The legal industry, encompassing law firms and corporate legal departments, is currently navigating a complex hiring landscape. Despite acclimating to the post-COVID-19 world, staffing shortages persist due to a combination of factors. As Momentum Legal founder Jane Pollard noted at the 35th Annual Legal Seminar on Ad Valorem Taxation, the U.S. had seen 126 months of economic growth and an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent at the end of 2019, both record-breaking numbers.
Fast forward to 2021, 47 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs for reasons such as retirement, relocation, or reevaluation of professional aspirations. Though the legal sector shows signs of recovery, with the total jobs nearing its pre-recession peak, considerable challenges persist.
This article describes several key legal hiring challenges faced not only by firms but also by corporations and the broader legal industry in the Austin, Texas, market. It also provides suggestions to effectively address these challenges.
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Increased leverage for candidates
The scarcity of qualified candidates has transformed the legal industry into a candidate’s market. Applicants now wield more influence when negotiating terms, beyond just higher pay. They seek additional benefits like remote work and other non-financial advantages.
To effectively connect with these candidates, firms need to offer more than just vacancies. They should highlight how working with them will benefit applicants, emphasizing flexibility, company culture, and the prestige of being associated with the organization.
Higher demands from candidates and employees
One of the major hurdles currently facing both law firms and corporations involves sourcing legal talent amidst increasing employee demands. Today’s workforce is prioritizing a healthy work-life balance, flexibility such as remote work, and meaningful benefits like extended maternity/paternity leave. As a result, the bar has been raised for organizations aiming to attract high-quality talent, especially when existing employees are under stress.
While hiring contract attorneys can be a temporary solution, this approach comes with its own set of challenges. These professionals might help alleviate workloads in the short term, but their temporary nature can mean more frequent hiring cycles and less stability in the long run. Additionally, project-based hires may not develop the same level of commitment or deep understanding of the company culture compared to full-time employees.
Therefore, it becomes increasingly important for firms and corporations to strategize their hiring process to focus on full-time, permanent placements. This approach not only helps maintain stability but also fosters an environment conducive to growth, engagement, and long-term loyalty, creating a more attractive landscape for incoming talent.
Finding the right fit for candidate and culture
Finding the right fit is an art more than a science for both law firms and corporations in the legal industry. More than a checkbox of academic and professional accomplishments, it involves aligning individual career goals with the trajectory offered by the organization. It’s crucial for potential hires to be able to thrive within the culture of the organization, share common objectives, and be aligned with the organization’s modus operandi.
For law firms, this might mean aligning the career ambitions of potential hires with the firm’s progression ladder, whether that is the path from associate to partner or other advancements. Job postings should communicate the firm’s mission, highlight significant cases, and spotlight opportunities for professional growth.
On the other hand, corporations should stress the importance of a prospective employee’s alignment with their operational processes and overall corporate culture. Emphasizing the company’s unique qualities, its stand on pressing issues, and the opportunities for growth within the organization can help attract the right talent.
In sum, whether you are a law firm or a corporate legal department, incorporating these facets into your job descriptions can enhance your chances of finding employees who fit perfectly into your organization, contributing to its success in the long run.
Increased desire for flexibility
The shift towards remote work, accelerated by the pandemic, has led to an amplified demand for increased work flexibility across the legal industry, affecting law firms and corporate legal departments alike. As these organizations scout for new talent, it is critical to acknowledge this trend and incorporate it into their hiring strategies. While competitive remuneration remains important, candidates are now placing a higher value on factors such as work-life balance and flexible working arrangements.
According to the United States Census Bureau, 61.7 percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher switched to remote work during the pandemic. Far from being a burden on those unable to make it into the office, remote work has become a boon for those engaging in it. Owl Labs reported that 84 percent of those who worked from home during the pandemic reported that they were happier, 79 percent said they were less stressed, and 75 percent claimed such flexibility made them more likely to recommend their company to others. Additionally, the group found that 56 percent of employees would quit their current job or actively look for a new job that provided them with flexibility in how they could work.
Consequently, the ability to offer flexible work options could be the differentiator that attracts top legal talent to your firm or corporation. This growing emphasis on flexibility is reshaping the legal industry, and being proactive in addressing this shift can give organizations a significant advantage in the competitive hiring landscape.
In today’s fast-paced legal industry, law firms and corporate legal departments alike grapple with the expense and time-consuming nature of the hiring process. Fortunately, automation technology offers a solution that spans across the industry. By streamlining tasks like application processing, form sorting, and other administrative tasks, this technology can vastly improve efficiency.
While the initial investment in these technologies might seem daunting, the long-term benefits are considerable. The substantial reduction in time and financial resources over time makes this an investment worth considering for any entity within the legal industry. By embracing automation, law firms and corporations can focus more on their core operations and less on the administrative overhead of the hiring process.
High demand for specific roles
The legal industry, encompassing both law firms and corporate legal departments, often requires professionals with highly specialized training and experience. This specialization often leads to a smaller pool of qualified candidates, heightening the competition for these roles. Despite these challenges, the industry is witnessing steady growth, opening up a wealth of opportunities.
To navigate this landscape effectively, organizations across the legal industry need to demonstrate flexibility and strategic hiring practices. By staying attuned to the market trends and proactively adapting their hiring strategies, law firms and corporations can successfully tap into the available talent pool, securing professionals who will contribute significantly to their success.
