There have been a number of articles in past issues of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers on how the internet has completely transformed the process of finding a legal job and, from the other side of the story, how firms of solicitors and companies of all sorts find suitable lawyers and legal staff to fill their vacancies.

These articles include:

  • Twitter for law job seekers, by Claire Cavanagh of EJ Legal, in March 2014;
  • Using LinkedIn to recruit staff, by Christiane Browne of Summerfield Browne Solicitors, in November 2015.

Whilst both these articles were provided some time ago, they are still very relevant to the discussion and they make a good background to the topic overall for, respectively, job seekers and jobs providers.

At the same time, I have kept up a register of Legal Jobs and Recruitment Consultants on my website at www.venables.co.uk/jobs.htm. There are over 70 listed currently and I am always happy to update these entries or add new ones.

I see the jobs/recruitment arena as a clash between the expertise of specialist legal recruitment consultants, some of whom have been in the legal market for decades, and the “every job in the world” approach of the automatically generated sites, which hoover up jobs from all the other jobs sites and recruitment companies. The recruitment consultants will get to know you personally, whilst with the automatically generated sites, the candidate narrows the field by specifying the type of job required, the qualifications possessed by the candidate, the location of the job, the salary required, and so on, and is then provided with a filtered list of options.

This clash of cultures has been made more complicated by the widespread use of social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, to locate suitable jobs or (from the other side of the table) suitable candidates.

In this article, I am attempting to provide an overview of this topic by providing a contribution from each of three perspectives:

  • an established legal recruitment company EJ Legal, with an article by George Catt, on the benefits to be gained for both candidates and recruiters, from using an established recruitment consultancy;
  • a solicitors’ firm, with an article by Christian Browne of Summerfield Browne Solicitors, updating his earlier views on social media;
  • a law graduate, with an article from Amber Parslow, looking for her first job, who has used all three methods to attempt to launch her career in the legal world.

The recruitment company

George Catt, EJ Legal

With the proliferation of online job boards for the legal sector and platforms such as LinkedIn increasingly used by law firms to recruit direct, at first glance it would seem that the death knell for recruiters is nigh and begs the question as to what value recruiters can still bring?

The simple answer is that a good recruiter can be invaluable to both candidates and clients.

Benefits for candidates

Recruiters can provide an irreplaceable service. Here are some of the advantages to candidates:

CVs. Recruiters can help craft a CV that conveys a clear and compelling narrative about your career and help you identify particular skills and expertise that set you apart.

Firm culture. Recruiters can help you understand the culture of a team and firm and help steer you towards environments that are better suited to your personality and aspirations.

Interviews. Recruiters can help you prepare for interviews; talking through difficult questions and helping you frame your answers as well as aiding you in formulating your own questions based on their insight into your goals and also of the firms you are interviewing with. They can help you ask the difficult questions you may not feel comfortable asking.

Feedback. Not every client will give full and frank feedback, but recruiters can push for feedback and are likely to get a more honest response on interview performance because of their objectivity in the process. In addition, they can help you work on issues that are highlighted as part of that feedback.

Market coverage. Recruiters can often access opportunities even before the roles are actively posted; they can apply for “watching briefs” (where the role is there but not actively being sought to be filled) and they can guide you through the speculative applications based on skill fit and team dynamics. Their knowledge of firms can also provide an advantage when identifying synergies regarding expertise and shared legal clients.

Logistics. Recruiters take on much of the leg work such as in making applications; arranging interviews; chasing feedback and paperwork and providing references. They also act as the perfect fall guy when mistakes happen such as missed interviews!

Career planning. Building a personal relationship with a recruiter means you always have somebody on hand who can guide and advise you throughout your career. They can inform you on the risks and rewards of a move, provide intelligence on the market including on salaries and norms and assist you in planning for the future based on your personal objectives.

Benefits for clients

As the entity that ultimately pays for the use of recruiters there needs to be compelling reasons to use recruiters; these include:

Market intelligence. Recruiters typically work with many clients across multiple locations and they have access to vast amounts of information regarding the broader market. Their insight can be crucial in ensuring a firm remains competitive and alive to trends, challenges and change.

Selling the client. Candidates often know very little about the vast number of law firms and options available to them. Building a strong relationship with a recruitment company provides the law firm with ambassadors for their business who are able to articulate and sell the merits of the business to the legal market and give it greater visibility. A nuanced dialogue between a recruiter and candidate about what a firm can offer will always have more life to it than any online job listing can convey.

Sourcing candidates. There are a number of alternative ways that candidates can be sourced and it is often far more difficult and time consuming for a law firm to only source through direct channels. Couple this with peaks and troughs of recruitment activity and HR teams can find themselves overwhelmed. Recruiters are talking to candidates, day-in and day-out, and whether those individuals are looking to change jobs at that exact moment or 6 months down the line, recruiters are in constant communication with the market and not just those actively looking.

The recruitment process. Recruiters can play a pivotal role in the recruitment process particularly if a candidate is considering more than one role, which is usually the case. Whether it is ensuring the process keeps pace with other jobs the candidates may be looking at, or providing help and insight in contract negotiations, the recruiter has a uniquely placed perspective on what a candidate is thinking is and what is going in in their life.

Finally, although not perfect, I would suggest that recruiters have become woven into the fabric of hiring in the legal industry. It’s certainly possible things may change in the future but for now at least any proclamations against the usefulness of recruiters are still a touch premature!

