How do you hire top talent in the legal industry? It's not as simple as it used to be. Low overall unemployment, advances in technology and competition for talent from in-house legal departments and alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) have many traditional firms — whether BigLaw, midsize or small-town — scratching their heads as to what makes for a successful hiring strategy today.
And now things are growing — fast. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the legal space to have steady, incremental growth of seven percent by 2028 — faster than the average growth rate for all other occupations. The primary factors behind this growth among law firms include a renewed focus on cost- and time-efficiency — which is driving an increased need for support positions like paralegals and legal assistants — and the fact that partner-track employment at a traditional legal firm is no longer the sought-after next step for lawyers following graduation. Now talent is the sought-after commodity, which makes the challenge of finding (and hiring) quality talent even greater.
So what can your organization do to attract — and retain — top legal talent in today's market? Read on for steps you can take to address the three biggest recruitment pain points hiring managers are encountering in the legal industry today.
keep your talent pipeline active with passive candidates
Record-low unemployment plus high competition equals slim pickings when it comes to quality job-seeking legal talent. The good news — in terms of lawyers, at least — is that law school enrollment has increased (albeit modestly) in the past couple of years, after a period of marked decline that began in 2010. Meaning, we could see an equally modest increase in quality candidates coming down the pike.
The bad news, of course, is that this isn't immediately helpful if you're looking to hire someone now. So where is the top legal talent today? Probably at work contributing great value to their current employer — or, more to the point, not scrolling job boards. Don't wait around for talent to look for a change. Be active in pursuing passive candidates. Here are some steps you can do to keep your talent pipeline active:
1. be active on LinkedIn and other professional social networks
You never know who's looking for a change, which is why it's important that firms keep an active presence on online professional networking groups like LinkedIn. Although a reader may be a "passive" job seeker, all it takes is one insightful post on your company page showcasing your positive culture or a new article demonstrating your solid brand to tip them over the fence and onto the "actively" looking side.
2. think of each of your team members as a recruiter
Tapping the networks of your existing workforce can be a great way to expand your recruiting pool. Be transparent with these team members about what open positions you have and the skills you're looking for, and consider building an incentive program for quality referrals. Employees can also give hiring managers and recruiters an advantage by defining the pain points or frustrations the passive candidates in their network have in their current situation, so that your firm can strategize accordingly to meet those needs.
(Oh, and did you know that referral candidates stay with an employer 25 percent longer than those who come from job boards?)
3. partner with a staffing firm
In the legal arena, finding the right fit isn't just a matter of harmony in the workplace, it means precise accuracy in a brief or a convincing performance in the courtroom. So a bad hire at a law firm isn't just going to cost you money (a lot of money), it can also cost you your reputation. Trusting professional staffers with your hiring needs is a great way to mitigate the risk inherent in the talent search. With industry experts at your fingertips who understand hiring trends in the legal sector and know where to find top passive talent, you'll gain the support and professional insights necessary for finding best-fit candidates the first time around.
ensure your compensation program is competitive
Salary is no longer the taboo conversation topic it once was. Employer review sites, labor-insights providers and salary calculators have empowered talent to know their worth, which then drives competition among employers. After all, candidates can access the compensation information of not only your organization, but other businesses in your industry as well. That makes it imperative to have a strategic compensation program that demonstrates in every aspect of the program — salary, benefits and perks — that you are an employer of choice. Here are some steps you can do to ensure your compensation program is competitve:
1. audit your compensation levels
Given the considerable pace of change facing all industries, it's more important than ever for firms to evaluate existing compensation packages. Perhaps your current model was created for a workload structure that's now outdated? Or maybe technology has made your firm more efficient and, as such, legal assistance staff has taken on a more analytical (and valuable) role? All of these changes — and more — should be reflected in compensation.
To properly audit your program, be sure to consider the following questions:
Are experience and seniority appropriately reflected in our pay scales?
Is salary attached solely to title changes? Or do the levels go up when there are significant increases in responsibility?
Are our compensation levels comparable to other employers in our location? And what could we do to get ahead of the pack?
2. make your benefits package competitive, too
In an industry that's often typified by high stress and grueling hours, high pay has traditionally been the best method of recruitment and retention. However, new workplace values of well-being and work/life balance have presented new ways to be competitive in the talent hunt — through perks and benefits. Firms that are able to provide a benefits package that aligns with these values will find themselves at an advantage, especially with millennial legal talent.
3. look at trends outside your industry
Remember the whole "legal talent is being hired outside the legal industry" quandary that's causing your talent pool to shrink? Of course you do. That's precisely why it's increasingly important to keep your finger on the pulse of compensation package trends in other industries.
It's likely you've got a handle on the baseline and distinguishing offerings legal firms are offering — but you're not just competing with a government office or the private firm across town. You're also competing with everyone from Silicon Valley to retail corporations. So best to hit the books with some salary guides and brush up on what other industries are offering.
strengthen your employer brand
Employers aren't the only ones doing the vetting. The proliferation and importance of an organization's employer brand — delivered through social media, a company or careers website and employer review sites — allows candidates to thoroughly assess potential employers before applying to an open role. In fact, 62 percent of professionals rank employer brand as the deciding factor when applying for a job.
And these days workers are setting the bar high. They don't just want employers to provide their paycheck, they want to be a part of a common purpose, meaningful work and a positive social impact. This means it's imperative that you strengthen your brand to appeal to these values and make sure it's cohesive, easy to discern and intriguing to prospects. If you stumble on this front, talent may take your firm out of the running before you even knew you were in a race. Here are some steps you can do to strengthen your employer brand:
1. make your job descriptions an extension of your brand
It's possible your job description is a candidate's first experience with your firm, in which case you definitely want it to showcase a strong brand. This makes your job description the perfect avenue to drive home the pillars of your employer value proposition (EVP). To set your posting apart from the pack, write a description that succinctly outlines the value of the role's contributions to the firm's success, and highlight your points of pride — like work/life balance or educational and professional development opportunities — to excite the job seeker to become a part of your operations.
2. tell your stories
When it comes to leveraging reputation as a recruiting tool, the conventional wisdom of letting the numbers speak for themselves doesn't apply here. Package your success stories into shareable digital snippets — such as articles, videos and quick social posts — to help prospects internalize those stories that bolster your brand and give them the chance to peek behind the curtain. Plus, using third-party endorsements, like client testimonials or industry recognition, can additionally function as social proof for your brand at a time when it's all too easy to be all style and no substance.
3. respond to feedback on employer review sites
So, about those employer review sites, do candidates use them in employer research? They sure do (91 percent of them, in fact), so it'd be a mistake to dismiss review-site chatter as peripheral noise. Take the time to engage in the conversation by responding to reviews, both positive and negative. Remember that the point of engaging here is to further strengthen your brand, so be sure to craft commentary that's mindful and shows that you're working to address any grievances employees have raised. This will not just promote your brand, but demonstrate that you value employee feedback and open communication.
how a staffing partner can help
If you're feeling overwhelmed or have follow-up questions on how best to implement some of these steps we've provided here, remember that a staffing partner can help. Start a conversation with one of Randstad's staffing experts to see what they can do to match you with the best-fit candidates for your open legal positions. Or if you'd rather get a sense of the quality candidates who would be excited to hear from you, head over to our Find Employees portal right now to browse our nationwide network of prescreened, vetted talent.