In our last newsletter, we went over the don’ts of recruiting. Alas, we are here to start 2022 on a positive note — the yes’s and do’s of recruiting attorneys. But enough awkward conjunctions — we put our heads together and with our 40+ years of collective experience placing attorneys, we identified a few key points to convey. We want this article to be helpful and specific, so we will be very direct. The concepts discussed here are in the context of partner-level hiring, but these are certainly applicable to Counsels and Associates as well.
I. Keep it Kinetic
I’ve written about this before extensively – timing is everything in attorney recruitment and hiring. This has become even more pronounced during the pandemic where the lateral legal market has turned into the quintessential ‘Hunger Games.’ If you are interviewing an attorney, know they are interviewing elsewhere and their phones and emails are continually ringing off the proverbial hook for new opportunities. The firms with the most efficient, well-tuned, and kinetic hiring processes are “winning” the best talent.
Some specific points to keep in mind:
- Identify and revise the consistent bottlenecks in your hiring process. Is there a key decision-maker with enormous responsibility that is hard to track down? Executive committee voting periods that remain open for several weeks? Does your entire lateral hiring partner process consistently take over six months? Are there periods of time in the process where you are “waiting” on something and nothing is happening with the candidate? These bottlenecks will thwart your ability to get the lateral talent you want. Even if your process has always been on the slower side with no repercussions, there will be some now.
- Invest in and organize the internal recruiting team. Do you have a well-organized internal recruiting team? Are your partners and hiring managers responsive to your internal recruiter’s requests for updates and next steps? Are they respected and empowered to keep the process moving? Do you have high turnover in your internal recruiting group?
- Have a process in place. Do you have a general process or roadmap that can be conveyed to candidates?
- Do not stall intentionally. Do you stall on candidates you are unsure about? Are there concerns that need to be addressed? Is there something you want to wait out before moving forward? Don’t try to keep people warm – directly resolve the question marks or pass/cut them loose. There is NOTHING that will harm your reputation more than “stalling” intentionally during the hiring process. We catch on pretty quickly, and so do the highly intelligent partners you are trying to hire!
Communication is the linchpin of the lateral partner hiring process. Indeed the entire lateral partner process is anchored in communication, whether it be interviews, lateral partner questionnaires, or firm financial disclosures. We view our job as recruiters to facilitate the flow of information back and forth between candidates and firms. This flow of information and communication provides all parties involved with everything they need to make informed decisions.
Some points to keep in mind:
- Remove the filter when updating the recruiter: We like to know what’s really going on. If there is no feedback on the interview because one of the partners that interviewed has gone MIA and hasn’t provided feedback, please tell us. If someone has a concern after the interview and wants to discuss it internally, tell us. We (and the partners we are working with) can tell when we are being given “filtered” or generic information. It’s best to put all the cards on the table and work through any issues openly. Also, life happens. Candidates are very understanding if an individual has a personal or work issue that is interfering with their ability to engage in the hiring process in a timely fashion – they just need to be kept in the loop!
- Provide updates to the recruiter and/or candidate when requested, even if there is no substantive update.
- Share information on the reason for passing or ending a process. It’s fair to provide feedback to the partner who has invested time and energy into your hiring process and provides information that will help us bring you the right candidates.
3. Coordinate Internally
Make sure all the Partners and other professionals at your firm that will be meeting with a potential lateral partner candidate are briefed on the candidate and the potential fit at the firm. Having a consistent narrative across all the interviews leaves an amazing impression on candidates. This is especially important as the meetings continue and the candidates have shared their LPQ or other client/confidential information.
- Thoughtfully set up interviews with people at your firm who share industry or practice overlap with the candidate.
- It is tempting ( and perhaps polite) to throw someone in at the last minute to meet a candidate because they are available and willing, but it is truly better to only have prepared and updated folks conduct interviews or meetings.
4. Have a compelling narrative
One of our favorite aspects of our work is working closely with a client firm to craft a narrative that is unique and will be effective in the targeted geographical market. Creating and sharing a consistent narrative will assist in 1. Controlling the “word on the street” out on the market and 2. Help your firm stand out from the others that are actively recruiting the same pool of candidates.
To be very frank about it, almost all firms track the same basic narrative when pitching themselves – things like “we have a great culture,” or “we have reasonable hourly rates” or “we are an AMLAW150 with several Chambers-ranked groups.”
Some points to consider:
- Craft an accurate and unique narrative (we love to help) and make sure that any recruiter, internal or external, that is recruiting candidates on your behalf is using the desired “narrative”.
- When crafting a narrative, be sure to have talking points and information to address negative perceptions in the market in a consistent way.
- The narrative and the “pitch” need to be reflected in the interview process – consistency in messaging wins candidates.
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