Michelle Howard explores how your firm’s brand is key to attracting the best talent in a highly competitive recruitment market

Recruitment is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the legal sector; we’re in a highly competitive market at all levels.

The profession is experiencing a time of significant vacancies, and a skills deficit, as those most experienced have left the profession for a life of well-being, retirement, or simply to pursue other avenues – not necessarily in that order.

Technology has added a layer of complication, as it has been embedded within working practices at significant pace. This has largely been driven by the need to continue to work through the pandemic, albeit from home.

Whilst technology has brought geographical freedoms in how and when we work, it has allowed law firms to recruit from a nationwide talent base in a drive to satisfy increasing client demands.

City law firms offer opportunities for remote working at high salary points whilst smaller firms are struggling to compete on such a scale.

As competition for talent increases, recruits are, in some cases, writing their own job specifications. This is a position which is not sustainable.

Generational change

We are experiencing a substantial generational shift, driven by millennials and generation Z.

These are generations who expect to move jobs every two to three years and who ask for faster career progression. They want greater learning and development opportunities, beyond that of traditional technical and legal training.

These are the same people who are blind to digital job advertisements due to the sheer volume of information that they are exposed to daily through digital and social media.

More than money

High salaries do not always align to the skillset of those recruited. This can lead to failed expectations, an increased number of client complaints, issues of compliance and team dysfunction.

We are often so fearful of not recruiting staff when workload capacity is high so instead, we recruit people who do not fulfil our criteria. I see this daily through my own experience with clients.

However, a recent poll has found that businesses regret half of new hires amid the skills shortage and more than half of firms admit to having rushed the hiring process.

Law firms cannot continue to throw money at recruits who do not match the needs of our business.

Winning the battle

So how do we attract the best talent without succumbing to the battle?

The answer is to recognise the era in which we live and to recognise the role that your brand plays in attracting recruits.

As we have entered the Industry 4.0 era; an era conceptualising rapid change to technology and societal behaviours the way we as people think, and feel has changed.

Our recruits are no longer focused on high salaries or the often long hours that go with it, a staple of traditional law firms.

Instead, recruits want to work for firms who have an inherent purpose and a moral compass which guides their strategic development. They want to work for firms who will offer them greater learning and development opportunities in their thirst for knowledge.

Wellbeing matters and firms who will give individual and personalised support, by not only caring about them and their wellbeing but taking an active interest in how they think and feel, will be in far greater demand.

Offering high salaries is simply a gamble as recruits will take it for a short period on their fast-track route to a new career, and then leave. This also brings the possibility that they will take clients with them.

The answer to the traditional question, ‘why do I want to work for you?’ has changed and now needs a depth of uniqueness in its answer.

It is time to stand out from the competition and express the values, morals and beliefs which are at the heart of your firm. It is time to share what makes you, and your firm unique.

Your brand.

Identifying your brand

Your brand is your uniqueness as a firm. It tells prospective employees what you believe in and what you care about.

It is the way in which organisations differentiate themselves in the labour market, enabling them to recruit, retain and engage the right people.

A strong employer brand helps businesses compete for the best talent and establish credibility.

Your brand is crucially important to your recruitment practice. It tells potential new recruits how you think about: 

  • the planet
  • lives
  • work

These are all facets which are important to the new generation of recruits and are conversant with the era in which we live.

But it is not enough to state what you believe; your recruitment needs to have the brand at the very heart of your practice.

The recruitment piece starts well before recruitment advertising. It is how your firm is perceived by potential candidates and colleagues both within and outside of the profession.

Your work with partners, recruitment agencies, universities and even colleges is so important. If they understand your brand, your purpose, and your values they will bring greater benefit to your business.

Your brand must be at the heart of all recruitment including through the selection process, the interview, hire and induction.

Your most fervent brand ambassadors need to be a part of this process showing that not only do they believe in the brand, but they live and breathe it.

Failure to do so may lead to a potential recruit being provided with an alternative offer. They may choose to stay with their current employer or accept another offer because they do not see that your purpose is authentic and real.

This is no easy feat! It may require external support to bring an objective view of your brand, help you to position your firm and differentiate it against your competitors.

But through acknowledging the change in recruitment practice, acknowledging the power of our brand through recruitment, and recognising our own inert challenges we can find ways to recruit the right people for our firm.

This will help us to service the needs of the clients with greater precision but will enable us to offer employees a fulfilling career which is set for the long term.

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