Over the last decade, the legal industry has undergone a period of transformation. Profitability pressures, the emergence of alternative service providers, and shifting elite talent demands have changed the rules of recruitment and retention. While there’s no denying the impact of these changes, firm leadership must be careful not to overlook the role that firm policy and partners play in recruitment success.
Successful recruitment starts with a strong business partnership. As a partner in my client’s success, I’m here not just to deliver a list of exceptionally qualified candidates. My job is to elevate the firm’s hiring strategy–and ensure they land their dream candidate. This starts with listening: understanding where a firm is today, where it wants to go tomorrow, and the type of talent necessary to make this happen. Part of my partnership is also providing consultative advice and helping firms correct the small missteps that can adversely impact the hiring process.
These are three of the most common missteps firms make:
Failing to prepare for the interview.
You wouldn’t show up at a contract negotiation or walk into a courtroom without being prepared for the legal argument you’re about to deliver. The same focus on preparation applies to the interview process. Yes, partners are very busy, but if they are sitting in on an interview, they need to be fully briefed on the candidate in advance. This briefing should include a review of the candidate’s resume and key interview questions.
Top lawyers have told me they’ve shown up for interviews only to find out that no one has reviewed their resume. In some cases, lawyers have been scheduled for phone screenings only to have the phone call “pushed back” by hours or days due to the firm’s schedule conflicts. Yes, emergencies happen. But a lack of preparation signals a level of disorganization that can hurt your firm’s employer reputation.
Candidates may question the sophistication of the firm and the sincerity of the firm’s hiring process. I’ve had candidates tell me they are no longer interested in a firm because the partners seem “too disorganized” and worry “if this is how the approach hiring, how do they approach client or case management?”
Stopping the interview after 15 minutes.
Some firms have a reputation for cutting their interview times when they know the candidate will not be progressing to the next level. The firm may think they’re saving everyone’s time, but this approach can be a mistake. Consider this from the candidate perspective: you’ve taken the afternoon off work for this interview and are told to expect two partner interviews totaling 45 to 60 minutes. Instead, you’re shown the door after just 15 minutes.
The firm thinks, “We’re losing billable hours doing this interview, so let’s cut our losses.” But the 30 minutes saved may not be worth it. Remember, the candidate’s time is valuable, too. Not only is an early conclusion disrespectful of the candidate’s time, but it can also hurt your firm’s employer brand. Assume that candidates will talk about their interview experience with other attorneys. Even if they don’t get the offer, it’s in your firm’s best interest for this candidate to say positive things about their experience. To avoid an embarrassing early dismissal, either be more selective about who you bring in for interviews or commit to the full interview time. You want every candidate to leave hoping that they have the opportunity to move forward.
As a legal recruiter, I help firms screen out those “maybe” candidates to ensure everyone that comes in for an interview is enthusiastic about your firm and the right fit.
Waiting too long to make an offer.
One of the most concerning interview time gaps is between the first and second rounds. A firm finishes the first round of interviews, but no single candidate ticked every box. The firm continues to search for their perfect hire and delays following up with the first round candidates. Here’s the hard truth: you may never find that perfect hire, but if you wait too long, you most certainly will lose those “almost-perfect” hires you interviewed.
Recently, I spoke with a candidate who went through six rounds of interviews over several months– only to be left hanging when it came to the final offer. The firm told this candidate that they are “still deciding” and don’t have an offer timeline. Unsurprisingly, this candidate’s enthusiasm for the indecisive firm has dropped significantly. I approached him with another opportunity that’s moving much faster: in just a few weeks, the new firm completed several interview rounds and is now preparing to make their offer. The firm with the more competitive timeline, and demonstrated excitement and interest, has a clear advantage in winning this candidate.
Time kills all deals: don’t let decision paralysis derail your hiring process. Or, put another way, don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. My team has a broad view of the talent market so we can advise firms on what’s realistic and what’s not.
Next Steps: Building Strategic Business Partnerships for Talent Recruitment
Our robust economy and tight talent market means that top candidates field multiple, competitive offers. The right legal recruiter can also act as a strategic business partner, helping your firm navigate these market realities and connect with game-changing talent. A recruiter can also help your hiring team identify and implement the small changes to your internal recruitment policies that will have a significant impact on your firm’s employer reputation and hiring success.