Much like every other market segment last year, the legal industry experienced its fair share of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Law firms, law school graduates, and corporate legal departments alike were all stuck in limbo as pay cuts, furloughs, and layoffs became the “new normal.”
Thankfully, the job market for legal professionals has started to heat up once again. According to recent figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal services industry added over 40,000 jobs since April of 2020.
As an employer, recruiting top talent in a post-COVID world requires the ability to devise new hiring practices and strategies. To ensure that your talent acquisition and hiring process is up for the challenge, here’s what to focus on.
Diversity & Inclusion in Law Firm Hiring
When it comes to diversity and inclusion the legal industry is generally perceived by insiders as lagging behind other industries. The ABA’s 2020 Profile of the Legal Profession revealed that a mere 36 percent of practicing attorneys in the US are women, and that a disproportionate 85 percent of all practicing attorneys are white.
On the other hand, when law firms more accurately reflect the diverse reality of the world at large, they gain access to a deeper pool of qualified candidates. In addition to gender, race, and ethnicity, other examples of candidate diversity include:
- Sexual orientation or identification
- National origin
- Military service
Here’s how to reflect workplace diversity and inclusion in your hiring practices and law firm hierarchy:
- Minimize interview biases – Ask your interviewers and hiring managers to consider any personal biases that could influence hiring decisions. Unconscious assumptions they may have about candidates can lead to exclusionary, non-diverse and even poor hiring decisions. Helping your team minimize potential biases is crucial for creating an open-minded company culture that supports diversity and inclusion.
- Keep your questions consistent – Follow-up the skills test with an in-person interview that includes the same questions for each candidate. Assign weighted scores to each question and ask each one in the same order. That way you can compare candidates on a level playing field based on their responses, rather than skin color or sexual orientation.
- Test each candidate equally – While screening candidates, be sure to assess each one’s skills by asking them to complete a small trial project. This will give interviewers and hiring managers a chance to form their own opinions based on execution rather than bias. Summer law student internship programs are prime examples of how legal employers assess candidate skills by putting them to the test.
- Advertise your company culture – When communicating with candidates, tell them about the diverse culture that your company is building. If your organization supports causes that emphasize diversity and inclusion, get the word out by posting that information on your website and social media feeds.
- Attend diversity job fairs – Effective legal recruiters spend a lot of time connecting with candidates at job fairs. And although you can meet a wide variety of people at standard job fairs, you’ll be able to broaden your talent pool by participating in job fairs tailored to a diverse candidate base.
- Leverage social and professional networks – Another way to expand industry contacts is by participating in community networking events and meetup groups that promote diversity and inclusion. While there, you’ll have a chance to connect with underrepresented candidates that may end up on your recruiting “watch list.” Also seek ways to establish one-on-one relationships with career professionals who belong to underrepresented diversity groups, including state and local bar associations. In the end, leveraging your social and professional networks to meet new candidates will help you build a deeper, more diverse recruiting pipeline.
How to Interview, Organize & Delegate Job Duties
When you’re someone who makes hiring decisions at a law firm, mundane tasks like reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates can eat up valuable time that could otherwise be spent on billable hours. One of the easiest ways to shorten your law firm hiring timeline is by delegating some of those responsibilities to other members of your team.
Effective delegation skills for hiring managers include communication, follow-up, organization, training, and time management. Removing some of the screening and interviewing burden off your shoulders will allow you to do what you do best – like practicing law!
Best Practices for Interviewing Potential Candidates
In addition to being time-consuming, interviewing potential candidates can also be stressful. Not only does it require interacting with, and assessing the personalities of, total strangers, hiring the right person is a huge responsibility. Choosing the wrong candidate wastes valuable money and energy that you don’t have to spare.
Implementing these interviewing best practices will help improve your talent acquisition process:
- Compile a qualification checklist – Before going into an interview, compile a list of clearly defined expectations and skills that you are looking for. Bring a checklist of candidate guidelines along with you and then check off your boxes as you go.
- Come prepared with questions – It’s also important to carefully plan out your questions prior to the interview. Ask open-ended questions that are tailored to the position that you are trying to fill. Conducting a multi-person interview is also a great way to vet a candidate and ensure that you aren’t forgetting to ask any key questions.
- Assess their level of preparation – The best candidates spend just as much time preparing for an interview as you do. Law professionals who have put in the work to learn about your firm and what the position entails are probably going to make better employees in the end.
- Consider cultural compatibility – Another requirement of an efficient hiring process is prioritizing compatibility over likeability. Just because you feel comfortable around a candidate doesn’t mean that they will fit into your company culture. Do their values and beliefs seamlessly align with those of the other employees at your firm?
- Apply the 80/20 Rule – So that you won’t dominate the conversation, the interviewee should be speaking 80% of the time and the interviewer only 20%. After all, interviews are all about learning as much as you can about a candidate so that you can make a wise hiring decision.
Best Practices for Retention, Promotions, Performance Reviews & Succession Planning
In addition to hiring the best person for the job, employee retention is also an important concept for managers to understand because if offers many benefits to the firm. Keeping valued employees happy and content starts with the ability to structure law firm compensation models that are competitive in today’s candidate-driven legal marketplace.
Here are four best practices to retain employees at your firm:
- Delegate responsibility – Giving employees ownership of important tasks makes them feel valued and appreciated. Be sure to delegate interesting, career-enrichment responsibilities and not just routine ones that you don’t want to do. Delegating tasks in a respectful way helps build trust and loyalty in the workplace.
- Evaluate performance objectively – When it’s time for each employee’s performance review set aside any personal biases you may have so that you can evaluate them objectively based on their contributions to your firm.
- Reward top-performers – Revenue-sharing provides opportunities for productive employees to equate their results with salary incentives. Other performance-driven programs that can help your firm retain employees include offering recognition awards and gifts, like gift cards, bonuses, and paid time off (PTO).
- Offer loyalty incentives – When it comes to retaining employees, benefits can sometimes make a world of difference. Employees with a good health care package, healthier work-life balance, and other incentives that play into the company culture are likely to continue working for your firm.
- Promote from within – Rather than always hiring from the outside, offer loyal employees career advancement opportunities that encourage them to stay with the firm. For example, that associate level attorney that’s worked hard for you over the past five years might make a great partner.
Outsourcing Hiring can Quickly Expand Your Candidate Pool
Partnering with a reputable legal headhunter is also an effective way to streamline the talent acquisition and hiring process. Good recruiters have well-established networks and deep candidate pipelines to draw talent from. They also have a firm grasp of the local legal landscape, and what it takes to attract top talent to your firm or company.
The Legal Recruiter Directory provides online support that helps legal recruiters place talented active or passive attorney candidates with prestigious law firms and corporations so that all parties win. To lean more, contact the experts at the Legal Recruiter Directory today.