The current market is strong and confident, but we believe it more essential than ever, that law firms get the entire recruitment process right in order to secure quality talent. As we move into the latter stages of 2014, we have identified some trends and patterns that we feel would be very useful to take into account when recruiting for BD teams.
- The current state of the recruitment market within the legal sector.
It’s extremely buoyant with a wide range of roles across the entire sector and at all levels (including more at a senior level). It is also probably the most competitive market (for sourcing talent) that our consultants can remember in almost 20 years of working in the sector. It is very much “Candidate-led” – more roles than relevant applicants - and very good people are at a premium. The firms that don’t recognise this, struggle to recruit at the moment, as the process has to be spot-on from start to finish.
- Are law firms adapting to the current recruitment market?
Many have but some haven’t. There is a varied approach by firms to what for them is a very challenging recruitment market. Some continue as they did when the market was much more “Client-led” and subsequently struggle to fill roles for months (and in some cases much longer). Common issues revolve around complicated CV and interview processes (a good candidate is going to react better to a firm with a smooth, quick process) salary bands (where a firm is low in comparison to its direct competitors), lack of a bonus structure (more of an issue now that bonuses are being paid again) and a general lack of selling of a role on the part of a potential employer. More than ever an interview should be seen as a two-way process and quite often unfortunately it isn’t.
- Specific candidate or skill shortages we have seen when recruiting in the past 6 months
Specialist roles, whether they be pitch, CRM, PR, Digital or anything else are generally more difficult to source. We have also found recently that practice/sector based BD Manager roles (E.g. ones in Corporate or Financial Institutions with a strong pitch focus) can take a long time to fill. Firms need to try and make these roles as attractive as possible to candidates by ensuring they have broad remits.
- Is this likely to continue for the next 6 – 12 months and why?
We think that pitch specific roles and broader BD roles with a strong pitch element will continue to be more thedifficult. One reason for this is that if good BD specialists come onto the market, often their primary motivator is to reduce this part of their role. At a BD Manager level in particular, the hours that many are expected to work (due to pitches and having smaller teams than before) can be quite extreme and this is why they are looking for a change. They will not be attracted to a role that on paper looks exactly the same.
- Beware of counter-offers!
There is an extremely high chance that high-calibre candidates (currently in employment) will be counter-offered if they resign. In fact we are finding that they may be counter-offered more than once, even after contracts are signed and start dates have been agreed. If this ever works, it is a fairly short term solution as candidates will generally be looking again within 3 – 6 months but it does mean, that offers need to be highly attractive and a candidate needs to be bought in completely to making a move. A good recruitment consultant can be invaluable in these situations.
- Leighton Taylor’s blueprint to attracting quality candidates in the current market!
· Ensure the CV process is fast, efficient and uncomplicated both for the candidates and the agencies recruiting on your behalf.
· Where possible avoid the use of specific firm coversheets for candidates. Good quality agencies should automatically provide their own as part of their CV which should include interview notes and information on salaries, notice periods etc. If agencies are asked to produce a specific firm CV & coversheet this will take more time and the CV may already have been sent quickly to (the majority of) other firms that just accept a normal (agency) CV. Less complicated = a quicker process.
· Don’t hide behind a CV extranet system. CVs can just become a number when they are placed on these, so ensure that constant dialogue is maintained throughout the process. This incudes as much information as possible on roles (agency briefings are key), feedback on submitted CVs, candidates interviewed and also regular updates on timescales.
· Well briefed interviewers and partners who don’t just question the candidates but also sell the merits of the firm to candidates who are generally going to have more than one option.
· A smooth process from beginning to end, with limited delay. Also if you see someone you like, move quickly and efficiently and jump on them!