How to Attract Talented Employees to Join Your Firm

Recruiting top-tier lawyers to your firm is crucial if you want to build a reputable brand and reliable client base. Find out what moves your firm should make to stand out in today’s competitive labor market and attract the brightest and most motivated employees looking for stable career opportunities.

If your law firm has been struggling to recruit and retain top-level lawyers, then know that you’re not alone. According to Thomson Reuters’s 2021 Law Firm Business Leaders Report, more than 50% of law firms that were questioned listed acquiring and retaining talent as being among the high-level threats to future profitability.

Although careers in the legal industry have seen double-digit salary growth in recent years, law firms across all practice areas have been forced to rethink areas to improve on beyond compensation in order to win the race to secure talented legal professionals who will stick around for the long haul.

In addition to remote work and flexible schedules, both of which have become the norm for many occupations and industries, job candidates also place significant value on the unique incentives and innovation that a firm can facilitate for their career paths. Whether it’s developing skills or providing opportunities to share creative ideas, today’s top-tier job candidate scrutinizes countless details that employers should not overlook during the recruitment process.

Keep reading to find out why establishing clear paths for mentorship, career development programs, inspirational company culture, cutting-edge legal tech, and other types of incentives are crucial for law firm leaders struggling with employee retention.

Why Attracting New Talent Now Will Benefit Your Firm in the Future

While attracting and retaining skilled workers has always helped businesses grow, data from Thomson Reuters’s 2022 Report on the State of the Legal Market shows that law firms all over the country are feeling financial pains arising from increasing demand for talented lawyers but insufficient efforts to remain competitive with top-level salaries.

Recruiting top-level talent who will remain with your legal team and benefit the workplace and company culture is indispensable if you lead a law firm. Your firm can gain tremendous momentum just by adding creative, energetic individuals who bring fresh perspectives and believe in your overall vision for the business.

In fact, Thomson Reuters’s most recent Law Firms Stay-Go Report revealed that firms that overcame the retention obstacle better than others “saw steady and improving growth in their overall attorney headcount throughout 2021,” as well as more billable hours produced by associates, equity partners, and other professional fee earners than law firms that failed to find the right retention strategy.

Law firms that were deemed “Go Firms” in the report experienced higher levels of attrition, while those that made the list of “Stay firms” scored substantially higher in the following areas:

·         Level of satisfaction with the firm’s current culture;

·         Fair treatment and respect in the workplace;

·         The ability for employees to be themselves in the workplace;

·         The firm’s management style;

·         Reward and compensation; and

·         Ample opportunities for career and personal growth.

As you can see from the data discussed so far, crafting an effective recruitment strategy that lures the top-tier talent and responds to the candidate’s ideal work environment should be a top priority for every firm leader who wants to ensure his or her business succeeds against competitors in the battle to retain the best lawyers.

Christine Uri
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Recruitment Strategies to Attract the Best Attorneys in the Job Market  

Attracting the best employees to your law firm can be extremely challenging, especially if you refuse to scrutinize the type of culture you have cultivated. If your goal is to find qualified candidates you assume should and will fit in with your company’s existing culture, then you are going to continue running into recruitment roadblocks.

The recruitment challenges faced by law firms today are influenced by additional factors other than candidates demanding more money. They also want more flexibility from their employers, a sense of purpose, and a better work-life balance. Offering more money to talent is only a short-term strategy that might bring them to the table but won’t necessarily generate the retention your firm needs.

If talent keeps slipping through your fingers because another firm swayed them with more incentives, then you need to determine which areas of your workplace and company culture need improvement and what changes are needed to elevate the employee experience and ultimately attract desirable job candidates.

The battle for top-level talent isn’t just about winning the compensation war. It’s about showing how your firm’s culture is more inclusive and adaptable than your competitors. Is the culture at your firm likely to motivate employees and foster growth in their respective areas? Have you implemented a successful strategy to prevent attorney burnout? If not, you need to re-envision each spectrum of your workplace to develop a meaningful onboarding process and a professional development program that includes rigorous leadership training and benefits offerings.

