Finding Top Talent in a Tight Market

The market is filled with new job opportunities! Since January we have had no fewer than 30 jobs to fill at any given time. This is great, but finding top talent in an expanding job market can be very challenging for law firms. The limited pool of strong candidates is most pervasive at the coordinator and specialist levels, in both business development and recruiting, because law firms were very conservative in hiring new talent for the last five years.

So what’s the answer when there are more new roles open than available candidates? We suggest that you be really open to candidates from other professional services companies and be willing to consider strong new grads who have had significant internships. We have found these to be the best sources of talent for our clients once we’ve exhausted our large pool of law firm candidates. For example, we recently placed a BD Manager who came from an asset management firm and a recent grad into a recruitment coordinator position. We have also placed communications specialists from the Big 4 and PD professionals from consulting firms.

A couple of suggestions for finding talent outside of law firms:

  • Make sure they are comfortable working in a partnership environment where they will have multiple bosses;
  • Assess their detail orientation and dedication to producing high quality work;
  • Evaluate their writing skills;
  • Question their need for significance. If a candidate tells me they “need to have a seat at the table,” I tell them that law firms are not the right place for them.

For anyone who is less than two years out of college, we make the candidate take a writing assessment in addition to asking them the hard questions above. We want to make sure the candidate is a solid writer who understands the importance of tone and who has strong proofing skills. A quarter of the junior candidates we meet do not do well enough on this assessment for us to represent them to our law firm clients. Those who we’ve sent on and who’ve gotten hired have done extremely well despite not having prior law firm experience.

If you are experiencing a talent shortage, I encourage you to think outside the box and be flexible! Look for candidates who are client-service focused, have strong writing skills, are very willing to learn and have a strong work ethic. Ask behavioral questions and give them assessments to make sure they have they skills and competencies you need. Focusing on skills and attributes beyond legal experience will help your firm find high caliber talent in a tough market.

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