Legal and Compliance Executive Search Blog

Law Firm Hiring in 2019 – How to attract and hire the ones you want!

Posted by Mary Alice Kuykendall on Fri, May 31, 2019


With unemployment at a record low, it’s more challenging than ever for law firms to find and hire lateral attorneys.  In this red-hot Texas market, job seekers need to be enticed to leave their current jobs.  We’ve found most of the on-point candidates are ones we've “headhunted”.  Sometimes they are passively in the job market, keeping an eye on job boards or checking-in with us periodically to “test the waters”.  Often, we are starting from scratch.

The enticement can be to offer more money, or the chance for a day to work remotely each week, or time off to volunteer for a favorite non-profit.  Also, the customary “it’s a great place to work”, “low-turn-over”, “realistic partnership track”, etc.  Once we get someones OK to submit their resume, it’s up to the firm to sell themselves and show the multitude of reasons to join their team.  This includes touting the work they’re doing or have done, culture, management structure, firm stability, mentoring for young lawyers and showing how their firm invests in its people, technology and the future.

Lately we have seen a number of firms stumble while navigating these waters.  More and more we’re seeing a lengthy resume review process, followed by a phone screen, a round 1 interview with the hiring team, round 2 or lunch with another group.  The long interview process can be exhausting & frustrating, especially when the prospective hire is maintaining a full-time job.  Some ideas:

  • Work with complex schedules and offer a mix of schedule options.
  • Streamline the interview process to possibly include more decision makers early on.
  • Provide feedback at every point in the process.
  • Be upfront and transparent about compensation and any other non-negotiable factors.

The other trend we’re seeing is lengthy gaps in communication during the interview process.  This is due to several factors:

  • Availability of candidates – maybe “candidate A” can interview this week, but candidate B isn’t available until the following week or later in the month. Often firms want to see all their “round 1” candidates before moving to round 2.  Can be maddening, but it makes sense.  Adequately communicating this plan to all parties is crucial.
  • Not meeting a candidate unless they check every box on the wish list. Let’s see more resumes – maybe that purple unicorn will be in the next batch.

Both factors are completely understandable.  Please be as forthcoming and transparent with your plans as possible.

Don’t lessen your firm’s expectations – you want the best!  But possibly those expectations need to be adjusted.  And, your ideal candidate may not even exist.  In your quest, consider the qualifications that are essential. Otherwise you risk limiting your pool of applicants.  Focus on true job requirements versus nice-to-haves (aka the wish list).

Also remember that talented people are trainable — and are typically very eager to learn.  Once a lawyer been a litigator for 5 years, does that mean he can never do corporate/ transactional work?  So, keep the door open to promising professionals who may not have all the experience you seek but have the potential to ramp up and advance quickly.

Finally, think about your future hiring needs today.  We often hear “our X practice is swamped – please keep us in mind if you come across a X lawyer interested in making a move”.  Maybe start a conversation now that could lead to a hire later in the year.  We’re here to help!  Good luck!!


Topics: #lawfirmjobs