Law firms also need to address the employee experience of their administrative professionals. Many administrative professionals are leaving law firms because they feel less valued than lawyers and would rather work for an employer offering work that aligns with their values and better growth opportunities.

12 Steps to Take If You Want to Attract Talented Employees to Join Your Firm

If you want to optimize your recruitment strategies and attract the best professionals to your firm, take the following 12 steps:

Step #1: Create a candidate persona for each position

Instead of casting a big net hoping to catch the best fish swimming in the pond, you should start your recruitment process by defining the criteria of the ideal candidate you are seeking. This takes research, data collection, and fact-finding to develop realistic candidate personas for each open position at your firm.

The candidate persona is essentially a profile of your target audience and what you want in the ideal candidate. It can include specialized industry skills, specific educational achievements, experience level, and even personal interests. These checklist items can help you decide whether a job candidate is likely to adapt and excel in your work environment.

You also need to tailor your job descriptions and recruitment content to attract applicants who fit your candidate persona. Engage your employees. Get in the mix. Always make sure you have an ear on everything going on with your firm. Ask questions. Keep your door open to all employees, from top to bottom, and make sure they know you are accessible to discuss anything firm-related, whether it’s something they love or something that’s bothering them.  The more transparency the better.

You should also talk to your top performers and employees who truly exemplify the company culture. Understanding why they feel their labor is valued and whether they believe their contributions to the team are recognized can provide valuable keywords to include in your job descriptions, as these words will appeal to those likely to fit your candidate persona.

Step #2: Outline your vision & company culture

In what ways can you improve the culture at your firm to give your employees a greater sense of belonging? According to one report, a sense of belonging is at the top of the list of what employees want in their ideal work environment. It is therefore vital to clearly define your culture and outline specific goals you want to achieve in order to bring extra value to your company and improve the quality of life for your employees.

If skilled job candidates continually say they wouldn’t be a good fit with your firm’s culture or that they don’t align with your vision for growing the business, you should take steps to better showcase your core values and how you are creating an environment in which employees feel empowered to attend to their own needs while working towards company goals.

In addition to allowing employees to be their authentic selves, social changes and increased calls for racial and economic justice have made it urgent for companies to adopt a culture that strives to make a lasting, positive impact on humanity. The ideals you prioritize should be an integral part of the employee experience and a force that drives them to bring their whole selves to work each day.

Great companies know how to exhibit a strong vision that gains the attention of the kind of talent they wish to attract. If you want to find candidates capable of producing high-quality work and performing up to your particular standards, then enhance your company culture and highlight how your firm goes above and beyond to be generous and to ensure that the employees feel valued and invested in.

Step #3: Improve your firm’s branding

Law firms that know how to convey their brand values to candidates are attracting the best talent right now. Job seekers are quick to skip over firms that fail to clearly state their core values. You need to show candidates that your firm strives to cultivate the best possible experience for employees when it comes to work-life balance and opportunities for career growth.

Your brand should highlight the tangible and intangible values that your law firm offers its employees in return for the talent and expertise of top-tier candidates. Do you offer flexible paid time off, health insurance, retirement plans, and other employee benefits? If so, make them the focal point of your rebranding and proudly show them off to lure in candidates who suit your preferences and high standards.

Building your brand equity requires you to figure out how your employees and customers regard your firm. While promoting engagement programs and distributing surveys are great ways to uncover particular areas that need improvement, rewording descriptions of your company culture to clarify how your firm goes above and beyond is what really gets qualified candidates through the door.

The changes you make to your brand should exhibit the best aspects of your company’s culture and values, such as competitive compensation and benefits, and encouraging/coaching culture, and learning/development opportunities that motivate new hires to stay long-term.

Step #4: Create a strong presence through social media & online platforms

In addition to updating your website’s aesthetics and the content on your About Us and Team pages to better reflect your firm’s culture, you should also have a strong presence on the right social media and online platforms.

Social media and online platforms dedicated to job hunters can be powerful recruitment tools if you know how to leverage them and speak to your audience. Even if your firm isn’t actively searching for new talent, people will still engage with your business if you are active on multiple social media apps and online platforms.

