Randi Lewis: Competing For Law Firm Talent


Partners with portable business are hot commodities. In middle-sized markets like Baltimore and Bethesda, the competition for this talent is fierce. Why? Because the demand, particularly for that coveted 40-something lawyer with business, exceeds the supply.

Law firms can maximize their chances of landing these lawyers by employing simple recruitment strategies while working with partner-level recruiters:

First impressions matter. The recruitment process is like a courtship, where the parties make quick judgments about each other. Chemistry will define the first meeting. To start out strong, your firm should provide the candidate’s recruiter as much information about the first interview as possible, including the personalities of the interviewers and the nature of the first interview. What is the goal of the first interview? What should the candidate be prepared to discuss? This will enable the recruiter to prepare the candidate to help your firm maximize that first meeting.

Choose interviewers wisely. Starting with the receptionist, each person meeting the candidate should be warm and personable. Choose your interviewers with care. Depending upon the size of your law firm, the managing partner and a partner or two in leadership will be the screeners. They, too, must be engaging, and they also must know the firm, its mission, direction and capabilities. Ensure that at least one of the interviewers has the personal qualities to make a meaningful connection with the candidate. Lawyers choose to accept a second interview, in part, due to chemistry.

Prepare for each meeting. Before each meeting, interviewers should have reviewed the candidate’s website bio, resume and all other information provided about the candidate. This will enable them to ask questions that probe beyond the information provided. As the firm learns more information about the candidate through lateral partner questionnaires and other means, each subsequent interview should build on the first one.

Avoid a situation where the candidate walks away from the third or fourth meeting with the impression that the interviewers had little to no idea why they were in the room. Instead, you want candidates to feel respected and envision how they will build a vibrant practice at your firm.

Understand the candidate’s practice and motivation. The recruiter will provide your firm with key information about candidates, including the reasons for a possible move. Use this information to inform how your interviewers approach the candidate. As early as the first interview, the firm should have some understanding of how the candidate’s practice might fit into the larger firm. Ask questions that will elicit reasons why this candidate may consider a move.

Master the “Why-us-for-you” pitch.  Your firm should show candidates how joining this new law firm will enhance their practices. Armed with practice synergies and the candidate’s motivations for change, the interviewers should be able to paint a picture of a practice environment that will better serve the candidate’s clients and increase the ability of the candidate to build a vibrant practice.

For example, if a firm has hired lawyers who have doubled or tripled their books in a short period of time, the firm should provide the candidate with concrete examples of those partners and introduce the candidate to those and other key partners, particularly those in the same practice area and whose practices will enhance cross-marketing opportunities.

Compensation is a key driver for most lawyers making a change. The recruiter can help you with compensation conversations, too. If the candidate has a strong book of business with a proven upward trajectory, you may have to pay a little more to land the candidate. For the right candidate, it becomes a calculated risk well-taken.

The “Why-us-for-you” also involves the cultural and collaborative aspect of your firm. Show that often to the candidate during the interview process.

Communicate often and honestly. The process of interviewing, vetting and courting a partner with a portable practice typically takes many months to complete. The firm’s liaison with the candidate’s recruiter should follow up with the recruiter as soon as possible after each interview. Respond promptly to the recruiter’s phone calls and emails. Develop an open and honest dialogue with the recruiter, who can help you understand the candidate’s interview feedback, concerns, timing issues and compensation requirements.

If an offer is forthcoming, let the recruiter know. It should not come as a surprise to the candidate. The managing partner or the lawyer with the closest relationship with the candidate should give a verbal offer to be followed by one in writing. Other lawyers from the firm should call and email the candidate. If the candidate accepts your offer, you have already started strongly integrating the partner into your firm. 


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