Professional Presence in Law Firms: What Does it Look Like?

The topic of professional presence often comes up when we are discussing an open position with a hiring manager. Over the past 20 years, we have interviewed thousands of candidates in searching for the right talent for our clients. Finding great talent is one of the most rewarding parts of my job, but unfortunately, each week we interview candidates who fall short on professional presence. Although I think most of us have an intuitive sense of what professional presence “looks” like, we wanted to delve into this topic and see how it is described by those who are interviewing and managing talent in law firms. We surveyed heads of Marketing/BD, Recruiting/PD, and HR, asking them to share their insights on what “professional presence” means to them. The survey feedback, combined with our research and over 20 years of interviewing candidates, led to the following thoughts on what you may want to focus on when you are adding to your team.

Professional Presence – the following are key elements mentioned by survey respondents:

  1. Physical presence: appropriate attire, poise, and good posture and eye contact
  2. Interpersonal skills: exuding a positive attitude, exercising discretion, being diplomatic and a good listener
  3. Work Style: being engaged, prepared, proactive, efficient, and calm under pressure
  4. Verbal/Communication skills: being articulate and concise, speaking properly (limited “likes” and “ums”), and having a confident voice
  5. Personality Traits: being humble, authentic, mature, thoughtful, and having a sense of humor

Professional Presence During the Interview Process – based on our survey, here are a few things that top candidates DO and DON’T DO during the interview process:

They DO:

  • Dress the part – they dress for the job they want
  • Research the job and firm
  • Engage in the conversation and ask thoughtful questions

They DON’T:

  • Speak badly about former employers or experiences
  • Come across as timid or, on the other hand, overly confident or arrogant
  • Just go through the motions and act disinterested in the opportunity

Increasing Professional Presence on Your Team
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Presence is not some innate quality that you either have or do not. It is a set of learned behaviors that enable you to command attention.” Our survey results echo this sentiment, as the majority of qualities mentioned were not inherent traits. Professional presence can always be further developed in existing team members who may fall a bit short, but have the skills you need. In addition, professional presence is something you can definitely be on the lookout for when interviewing new talent. Just think how smoothly things will go for you at work when you surround yourself with professionals who have what one respondent described as “good judgment, a positive energy, and the ability to inspire the confidence of the most difficult Partners.” We hope these tips help you in achieving this.

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