can both attract and retain the best legal talent in the industry. Here are some key considerations for law firms when it comes to hiring legal talent for their teams:

1. Prioritise the recruitment process

The candidate experience throughout the recruitment process is important and creates a lasting impression of your firm. Long and slow recruitment processes can mean you lose out to your competitors in what is currently a fast-moving market

Consider whether video and other technology can be used as part of the recruitment process. Not only are people more comfortable communicating over video following the pandemic, conducting initial interviews online can be far more efficient and cost effective.

Think in advance about the core people who need to be involved in the process and ensure they are around for the key stages of CV reviews, interviews and offers. Also ensure that timely and constructive feedback is provided to all candidates who interview, and that the process moves along at a quick pace. We would recommend keeping the number of interviews to a minimum which will in turn shorten the process and making decisive and competitive offers when you find the right fit.

The offer and negotiation stage is an integral part of the recruitment process and it is more important than ever to put your best offer forward from the beginning, so the candidate is left in no doubt that you want to hire them. Don’t give them the chance to even consider going to your competitor who is willing to offer them what their skillset is worth from the outset. It is also possible that the candidate’s existing employer may try and persuade them to stay, so make sure you secure that candidate and stay connected with them regularly throughout their notice period until they start.

2. Remain open minded

With everyone fighting over the same talent, it’s important to be flexible with your brief. This will widen the pool of candidates to choose from and increase your chances of a successful hire. Think about areas where you can compromise – perhaps consider someone with slightly less experience that can grow into the role. This can often be a better long-term investment, as employees with clear opportunities for growth and development are likely to stick around for the long-haul. This can bring additional benefits too such as new ideas and approaches, giving you a competitive advantage.

3. Offer flexibility

Before the pandemic, remote and flexible working were rare occurrences, usually reserved for those with special circumstances. However, with people being forced to work from home and many law firms adopting a hybrid / phased approach to returning to the office, most candidates now expect a level of flexibility from a new firm. People want a better work-life balance, and the pandemic has meant that for many the line between both have been permanently blurred. We’re seeing more candidates choose a good work-life balance over the traditional lure of the big ‘city’ firms with the associated renumeration package. It has also been proven that people can work just as productively when not in the office and when hiring at a senior level, the employee can be empowered to decide what is best for them.

Law firms who adopt this approach will be much more successful in their hiring. It also means you can hire from further afield and not be restricted to those who can commute to the office five days a week. This widens the pool of potential candidates and creates new recruitment opportunities for firms.

4. Sell yourself

When hiring, you need to sell your firm, the opportunity and what it will be like to work with you, as much as ask questions of the candidates you are interviewing. In this market, good candidates will be looking at multiple roles and may have more than one offer on the table – so make sure you have left them with a great impression of your firm and why they should choose you, so they are left in no doubt that you are the right choice for them. People want a job which gives them purpose and aligns with their values, so law firms need to clearly communicate their culture.

5. Consider short-term support

Locum Solicitors can plug any skills gaps and ensure no downtime on projects, allowing you more time to look for the best permanent hire for the role. Locums are highly experienced individuals, skilled at hitting the ground running, so there is no lengthy onboarding process to worry about. Many Lawyers will have a minimum 3-month notice period, so if you add on the time it takes you to find the right person, offer them and for them to work their notice prior, you could be waiting quite a while to fill that position. This in turn can often have a negative effect on client deadlines and revenue which can be avoided if using a Locum.

Law firms need to continue to evolve and adapt in the new world we find ourselves in, in order to attract and secure the best talent. We are a specialist legal recruitment agency, dedicated solely to the UK private practice market. If you need advice or help with hiring legal talent for your teams, please contact us.


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