If your Austin-area firm finds itself struggling to find ideal legal candidates, know that you aren’t alone. Multiple businesses across various market sectors can’t find job candidates at all in this difficult environment. According to CNBC, “roughly 47.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs for better work during the pandemic and Great Resignation [in 2021]. For comparison, 42.1 million people quit in 2019, at the time considered the tightest labor market on record.” While legal markets have begun to recover, finding the right candidate for the job remains a challenge for many firms, partnerships, and companies.
In this article, we’ll list some of the main reasons why your firm might be struggling to find ideal legal candidates and provide ways in which you can improve your chances of landing a dream hire.
Reason #1: Your Job Descriptions are Unattractive
Unless you are part of a prestigious firm with a statewide or nationwide reputation, many potential hires won’t approach your firm due to its stellar reputation, readily available casework, or inclusive company culture. Often they are looking for one thing: a position. Your firm is one of many with a job listing, and the job seeker doesn’t necessarily possess prior knowledge about your company. You have to entice them — and your job description may prove your only point of contact.
The best way that you can reach these candidates is to make sure that your job descriptions are attractive. Clearly describe what the position is and what it entails. Detail your firm’s culture and any industry accolades. Add any information that you think may entice prospects, such as benefits, minimum billables, etc. remembering that they’re vetting you as much as you’re vetting them.
Reason #2: Not Making It Easy to Apply
As we alluded to in the previous section, candidates don’t apply to an opening at a single firm. They look for opportunities with multiple law firms often in multiple states and sometimes with multiple sorts of positions. They keep their options open, so if your application process involves outdated online forms, difficult to use websites, or portals with broken pages that accidentally dump their data, don’t expect to get great results.
Consider running one of your existing hires through the application process to see how well your website or third-party application performs. Note any issues and then approach the appropriate parties to seek out a solution.
Reason #3: Not Advertising in the Right Places
Not all jobs are created equal, so why advertise them as such? Few law firms work as generalists anymore, dealing with any and all legal issues that land in front of them. Most specialize — and that’s reflected in their job postings as well. Big portals such as Monster or Indeed work well as general clearinghouses for a wide number of openings, but they are not typically frequented by lawyers looking for new jobs, who are more likely to go to other more specialized job boards or those more geared towards professionals rather than lower-skilled positions.
If you’re finding people who are not the right candidate are applying for your positions or if you simply aren’t getting a significant number of potential hires, try a little role play. Pretend that you’re searching for a position like the one you’re advertising for and see if you run into any specialized boards or places to advertise.
Reason #4: Small Candidate Pipeline
Think of the hiring process like a funnel. You start with a large selection of candidates and slowly sort them until you find a handful of ideal applicants. Experts call this a candidate pipeline. But do you know what happens if your pipeline starts small? In those cases, you can eliminate candidates until they’re all gone, leaving you without any options.
For those firms that find themselves lacking any qualified prospects, expanding their candidate pipeline should take priority. One of the ways they can do so is to look outside of their normal applicant sources, perhaps even going so far as to consider trainable individuals from different industries who possess skills that would transfer to the legal profession.
Reason #5: Unreasonable Expectations
One old proverbs states, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” When it comes to hiring, though, we’d like to add, “The perfect is sometimes the enemy of anything at all.” It’s natural to want to find an attorney with exactly on-point skills, no prior job moves, who is already local or has long ties to your community, and whose compensation expectations align with what you believe they should be paid. However, while such a professional may very well exist, it’s unlikely that they will be looking to make a move to your type of firm in your city at the same time you’re trying to hire.
Step back from the ideal candidate that inhabits your thoughts and look at the situation through a difference lens. What are your non-negotiables, those things on which you simply cannot budge? What things would you like but don’t strictly have to have? How do these clarifications fit with your current crop of candidates?
Reason #6: Narrow Search Criteria
A related reason as to why you may not find candidates involves the breadth of your search criteria. A narrow view and an inflexible, overly strict outlook may weed out worthwhile options, and even firms with extensively developed pipelines may struggle to source ideal candidates if the search criteria prove too stringent.
In these situations, your solution remains the same as with our previous reason: Determine the things that you absolutely must have in an employee for a particular position and ignore the rest.
Reason #7: Not Accurately Describing Skill Requirements
Applicants need to understand what they’re applying for, which is why accurately describing skill requirements for a position matters so much. Putting in incorrect detail or failing to correctly list day-to-day realities of a job means that the right people won’t apply and the wrong ones will cluster around your firm’s vacancy. And if you do happen to make a hire after listing a poorly described job, neither the new employee nor your firm will like the results.
To avoid this issue, carefully review all job postings prior to making them public. Additionally, ensure that the department in which the new hire will be situated has also reviewed the job’s verbiage and commented about any inaccuracies.
Reason #8: Firm Has Poor Leadership
Once you have completed all of the above steps and still not found appropriate clients, it’s time to turn your scrutiny toward the company’s leadership. If the above suggestions simply do not work, the problem likely lies with those who hold the helm of the firm’s search efforts. Perhaps these people don’t know what to look for in a candidate. Perhaps they do, but they’re laser focused on a single, insignificant point, which limits their options. Perhaps they’re finding the ideal employees, but they lack the skills to sell the firm to them. Whatever the reason, if they cannot draw ideal candidates to your firm, someone needs to ask if there aren’t better options to helm hiring efforts.
If you need a helping hand in finding that perfect hire, contact us here at Momentum Search Partners. We’re an Austin-based legal recruiter helping firms all throughout the Lone Star State. Additionally, we’re former attorneys or other legal professionals who understand how the legal field works and know how to get you the talent you need.