George Catt is Associate Director in the Private Practice team at EJ Legal. Email georgec@ejgroup.co.uk. Twitter @ej_legal.

The employer

Christian Browne, Summerfield Browne Solicitors

In my earlier article I described how we used LinkedIn to find staff but since then, we have developed our recruitment strategy and have found additional ways to recruit staff which complement our LinkedIn strategy. We still use LinkedIn but have chosen not to be exclusively reliant on it. In relation to this revised recruitment strategy, the two most successful routes to market for us have been a mixture of a passive form of recruiting and a proactive recruitment method.

Both of these forms of recruitment can be achieved using one of the online recruitment websites such as Indeed and UK staff search. Indeed is one of the largest recruitment websites and it has proven most effective in our experience.

Indeed enables you to post job adverts on its website (passive recruitment) and also on many other linked/ related websites automatically, which has been very useful and significantly enhances the impact and effectiveness of the advert. It allows Employers to post job vacancies for free. There is also a priority listing service but this incurs an additional charge. The site is very user friendly and it takes around 5 minutes to post an advert. The site assists the Employer to review applications by emailing you as soon as a candidate has applied for the advert. It also helps to manage candidates and to schedule interviews. The free adverts have proved very productive for us for roles such as Paralegals and Legal Executives, and we have received many applications and have been successful in recruiting staff using this strategy.

Indeed also enables Employees to post their CV’s so that prospective Employers can search the talent database (active recruitment). They have more than 3.5 million CVs added every month worldwide. Employers can define the parameters for a search down to job title, sector, location etc. and then can review candidate’s CVs, which omit their personal details. Employers can also sign up for CV Alerts to receive new CVs by email. The CVs database is free and you pay only when you are ready to contact prospective candidates. If an Employer wants to contact the candidate they can purchase a CV from as little of £1. This method has proven very successful when recruiting Solicitors with specialist areas of expertise.

Other services include recommended job, job trends, storage and search, industry trends, salary search, job competition index, and website forums. These sites are widely used by recruitment agencies. We have recruited approximately 50 per cent of our solicitors using Indeed, at a fraction of the cost charged by recruitment agencies. It would appear that conventional recruitment agencies will need to change their business model to stay competitive.

Christian Browne is Managing Director of Summerfield Browne Solicitors, commercial and private client solicitors with branches in London, Birmingham, Cambridge, Oxford, Leicester and Market Harborough. Email cbrowne@summerfieldbrowne.com. Twitter @SBsolicitors.

The job seeker

Amber Parslow, law graduate

Firstly, to explain my own role, I am a very determined and ambitious individual aspiring to become a Commercial Solicitor. In July 2017, I achieved a First Class Honours degree in Law and Criminology (LLB) from Cardiff University. After spending two months travelling the United States this summer, I began searching for my first step into the legal industry.

I began with LinkedIn, since I was familiar with the site. I actively try to engage with LinkedIn on a regular basis to develop my knowledge and understanding of the legal industry. For the process of looking for a job, I applied to various roles which I believed my skillset was best suited to. I found this particularly easy to utilise and submitted various applications, either directly on LinkedIn or by following a link to the firm’s website.

Additionally, I applied to opportunities presented to me through second connections on LinkedIn. This is where other LinkedIn users have mutual connections with you and so you can see their posts which your connections interact with. This opens the door for many more opportunities. I also met particular individuals through the site who very kindly supported me through my experience and who also introduced me to potential employers – the real power of LinkedIn.

My next actions involved using automatically generated recruitment websites which were, of course, very quick and easy to use. As with LinkedIn, these asked for a type of role and location. However, I found with such websites that the results were much wider in scope and therefore it took longer to find the roles I was really searching for. For example, I would enter “paralegal” or “legal researcher” under position and a range of legal roles would spring up including solicitor jobs – much more qualified positions. Moreover, the results showed paralegal roles but with various requirements that I did not have – there was no filtering option in relation to this. Thus, my search was more time-consuming filtering through the positions.

My main contact with specialist recruitment firms had actually been through the automatically generated websites; specialist firms would advertise using the more generic pages to advertise a role or they would reach out to me after seeing my CV online. The personal interaction I had with them definitely boosted my confidence and helped me to remain motivated in the job search. I was asked to go into some firms and we spoke about my aspirations and capabilities in order to narrow the search down accurately. This felt very encouraging particularly as they explained how they would prep me for interviews and tests. I was told that once I was shortlisted, the firm would invite me in to ensure I knew everything required to prepare me for the interview. They would also discuss the firm with me and any tests that I would need to complete would be explained and then completed at the recruitment firm’s offices. At one specialist recruitment firm, I was also videoed introducing myself to potential employers.

After speaking to friends about their perspectives, they too felt that the specialist recruiters could provide a more accurate search and friendly service in comparison to generic recruitment websites. Nevertheless, some recruiters would suddenly drop all contact with no reason explained and this often lead to disappointment and frustration.

In conclusion, although specialist recruiters can provide more human interaction, the most effective mechanism I have used has definitely been LinkedIn. It was quick, easy and simple to use and provided more responses back than any other recruiting mechanism.

I am now thrilled to announce that I have accepted a Legal Researcher role that I applied to through LinkedIn only a week prior to writing this and I am about to start work!

Email amber.parslow@icloud.com. Twitter @amberparslowlaw.

Delia Venables is joint editor of the Newsletter. Email delia@venables.co.uk. Twitter @deliavenables.

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