As we are now all very aware, the market is busier than ever and law firms are now looking to recruit at all levels, however there is already a skills shortage in a number of disciplines so here is how to make the most out of your recruiter and ensure you attract the best talent possible.

1) Skills shortage
Candidate is becoming king in a number of core disciplines, most notably; Corporate, Commercial Property and Residential Property.

The reason behind the skills shortage stems from the start of the recession in 2008 when trainees were not offered a contract. Newly qualified solicitors were not offered jobs and transactional work across the board dried up. This has led to a huge gap in a number of disciplines most notably those listed above but also at the NQ – 4 years PQE level.

The other issue we are also facing is that candidates do not necessarily have the level of transactional experience interviewers are expecting as there has not been the previous level of work Partners will have handled themselves when they worked at a junior level.

2) Response time from the client
Firstly its good to talk, we understand that everyone is busy and sometimes an email is the quickest form of communication but one of the first question candidates ask is what the interviewer is like as a person. It is very difficult to represent you in a true light if all we have from you is an email exchange.

Wherever possible take the time to explain exactly what you are looking for from a prospective employee. What will they be doing on a daily basis and what skills will you need from them? This time invested at the start of the process means that we can send you candidates that match your expectations rather than what we think you might be looking for.

Notice periods are typically 3 months at a junior level. Try not to wait until you desperately need someone to come into the department, forward planning is essential. If work flows are looking like they are about to increase in a couple of months time, examine the resource in place do you have enough to cover this work or do you need to think about a new hire into the team?
Response time on CV’s needs to be quick. Firms that are successful in recruiting will come back within 24 hours as to whether or not they want to interview a candidate. Similarly they will also move diaries to fit the candidate in as quickly as possible. The speed of response between receiving the CV to first interview to second interview to offer of employment is critical. Remember if you are interested in a candidate that is actively looking, the chances are your competitors will be speaking to this candidate as well.

3) The Interview
Try and be as flexible as possible when arranging interviews, candidates that are loyal to their existing firm don’t want to “pull a sickie”. Interview timings either first thing, last thing or over lunch can work really well.

An interview is a candidate’s first impression of the firm, we have had some candidates travel a long distance to an interview and we have had instances where they have not even been offered a drink.

The interview is a two way process – the candidate is checking you out as much as you are also interviewing them. Interviewers need to present their firm in a positive way and “sell” the opportunity to the candidate at all times.

Communication with HR at offer stage is also important. Once an offer has been made, paperwork needs to be received as quickly as possible. It demonstrates to the candidate that the firm is committed to them but also shows the smooth running of the firm to a prospective employee.

If the candidate is rejected, constructive feedback leaves the candidate with a favourable impression of the firm, no feedback is often viewed negatively by the candidate and word of mouth spreads quickly in the market.

4) Salaries
One of the major issues firms face is that they are competing with each other for similar salaries. Therefore in order to be competitive the firm may need to look at where basic salaries fall, but also highlight some of the benefits the firm do offer such as car parking, a bonus scheme etc.

The other issue certain departments will face is where there is a high demand for in-house lawyers (especially Commercial lawyers and Residential lawyers) and again companies have the flexibility at a junior level to increase a salary by circa £10,000, which at the start of your career can make a huge difference.

5) Staff retention
Look after your existing staff. As the demand for candidates gets higher recruitment consultants will sometimes be retained to headhunt out of law firms and regional law firms are often a good target to attract candidates from. Make sure staff know that they are valued, their contribution is valued and that they have a clear career path in place.
Bonus schemes on over achievement of billings etc. are also a good way to top salaries up.

Above all remember your junior hires are your partners of the future!!!


Penny Trotman
Principal Consultant