To ensure your firm appeals to the types of candidates you want to attract, step up your social media game by providing valuable, relatable content. Social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook generally attract younger talent, so make sure your firm is active on these apps and frequently communicates a branding message that is tailored to your candidate persona. Interactive content that includes video also tends to generate the most engagement among young professionals entering the workforce.

LinkedIn is another platform for savvy job candidates looking for law firms showcasing unique and enticing attributes that place them a level above the competition. Reviews left on these platforms by former employees and people who have applied for jobs at your firm can completely sway an eager, talented individual to choose you before even considering your competitors.

Step #5: Network with local colleges & universities

Although LinkedIn and Twitter appeal to the younger, techy generation, you should also tap into academic programs at local universities and colleges to find students looking to get their foot in the door with a law firm or exploring career paths similar to their major or field of study.

You can send inquiries to academic institutions in your area regarding the posting of open positions on discipline-specific job boards or attending networking events that can help you find talented students wishing to gain valuable professional experience as soon as possible. Universities and colleges frequently host career fairs that you can align yourself with to establish a talent pipeline of students who possess knowledge applicable to various legal positions.

Another smart networking strategy is setting up an internship program with a local university. Internships attract talented college students seeking guidance from professionals who can nurture their skills and prepare them for the type of work they will routinely perform should they eventually secure a full-time position with a firm.

Networking and providing work through academic programs not only establish a reliable network of potential employees they also enhance your brand awareness and extend the pool of candidates, as your competitors might not be advertising in these respective areas.

Step #6: Think of ways to make your work environment more flexible

Young job prospects want to work for firms offering flexible schedules and relaxed environments where they can act more like themselves. These are two key reasons why many companies are permanently switching to remote work rather than returning to traditional office spaces now that pandemic restrictions have lifted.

High-level job candidates who know their value are attracted to flexible work environments that prioritize employee comfort and happiness as much as their productivity. If you foster a work environment built on positivity and trust, then you can utilize more liberal flexibilities that will appeal to a broader range of candidates, such as the ability to choose one’s schedule or work across state lines.

Step #7: Prioritize diversity & inclusivity

Cultivating a diverse workplace with people of different ages, races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations is crucial if you are truly committed to innovation and keeping your firm on the cutting edge of the legal industry. People of different backgrounds also bring unique perspectives to the table that can help you reach communities you might not have much visibility in.

According to research on the ways, a diverse workforce impacts the financial performance of forward-thinking companies, “[c]ompanies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians,” while “[c]ompanies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Being part of a diverse workforce is an enriching experience sought by many potential employees who want to work for a company with strong core values. Data collected by Glassdoor revealed that 67% of job candidates say diversity is an important factor they carefully consider when weighing employment options and competing for job offers.

Step #8: Add recruitment automation to your arsenal

Recruitment automation is a type of human capital management strategy that companies are using to leverage technologies like artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and machine learning. Automating your recruitment process cuts the amount of time it takes to track down qualified candidates and guide them all the way through the hiring process.

Recruitment automation can substantially reduce your firm’s costs per hire, improve recruiter productivity, and find candidates who will improve the overall quality of the team. When it comes to advertising your job openings online, your firm should use programmatic job advertising software rather than recruiters. This software can be used to purchase, strategically place, and optimize ads to hit your ideal online targets without blowing your budget on clicks that don’t convert.

Step #9: Use an employee referral program

Recruiting from within your firm is another smart strategy if you want to attract candidates who are interested in working for you but are worried they won’t fit in with the management style or culture. Current employees who speak highly of your company, its values, and the overall work experience can usually convince their friends, former colleagues, or family members that your firm is a great place to work because they are generally viewed as less biased.

If you have a limited budget and need to quickly find talented individuals to fill key roles, a viable solution can be to promote a job referral program within your firm that rewards employees for sending qualified candidates your way.

If you decide to use a new-hire referral policy at your firm, make sure you keep the process simple and easily understandable to increase participation. For example, when positions become vacant, employees should be informed of them via email or have access to a career page that contains job descriptions. Encouraging your employees to tag your firm and post about vacant positions on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn is another way to keep them engaged in the referral program.

