Your law firm or legal department needs professionals, and legal specialists are looking for their next challenge. In an increasingly competitive hiring environment, the problem is where do you find them?
If you’re having trouble, the challenge could lie in a protracted recruitment and hiring process. According to research published by Robert Half Legal in its 2018 Salary Guide, legal organizations in the U.S. take an average of six weeks to fill an open staff-level position. For a managerial role, the lawyers interviewed said the timeline extends to 11 weeks.
Legal specialists are unlikely to sit around and wait that long for a job offer, especially if they’re skilled in a high-growth practice area such as litigation, business/commercial law, real estate, compliance or healthcare. To land top talent, you may have to streamline and improve your hiring processes — or risk losing your top picks to the competition.
Here are five ways to accelerate legal recruitment and hiring:
1. Get organized. A common hold-up to efficient hiring is not due to picky candidates, but rather internal holdups. When assembling a hiring committee, establish the timeline and make sure all members agree to it. If someone has scheduled a long vacation during that period, find another evaluator. Have committee members block out time for interviews and discussions. Delegate specific tasks — writing job descriptions, contacting top applicants, seeking and checking references — so the group can move forward and make quicker decisions.
2. Boost starting salaries. Top legal talent know their worth, and they’re unlikely to accept a lackluster compensation package. If they refuse your job offer, you’ll have to settle for your second choice or start the recruitment process all over again. Don’t waste time this way. Instead, entice your number-one pick with competitive wages. To learn about the latest pay ranges, use trusted resources like our Robert Half Legal 2018 Salary Guide. You can customize national data for your city with our Salary Calculator. Aim for annual wages that are at the midpoint or higher for the job title and for your location.
3. Sweeten the job offer. What if you’re a small law firm and can’t afford the eye-popping salaries of larger organizations? You could attract and land legal talent with in-demand perks. Some of the most enticing ones are those that contribute to work-life balance, such as telecommuting, flexible scheduling, a compressed workweek or the option to work part-time. These benefits cost employers little to implement but are popular among professionals, especially working parents. Other nice-to-have extras include tuition reimbursement, gym memberships and free or subsidized meals.
4. Be open to potential. Some hiring managers picture the perfect candidate when hiring, with very specific ideals regarding credentials, technical expertise and years of experience. While it’s admirable to know exactly what qualities you desire, it may be even better — and possibly less expensive — to hire diamonds in the rough. No, not settling for a lower-quality candidate but adjusting your hiring criteria to locate bright individuals who have the basic soft and hard skills the position requires, but are not yet proficient in, say, your particular practice area or specialized platform. Then develop that promising new hire with in-depth training and mentoring.
5. Work with a specialized staffing agency. Partnering with a legal recruiter or specialized staffing agency is a good way to speed up the hiring process. Staffing firms take care of the legwork so you don’t have to spend time on publicizing the job opening or reading countless applications. The best firms have hundreds of vetted legal specialists on their roster and can be an asset if you need to quickly fill a position, be it for a full-time role or on a contract basis.
To grow and compete in the marketplace, you not only have to meet client expectations and trim expenses, but also add top talent to your team. Begin now streamlining your hiring process so you don’t lose skilled candidates to your competitors.
Jamy J. Sullivan is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a premier legal staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major North American and global markets and offers a full suite of legal staffing and consulting solutions.