Legal Hires in a Pandemic
It’s been a difficult year for the legal community as it has for many businesses. Many firms have weathered (and still are weathering) the storm of the pandemic. Some firms have furloughed staff, frozen pay and in some cases have been forced to make redundancies and cutbacks as they reassess their business strategies. However, the sector has shown a greater resilience than initially feared and some practice areas have even been busier than ever.
If your law firm is fortunate enough to still have a constant flow of instructions, perhaps you need to make new hires. But, how do you make legal hires in a pandemic and an uncertain market, all whilst the country is in lockdown?
Concise Job Descriptions
The key to lining up the best candidates possible is to deliver as much as you can in your job advert or description. We know from experience, and from talking to other law firms, that applications for particular roles have sky-rocketed in recent months. You might have experienced this already. Such a high volume of applications makes it difficult to hire as efficiently and quickly as you need. So, to combat this, be as clear as possible about the experience expected from candidates in your job descriptions.
Your advert for your vacancy should also make clear what people can expect when they work for you. This is especially important in today’s climate. Will candidates be working from the office or remotely, or a bit of both? If staff will be required to work from the office, how do you plan to keep them safe? It might also be beneficial to highlight any specific methods for the interview process. Be clear about as much as possible in your initial job advert.
If you are making legal hires through the pandemic and the lockdown, the process may need to take a little longer. So, advise your teams or anyone else involved that there may be need for extra patience. Depending on the role, you might have a lot of applications, more than usual. But try and be quick to answer questions and respond to enquiries. Formulate a strategy for organising inbound CVs and managing the replies thereafter.
We know how difficult it is to reply to every single person who applies for a position but try to manage candidate’s expectations and be respectful. During this difficult time, it is important to remember that some candidates might have a lot riding on their application.
Throughout the process, be positive and professional and show you take the pandemic seriously. The more thorough you can be throughout the hiring process, the easier it will be for all parties.
Importance of Interviews
We more than anyone know the importance of meeting people face to face. There’s no better way to get a feel whether someone is the right fit for your law firm than to meet them in person. But, unfortunately, we can’t do that right now. However, to compensate, we recommend holding more rounds of interviews with candidates, be they on the telephone or via video link.
It’s worth arranging these interviews with different members of your team too, if necessary. That way the candidate gets a one-on-one with the key decision makers and you get more feedback on candidate suitability.
Take advantage of technology to hold more interviews with your candidate shortlist.
Video Interview Etiquette
When using video for your interviews, it’s important to treat the sessions as seriously as you would a ‘regular’ interview. Sometimes the more frequent we do video calls, the more tendency there is to relax on them. If members of the team have been scheduled to connect with a potential candidate over video link, then encourage them to prepare for the call in advance.
If you are conducting an interview via video, you should do so from a place with a strong connection so that the video quality is the best it can be. Likewise, think of any backgrounds you might have running. For an interview, the more professional the backdrop, the better.
You should be free from any distractions too, giving the candidate your undivided attention throughout the duration of the call. After all, you wouldn’t start replying to an email during a face-to-face interview!
Induction and Onboarding
Once you’ve found your perfect candidate and made your hire, you will need to establish a process to introduce people to your firm successfully. Again, this might take a little more planning if your teams are working remotely. You need to remember that new starters might never meet the other staff face-to-face, perhaps not for a few months yet anyway.
To avoid any sense of isolation or unease, get started by arranging a series of video meetings with key team members. And spread the net a little wider, too. Just think of the first day at a law firm for new team members and they probably get to meet everyone as they walk round the office. So, include a member of the marketing team, IT support or anyone else who it would be good for your new member of staff to meet. A quick face-to-face hello over video can make all the difference to help someone feel settled, welcome and reassured.
Prepare a training plan for the first few days or week and try to be accommodating with a flexible schedule. Especially at the moment, there might be employees who have children and homeschooling to juggle around their new job. What’s important is you communicate well and show empathy, to make the onboarding experience as useful, friendly and helpful as you would like it for yourself.
Planning Legal Recruitment
The job market has swung completely round since the pandemic hit, going from candidate-led to employers having the upper hand as demand for jobs far outweigh what’s available. Has it been the same with legal recruitment? Well, pre-pandemic and the legal market across the board was very much candidate-led, and there was worry of mass redundancies to come following lockdown.
Fortunately, this never came to fruition. Instead, and almost a year on, it is practice areas such as conveyancing, employment, private client and family where a surge in instructions has seen the search for lawyers remain very much candidate-led. Even across other practice areas there hasn’t been the mass pool of redundant Lawyers that we were all fearing.
Granted, for some law firms it is difficult to plan and align recruitment strategies right now. The demand for legal jobs is very varied but the good thing is that there is ample candidate demand, especially at the more senior level. The remote working aspect is driving this, with firms much more receptive to hiring someone who can work from home without supervision.
But as we look ahead to 2021, we will undoubtedly see new peaks and troughs which make planning harder. There is the end of the stamp duty holiday just around the corner and a lot of new instructions coming through from Brexit. But we mustn’t forget people’s experiences through this difficult time. Even general burnout from those juggling abnormal schedules with homeschooling can make them think twice about their legal career.
What is for sure is that it will be another interesting year for legal recruitment.