The incentives you use for successful new-hire referrals are what really drive interest in the program. Some companies offer gift cards, tickets to sporting events, or a day at the spa to entice employees and promote referral programs. Others use non-monetary incentives like certificates of appreciation, extra paid days off, or a public thank you for showing appreciation to those who help acquire new talent.

Step #10: Outline opportunities for growth at your firm

Make it known that you are committed to training your team and guiding them through their career development while they are at your company. Younger candidates want to work for someone who can trust them to lead projects right away, or at the very least, gives them access to the tools they need to quickly develop particular leadership skills and progress to the next level of their careers.

Employers who are willing to pay the bill or offer stipends for professional development programs usually attract talented individuals who will continue to grow and apply their skills in various areas within the company. Providing and promoting tangible opportunities for career growth can not only improve morale, but it can also ensure your team remains at the forefront of the legal industry. It’s why my family law firm created a careers section on our website. 

Step #11: Promote social causes you support

Younger job candidates are very vocal about wanting to belong to companies that do their part to support important social causes. One way to appeal to younger job seekers is to put more resources into marketing how your firm takes its core values and acts on them within the local community.

Whether your firm sponsors a yearly toy drive for charity or represents a minority group in a specific area of law, demonstrating the different ways you engage with people and promote greater inclusivity can make your firm more attractive to young professionals looking for a fulfilling career.

Step #12: Get creative with the benefits & job perks you offer

Employers across all industries are finding that offering competitive benefits and job perks in addition to fair compensation can significantly boost job satisfaction and productivity. In fact, the gains companies see from implementing creative benefits and perks are worth more than the money they spend to keep the program running.

The perks you provide don’t need to be extravagant to show your employees and prospective new-hires that you value and reward those who contribute to the firm’s success. For example, you can personalize your employee benefits by sending out customized care packages and assorted gifts for employee achievements, or you can surprise them with food trucks on National Pizza Day and other fun holidays that are trending on social media.

Companies have also discovered that leveraging their existing resources and connections to lockdown product options and discounts, which employees can use in their everyday lives and for major purchases, keeps people happy and makes them feel appreciative of their employer’s extra effort.

Final Thoughts on Acquiring the Best Talent

Refining your recruitment strategies to find the right talent for your legal team and support staff is not only essential to keep your firm on par with competitors, but it’s also necessary if you want to identify internal flaws that must be remedied.

Your firm needs to proactively take steps that will make it stand out from other law firms fighting for highly skilled candidates to fill open positions. Utilizing detailed candidate personas and recruitment automation can help you connect with talented candidates while setting up an employee referral program or diversifying your outreach strategies can show job seekers that your company is serious about creating a progressive work environment.

Right now, top talent in the legal field are searching for more than just a high-paying salary and good benefits; they’re trying to find companies invested in personal contributions and career development opportunities that will make a real difference in their lives. If you want to attract the most skilled job candidates and strengthen the prospects that they will fit in at your firm, you need to tweak your company’s culture and prioritize establishing a sense of belonging.

If you want to appeal to today’s workforce and successfully target new hires who will stick around and help your firm grow, be sure to present a comprehensive employment package that flaunts the different ways your company prioritizes innovation, personal flexibility, and job security, and career satisfaction.

Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to the hiring dilemma law firms currently face, it’s up to leaders to pivot their recruiting strategies and take advantage of social media and online platforms that potential new hires frequently engage with. Even when you aren’t actively searching to fill open roles, your firm should still be generating compelling content. Don’t just use social media to promote your firm to clients; use it to establish meaningful connections with the audience and demographics that you want to pull new talent from.

Lastly, recruiting top talent isn’t rocket science. Keep your recruitment strategies simple and don’t try to change too much too fast; otherwise, your efforts might come off as disingenuous. Talented job candidates are attracted to firms with a reputation for doing amazing things in the industry and in their communities. If you want amazing people to apply for positions at your law firm, you need to keep doing amazing things that make people want to align with you.

Article by Jonathan Merel

Jonathan Merel is the Founder and Managing Principal of The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., a premier law firm concentrating on the practice of divorce and family law based in Chicago.

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