1. Don’t hire if you don’t have to

Despite making a living from placing lawyers, I recommend my clients look at their surroundings and canvas all the alternatives before hiring a new person. Is the role necessary? Can existing staff take up the slack? Are their capabilities in-house already available who can transfer into the role?

If not, get hiring! You don’t want to lose your firm reputation, clients or good performers from using your time.

2. Define and document

There are plenty of times for spontaneity but recruitment is not one. Be strategic, work out what you want and what your needs are. Resist the temptation to cut and paste the job description from the person who left. Analyse what the most important facets are, was there any “job creep” in terms of what this person was actually doing? Can the role be tweaked?

Work out what the essentials and desirable criteria are and refer back to these through the job advertising and interview phases.

3. Plan your sourcing strategy

Word of mouth is always a great starting point. Who do you already know, the lawyer who impressed you in court last week or the opposing side of that big matter. Ask your contacts, barristers tend to be a good source too. At Elias Recruitment, many of our placements result from referrals by contacts in the legal industry. Advertising – whilst less successful in recent years you may want to consider an ad on a job board like SEEK or LinkedIn. Social Media we have secured great outcomes from clients using LinkedIn in particular. By engaging in groups like Australian Legal Community (over 6,000 lawyers) you can source great lawyers.

4. Interviewing effectively

Try and arrange a peer to be present and make sure you appeal to the candidate at the same time as assessing their suitability from a skills, experience and cultural fit perspective. Always refer back to the job description, remember to define and document. Ask behaviour competency questions as past behaviour indicates future performance eg. tell me about a time when…

5. Candidates are perishable goods

Move quickly as good candidates get multiple offers and there is nothing worse than finally deciding on your preferred candidate only to have them inform you they’re going to one of your competitors. If holding multiple interviews, don’t space them too far apart. Have all your paperwork such as letters of offer and any sign offs ready to go.

6. Reference checking is vital

Many people can perform during an interview but it is more accurate to see how candidates have performed in a workplace over an extended period. Try and speak to the candidate’s direct supervisor – usually a partner at their previous workplace. If any red flags emerge during the interview process, probe these areas. Also look out for inconsistencies between references and where possible dial a land-line to confirm dates of employment and reasons for leaving.