Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
Legal sector: 'new age' managers wanted 26/06/2012
Why do law firms find it so difficult to recruit good people? Debbie Gray, director at legal recruitment specialists Totum, offers her insights.
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- Big changes for law firms
- Fewer candidates available
- Commercial-edge required
- Looking beyond law firm experience
- Do law firms need to be braver?
- What’s the solution?
Big changes for law firms
In the wake of 2007's Legal Services Act (LSA), the legal sector is facing the biggest period of change in its history. Law firms must now deal with a host of new challenges while navtigating unchartered waters.
A recurring challenge is finding quality, experienced manager-level candidates. Is this because there’s a shortage of people or is it because firms are just not brave enough with recruitment?
Fewer candidates available
The pool of quality candidates is smaller than it used to be. In this economic climate, people are more reluctant to risk a move when they have a secure role. Firms are also savvier when it comes to retaining and developing talent, so there’s less incentive to move. But there’s more to it than this alone.
Law firms need to employ a new calibre of individual with a different set of skills. Hiring decisions made now will affect how successfully firms navigate the changing market, and how favourably they compete with their peers.
This ‘new age’ manager needs to bring fresh ideas and a commercial approach. HR strategy should be aligned to the business strategy, with a focus on developing people so they make a difference to the bottom line. You need to have the confidence and relationship building ability to help a law firm benefit from their knowledge; working with the partnership to ensure people are top of the agenda.
Hiring someone is only half the battle - give the, time and the chance to make a difference.
Looking beyond law firm experience
Too often, ‘hit the ground running’ is put ahead of ‘long term potential.’ We see firms talk with excitement about the new type of people they want and how they need to move on and differentiate. They meet these new types and like them, but decades of conservatism start to weigh heavy and compromise hires are made.
Do law firms need to be braver?
Firms will only start to get the commercial edge over their competitors when they start to recruit candidates with experience that’s a bit ‘different’ to those they’ve hired before.
We’ve just recruited a new talent director for a law firm, which is one of a handful of these types of roles in the legal sector. She’s at board level, making HR decisions and changing the face of how talent is managed in that firm.
What’s the solution?
- Always write detailed, well thought-out job descriptions
- Ensure everyone’s onside internally. Highlight to the rest of the firm why the role is needed
- Consider the package you’re offering. People need flexibility, great benefits and proper development plans. If they’re from outside the sector, give sufficient support to aid their transition.
Debbie Gray, director, Totum
Debbie specialises in the recruitment of senior law firm management professionals. Prior to joining Totum, Debbie spent five years with law firm Herbert Smith, in HR management & recruitment.