Finding highly skilled lawyers
In today’s competitive legal industry, the search for highly skilled lawyers is a top priority. To find these exceptional professionals, consider the following strategies:
- Utilize professional networks: Tap into industry associations, legal communities, and alumni networks for referrals and recommendations.
- Collaborate with legal recruiters: Engage specialized legal recruitment agencies with expertise and networks to identify top talent.
- Leverage online platforms: Explore reputable platforms and job boards dedicated to legal professionals for a diverse pool of qualified candidates.
- Attend legal events: Participate in conferences and seminars to connect with talented lawyers and assess their expertise.
- Cultivate law school relationships: Establish connections with law schools, faculty members, and career services to engage with aspiring lawyers early in their careers.
- Emphasize unique offerings: Showcase your organization’s collaborative environment, successful cases, professional development opportunities, and commitment to work-life balance.
By employing these strategies, law firms and corporations can attract highly skilled lawyers who will contribute to success and deliver exceptional legal services.
Finding candidates from diverse backgrounds
Promoting diversity and inclusion is crucial within the legal industry. To find candidates from diverse backgrounds, consider the following strategies:
- Expand recruitment channels: Reach out to diversity-focused organizations, attend career fairs targeting underrepresented groups, and use online platforms dedicated to diverse talent.
- Engage with affinity groups: Connect with associations representing diverse communities, such as racial or ethnic minority groups, LGBTQ+ organizations, or disability advocacy groups.
- Implement inclusive practices: Ensure job postings, applications, and interviews are inclusive, using gender-neutral language and diverse interview panels.
- Partner with diversity-focused organizations: Collaborate with organizations promoting diversity in the legal profession to connect with diverse candidates and participate in supportive programs.
- Foster an inclusive culture: Cultivate a company culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, attracting candidates who seek organizations with a commitment to these principles.
- Offer mentorship programs: Establish mentorship initiatives to support individuals from diverse backgrounds in their legal careers and bridge opportunity gaps.
Caseloads or workflow taking time from hiring
Law firms and corporations often face the challenge of juggling caseloads or workflow while also prioritizing the hiring process. However, neglecting hiring can lead to understaffing and increased workload. Here are some strategies to address this issue:
- Allocate dedicated resources: Designate specific team members or a hiring committee to focus on recruitment despite busy caseloads or workflow.
- Streamline recruitment processes: Simplify application forms, standardize interview questions, and leverage technology solutions like applicant tracking systems to automate administrative tasks.
- Set realistic timelines: Establish achievable timelines for each stage of the hiring process, considering workload and stakeholder availability.
- Leverage external resources: Engage legal recruitment agencies to assist with candidate sourcing and screening.
- Foster collaboration: Encourage communication and collaboration within the organization to manage caseloads while prioritizing hiring.
- Prioritize succession planning: Develop succession plans and identify potential internal candidates or external hires in advance to mitigate disruptions caused by departures or increased workload.
Limited networks or resources for hiring
Limited networks or resources for hiring can pose challenges. Here are strategies to overcome this:
- Expand networking: Attend industry events and engage with legal associations to build wider connections.
- Utilize online platforms: Leverage professional networks and job boards to access a broader pool of candidates.
- Collaborate with educational institutions: Partner with law schools and participate in career fairs to attract early-career talent.
- Engage legal recruitment agencies: Work with specialized agencies to tap into their expertise and networks.
- Encourage employee referrals: Incentivize current employees to refer qualified candidates from their networks.
- Enhance online presence: Showcase your organization’s values and benefits on social media and maintain an updated career page.
Lack of brand awareness
Law firms and corporations may struggle to attract top talent due to a lack of brand awareness. To address this, consider the following strategies:
- Develop a strong employer brand: Define your organization’s values and culture. Showcase them in recruitment materials and online platforms.
- Leverage online presence: Create an engaging website and active social media accounts. Share thought leadership content to demonstrate your expertise.
- Cultivate positive employee experiences: Foster a supportive work environment. Encourage employees to share their experiences online.
- Participate in industry events: Join legal conferences and network with potential candidates to increase brand visibility.
- Collaborate with law schools and associations: Engage with educational institutions and professional organizations to connect with aspiring legal professionals.
- Encourage employee advocacy: Motivate employees to promote the organization as brand ambassadors on social media and professional networks.
- Seek media exposure: Establish connections with media outlets to highlight achievements and innovative approaches.
Hiring law students and interns
Law firms and corporate legal departments can find valuable solutions to talent gaps by actively engaging with law students and interns. Targeting younger legal talent through automated and online recruiting methods can help organizations identify and cultivate promising individuals early in their legal careers.
Law students and interns bring fresh perspectives, enthusiasm, and a desire to learn and grow within the legal industry. By providing meaningful opportunities for these emerging professionals, law firms and corporations can not only bridge talent gaps but also nurture a pipeline of future legal leaders.
When seeking top-tier legal talent, organizations in the legal industry can benefit from partnering with reputable talent acquisition firms such as Momentum Search Partners. With a proven track record since 2011, Momentum Search Partners has been instrumental in helping law firms, corporations, and the wider legal industry in Texas hire exceptional legal talent.