Finding Support for Your Legal Team through Nontraditional Candidates


Many managers are facing a struggle between implementing corporate strategy on behalf of the C-suite and providing the flexibility, purpose and career growth their reports seek. Post-pandemic, common feedback has been that managers are expected to do more with less—and with a lack of recognition and support.

The Great Resignation, which began in early 2021, left legal teams understaffed and with more work than they had people to do it. Soon thereafter, the shift in the economy led to businesses tightening their belts and easing up on hiring and backfilling for open roles, leaving corporate legal teams overworked with no end in sight.     

As companies began looking for innovative ways to grow their teams and counter staff attrition, “quiet hiring” became more common, with managers leveraging their current employees’ capabilities to acquire new skill sets without having to hire new staff. This practice has allowed employers to keep staff headcount, reduce attrition, and focus on promoting and nurturing their internal talent. This has been beneficial for both the company and employees since it builds loyalty and fulfils career aspirations while also reducing payroll costs.

However, the added responsibilities and career growth for some lawyers have not stopped the influx of legal workload, which has led managers to look to alternative solutions to address their backlogged work. In some cases, legal teams have been able to add minimal full-time headcount for lower-level roles.

The candidates available in the market for these opportunities do not always match the ideal profile a legal team may paint in their minds as the perfect fit candidate. As of late, there are more “nontraditional” candidates available, which means they may not come from the same industry or may be looking to move in-house for the first time. Hiring managers should consider these types of candidates because:

  • Training is easier than hiring the exact fit each time. Often the candidates with the exact experience might be more expensive and more demanding to hire. As staff leave, the temptation might be to fill the position with a carbon copy of the previous incumbent but going outside of that might be easier in the long run as you can mold them.
  • More experienced candidates often have an interest in less senior roles. They might not want to work their way up the corporate ladder, so a lower-level role can be more suitable. They then bring historical knowledge and expertise working across different legal areas throughout their careers succeeding in different work cultures.
  • The more diverse your workforce is the more knowledge your team in total will be. Bringing people from different phases of life and backgrounds can help bring new perspectives and skills to your team.

Alternatively, if a legal team is not in the market for full-time hires, they may be able to redistribute their outside counsel budget toward hiring consulting lawyers. The stigma around temporary lawyers being less experienced has been dispelled over the past decade or so. Today’s consulting lawyers have worked in top corporations, gained years of experience honing their expertise in certain areas of the law and even led legal teams.  These lawyers can be used strategically to support a legal team in a variety of ways:

  • Hiring consulting lawyers can help reduce attrition because work can be taken off the desks of those who have more put on their plates.
  • This includes the manager! Managers can give additional duties they have had to take on to a consultant, meaning they can dedicate the time they need to make sure their full-time staff stays happy and above water.
  • Interim candidates can assist in scenarios where employees need to take a leave of absence. This helps avoid paying outside counsel fees for routine work.

Companies have also found that hiring lawyers on a contractual basis has helped them not only relieve the pressure of backlogged work but has gotten them over the hump as they have budgetary conversations for the new fiscal year. Having the proof points of the work done by these consultants can provide the leverage necessary for strategic hiring during skillset gaps.

By bringing in nontraditional candidates, managers will ease the burden on their legal team and see an improvement in their employees’ happiness and productivity. Full-time employees will be able to take the breaks and much-needed time off they need to recharge. They will also be able to work with a more diverse set of lawyers, which is well-documented that having a diverse set of perspectives increases the creativity and depth of a legal team. For the manager, the addition of nontraditional candidates helps take pressure off them and reduce outside counsel costs. Nontraditional candidates have legal training that can be beneficial to a legal team of any size if you are willing to consider something beyond your preset profile.


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