Having weathered the COVID-19 epidemic, many law firms now see a sharp uptick in work – and feel a need to hire.
Specifically, associates are in high demand. Decipher, an investigative intelligence firm, reports that associate moves in the top 10 legal markets were up 20 percent or more in the first two months of the year. Press coverage of the associate rush is centered around a frenzy of aggressive tactics, from big hiring bonuses to same-day offers. (Caveat emptor there.)
Thankfully, for most firms recruiting is a more measured process. Still, in the potential boom of 2021, it’s a buyer’s market, and qualified associates will have many options. In a December 2020 survey, 57 percent of lawyers with hiring responsibilities said they were actively looking; 93 percent said it was somewhat or very challenging.
To be sure, the country’s most wired generation will be checking out their prospective employers online. In this race for associate talent, your law firm’s website can be a helpful tool for making the right impression and conveying your culture and differentiators.
How can you best position your firm to be a first-choice employer?
Know Your Market
Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Millennial Attorney Survey provides valuable insight into the wants, needs and attitudes of lawyers between 25 and 40 years old. This report surveyed more than 1,200 respondents, 78.6 percent of whom are current law firm associates.
When asked their priorities in scouting potential employers, on a scale of 1 to 10, they ranked:
- Commitment to fostering work-life balance: 8.2
- Firm’s compensation package: 8.1
- Commitment to training and professional development: 8.0
- Commitment to progressive family-friendly policies: 7.5
- Strength of firm in a particular practice area: 6.7
- Commitment to diverse and inclusive workforce: 6.2
- Prestige of firm: 5.9
- Commitment to corporate social responsibility: 5.8
Key takeaway: Compare the high priority of work-life balance with the relatively low priority of firm prestige. If your firm’s recruiting page focuses on the rich tradition established by long-dead named partners, you’re missing the mark with Millennial recruits.
Work-life balance is so important to your potential associates that nearly 75 percent of respondents said they would take lower compensation in exchange for more time off, a flexible work schedule or fewer billable hours.
When asked what they would like to spend more time doing in their current positions, they said:
- Business development: 33.2 percent
- Training: 23.1 percent
- Mentorship: 14.1 percent
- Pro bono: 11.6 percent
- Work outside the primary practice group: 11.6 percent
- Firm social events: 6.5 percent
Key takeaway: More than five times as many associates want to work on business development as those who want more firm social events.
Baseball games and progressive dinner parties are important recreation for your law student recruiting. But seasoned associates want activities with more substance: business development and skills training chief among them.
Speak to Your Market
As your law firm’s communications hub, your website should complement your recruiting endeavors. If your organization is among the many clamoring for trained associates, mind these guidelines:
1. Don’t skip them. Many law firm Careers pages skip straight from law students to lateral partners. Lateral associates are a different demographic with different desires. Many are parents to young children; all have earned professional respect. Develop a specific page for lateral associates that discusses benefits, schedule options, business development training, the track to partnership and other specific concerns.
2. Do be authentic. In the process of selling your firm, you must be genuine. It’s one thing to make a favorable first impression; it’s another to delve into fiction. Do not tout flexible schedules if you know the firm is putting the kibosh on remote work post-pandemic. Be forthright and manage expectations from the beginning, and you will find your people: While not every firm is “fun,” neither is every associate.
3. Don’t be coy about compensation. In the Major Lindsey & Africa survey, compensation was the No. 1 motivation Millennial attorneys cited for considering a job change. Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent of associates “strongly agreed” that law firms should strive for maximum transparency with regard to compensation. In addition to salaries, be straightforward about billable minimums and what counts toward them.
4. Do offer evidence. Smooth marketing prose will only get you so far. Take a “show, don’t tell” approach, and provide proof points for your firm’s culture. Post testimonials from current associates. Share favorable statistics. Profile successful alumni. Don’t assume that a potential hire will read every page of your website: Reiterate core values, major awards and significant client work.
5. Don’t just talk about diversity. Show action. In the Major, Lindsey & Africa survey, 77.5 percent of Millennial attorneys said a diverse and inclusive workforce should be a priority for law firms. This demographic is looking for more than a well-crafted statement; show your action, and show your investment.
6. Do embrace multimedia. Younger consumers strongly prefer video; 56 percent of those 25 to 34 years old said it was their first-choice medium. Consider the power of a recruiting video geared to lateral associates that shared their peers’ stories; you could write with static text that you support work-life balance, or you can create a video that shows an associate playing with his kids. Keep it short, and keep it authentic, and video can be a compelling recruiting tool.
Above all, the “experienced associate” portion of your Careers page should further the brand promise of your firm. The best brand experiences are authentic, relevant and ownable: Carry this into your recruiting story.
- Authentic: Who are we really, and what is it like to work here?
- Relevant: Why does this matter to this specific audience?
- Ownable: Why us instead of the law firms down the street?
(And if all else fails, maybe put a cat meme on there.)