Lawyer hiring at firms across the United States is skyrocketing – just look at some of the recent headlines in the legal industry regarding associate salary increases.
Many law firms pulled in big profits last year in spite of the pandemic due to benefits of a remote workplace and other budget cuts implemented early on in the pandemic alongside revenue increases. Now they are looking to replenish their lawyer ranks due to an uptick in work.
I saw some recent mind-blowing statistics from legal research company Leopard Solutions noting that the demand for lawyers at all levels reaching an all-time high this year as law firms across the nation expanded their attorney job searches to make up for the slow growth they experienced last year due to the pandemic.
The research, which tracks more than 4,000 global law firms, found that there were 8,268 open and available attorney jobs at these firms as of May 14, which marks an increase of 150% since the start of the pandemic. This number has gone up steadily since the beginning of 2021.
As the article noted, attorney job openings have more than doubled since October, when most law firms started actively pursuing lawyers with books of business to make up for the previous six months of sluggish results due to the pandemic. And compared to January of this year, available attorney jobs have jumped by about 70%.
Think about these figures for a minute – these are huge numbers.
However, the increase in demand for lawyers has also made it more challenging for law firms to compete for qualified candidates and retain their legal talent.
For example, as the market for legal talent booms, Kirkland & Ellis has offered midlevel to senior corporate associate lawyers signing bonuses of up to $250,000 to switch firms. Recruiters are saying signing bonuses have never been as high as they are now. Law firm associate salaries were recently raised for the first time in years from $180K to $205K (the new standard set by Davis Polk after raises by several other firms, including Milbank).
Legal recruiters are also saying they’re busier than they’ve ever been right now as firms scramble to hire attorneys who can accommodate an uptick in legal work the firms are experiencing.
So what can law firms do to stand out from the pack in the eyes of recruits? And what can legal recruiters do to ensure they market themselves to candidates and firms effectively? Here are some ideas.
- Know your value proposition. It’s crucial to be able to convey why your firm is right for a candidate and what makes your firm unique compared to its competitors. Make sure you can not only articulate this in the recruiting process but also in written materials.
- Manage your online brand. Have you checked out your firm’s Google search results lately? You should. Indeed, Glassdoor and Google reviews come up on the first page of your Google results. Your firm will inevitably have both good and bad reviews – make sure to get ahead of them and be able to answer recruits’ questions on the negative ones. Encourage star performers to post positive reviews to counterbalance the negative ones.
- Create dedicated recruiting marketing materials and messaging. These materials should live on your web site, your social channels, and be modular pieces you can easily PDF to a candidate, a recruiter or a law school. Your client pitchbook materials won’t cut it – recruiting materials must be tailored for recruits to highlight what it’s like to work at the firm, what the summer and new associate programs are like, and what professional development resources you offer. For laterals, you may be able to repurpose some of your existing pitch materials, but you should also put together a piece on lateral integration, firm successes and professional development.
- Use LinkedIn. It’s one of the most effective, cheap and helpful ways to build relationships and market your firm. Use your LinkedIn company page to highlight news and successes, and your people.
- Use other social media channels that are less formal, such as Instagram, which can give recruits a sneak peek into life at the firm and the people with whom they would be working. My biggest word of advice is to be authentic and don’t post the same content on every social media channel – tailor the message for the medium as well as your imagery (Instagram photos need to be square for one).
- An easy way to create a recruiting marketing campaign for your law firm that costs zero money is to take the positive online reviews of your firm from Google, Indeed, Vault, Chambers Associate and Glassdoor and feature them on your web site and in social media posts. It just takes a little time to pull the reviews and format them. You can also ask star lawyers for quotes on their favorite aspects of working at the firm and feature those in a campaign on your web site and social media channels.
- Build your network. The more people you know, the higher chances you have to meet people who may be future colleagues, clients, employees, referrals, etc. While networking is a bit more challenging now, I think Zoom has made the process more efficient and easier.
- Conduct focus groups with star associates and partners. This will help you find out what is working well at the firm (as well as what’s not). Going directly to your people for their honest feedback about the firm will give you invaluable information in many areas, not just recruiting. You can take this info and use it to create better events, professional development programs to how work is assigned.
- Don’t stop offering work from home and flexible work arrangements. Many lawyers want the freedom to continue working from home after the pandemic – especially women who are at a disadvantage the day they walk into a law firm because of the gender pay gap as well as the fact they are also usually the primary caregivers. Support your lawyers on their professional journeys and they will be loyal to you. Also when it makes sense, feature some of these success stories in your recruiting marketing materials.
Employees have a lot of choices right now – make sure that they continue to choose you every day by providing them with the best possible work environment for career growth you can.