Why good lawyers are like fresh milk

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Good lawyers are like fresh milk – they are a perishable commodity and if you don’t act quickly they will be gone. In the 17 years that I’ve been recruiting lawyers, I have never seen a market quite like the current. For whatever macro or micro-economic factors are at play, there is a certain bullish confidence in the market and we have never been busier. Enquiries are being received from existing clients and new clients daily, and as a result we have expanded with consultants based in Brisbane and Newcastle.

There is a 180-degree shift from this time last year when candidates were aplenty to being like the proverbial hen’s teeth. Sure, there are truckloads of new graduates being pumped out of law schools across the country but quality lawyers with at least two years’ experience are thin on the ground. The job boards are no longer delivering good applicants and many lawyers are sick of being headhunted on LinkedIn – a phenomenon labelled LinkedIn fatigue.

BUT, and here is the interesting thing, many employers have not adapted to the new paradigm. They are unaware that it is well and truly a candidate’s market and they need to adjust their thinking. Good candidates have the bargaining position and they are taking a lot longer to find. They are being more selective. They are being counter-offered by their existing employers and they want to be strategic about their next career move.

So, once you identify a good candidate- it is important to appreciate the market context. There are few things more frustrating than finally deciding that ‘Sam’ is your preferred candidate only to find she has gone to a competitor because they moved faster.

Just like fresh milk – candidates are a perishable commodity with a short “shelf life”. If you don’t act quickly you will miss out. Here are a few tips to minimise your risk of losing a good legal candidate:

  1. Interview immediately. Once you see a CV of someone you like, do not delay meeting them. Schedule it for the next day if possible. There are great tools like Calendly to help coordinate diaries.
  2. Second interviews should be on the same day. Whilst I understand there are multiple stakeholders involved, often with busy diaries, why not schedule meetings back to back? Ask the candidate to block out enough time for HR to meet with them and if they pass the HR threshold, then meet with the partners straight afterwards.
  3. Decide quickly. There is a period of uncertainty while reorganising diaries for decision makers to meet later. Why not take time after the interview to discuss and if the candidate is appropriate, take things to the next step?
  4. Don’t hold out for the perfect If there is someone who could do the job well and fits your culture, make them an offer. If you have any doubt, consider contracting them first.
  5. Have all your admin ducks in a row. If you are ready to offer the candidate a role, try not to then delay another week while getting the paperwork prepared. Have it ready to go the day of the offer so you can lock them in.
  6. Keep on top of the candidate’s movements. Have regular contact and ask how they are progressing with other opportunities. If they disclose who else they are speaking to, why not emphasise your unique selling propositions compared to your rivals.
  7. Sell, sell, sell. Interviewing is a two-way street, whilst you are of course assessing candidates for fit, they are also assessing you. Make sure that they have a positive experience and even if you don’t make them an offer, make them want to work for you (and tell their friends).

So, you won’t secure every star lawyer every time but you will increase your chances by following the steps above.

For more information contact Jason Elias BA LLB FRCSA on (02) 9555 5711 or email [email protected].

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