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How Smaller Law Firms Can Compete in the Current Recruitment Market

The demand for lawyers in the UK legal profession currently outstrips supply tilting the market strongly in the candidates’ favour.

Earlier this year, 2,500 legal jobs with Top 100 firms were advertised on LinkedIn, but 48% of those jobs had no candidates apply, leaving the positions unfilled.

The competition to recruit has caused salaries to rocket by 10% to 15% or even higher in some cases as law firms compete against each other. Many smaller law firms won’t be able to match salaries offered by larger firms, so how can smaller firms compete in the current recruitment market?

In this article Ian Hopkins Senior Associate Consultant with cpm21 provides advice on steps smaller firms can take to improve their chances of successfully recruiting.

  1. The starting point is an obvious one but often overlooked - Check that there is a genuine need for recruitment.  In my experience a lawyer will say he/she is “busy,” but such statements should be forensically examined. How is the lawyer performing against matter related and total time targets? What does the utilization rate look like?  Recruitment should only proceed where the lawyer is approaching full utilization and there is a clear plan in place as to where the additional work needed for the recruit will come from.  The alternative is that you will increase overhead and existing capacity further and reduce your overall profitability.

  2. Candidates want to join firms where they will feel valued, so develop a culture of belonging, flexibility, and growth in your firm and sell the proposition to the candidate at all stages of the recruitment process. Not only will this aid your recruitment process but also improve your retention rate and reduce churn of staff which will assist overall profitability.

  3. Ascertain the market rate for the role and try to get as close to market rate as you can. Think creatively about your benefit package including CSR days; mental health days; holiday entitlement with the option to buy and sell holidays.

  4. A transparent career progression scheme is often important to candidates who require clarity as to what they must do to climb the career ladder in your firm.  Career progression schemes can be put in place with minimal cost and be of real benefit to the business both in recruiting and retaining staff.

  5. Build a strong business relationship with a trusted recruiter. Get to know them and more importantly ensure the recruiter understands your firm and can sell it to applicants. You need a recruiter with passion for your business.

  6. Designing the recruitment advert should not be left solely to the HR team. Involve your Marketing team to make the advert interesting and compelling and sell the firm’s culture, values, and vision.

  7. Aim to conduct great interviews and make candidates feel special - treat candidates as you would a client. Make sure your Partners are prepared for the interview and able to sell the firm and all it stands for and never cancel on the day of the interview.

For some candidates, its only about the money but for many it’s not. By following the above steps smaller firms will give themselves a better chance of recruiting and retaining the partners of tomorrow.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues in this article please contact Ian Hopkins, Wayne Williams, or Paul Jones of cpm21.