Strategies for strengthening recruiting as competition heats up

By Julie Linehan
BridgeTower Media

Law firms are feeling the effects of today’s talent shortage.

More than three in 10 lawyers (31 percent) surveyed by Robert Half Legal said recently recruiting highly skilled legal professionals is the greatest practice management challenge facing their firms. Caseload or workflow management ranked second, at 19 percent of those surveyed.

According to our research, practice areas spurring the most legal job growth are litigation and data privacy.

Among the key factors driving demand:

Litigation. The number of civil lawsuits filed in state and federal courts is increasing focus and enforcement of regulations. In addition, caseloads related to insurance defense and employment law are rising, and there is heightened demand for litigation experts to minimize litigation risk.

Data privacy. Law firms and companies need legal experts to help develop or strengthen proactive risk management programs to protect against increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

New and expanding security and privacy regulations are also driving demand.

Corporate transactional law. There are many subsets, such as finance, franchise, real estate and technology transactions, and the area has become a high demand practice area in recent years. Beyond candidates with specialized practice area expertise, law firms can benefit from candidates with vertical market experience in fields such as financial services, technology, health care and pharmaceuticals.

As competition for legal professionals with specialized expertise increases, there are strategies firms can turn to, to strengthen recruiting:

Showcase corporate culture. A negative workplace is a deal breaker for many job seekers, so it’s important to emphasize the positive attributes of your office environment.

Promote professional development. Highlight mentorship and training programs that help employees hone critical skills and prepare for future leadership roles.

Offer perks that matter. Work-life balance is top of mind for many job seekers. Promoting benefits such as flex time, telecommuting, on-site amenities and paid time off for volunteer or pro bono activities can attract top legal talent.

Amp up staffing options. Engage legal professionals on a project or consulting basis to ease caseloads, access specialized skills, and evaluate candidates for full-time positions
Deepen the talent pool. Tap current employees, professional networks, and specialized recruiters to obtain candidate referrals and expedite hiring.

Be willing to bend. Employers are challenged to find highly skilled legal professionals who meet all the requirements for an open position. To boost recruiting efforts, adjust your criteria to focus on the essential skills for success and emphasize on-the-job training.

Along with recruiting top professionals, law firms have another important task: keeping their current talent.

The first step is to do your research. Understand employees’ top reasons for staying with the firm. Those reasons could be compensation, flexibility, challenging and meaningful work assignments and/or professional development opportunities.

Other ways to retain top talent:

Provide career advancement opportunities. Structure positions so employees can grow careers without leaving the organization. Look first to existing staff when filling vacant positions. Internal promotions create additional advancement opportunities for staff, and they boost morale and retention.

Provide project support. If hiring isn’t an option, bring in temporary or project professionals to help reduce workloads on overburdened full-time staff.

Keep salaries competitive. If you can’t increase salaries, consider awarding spot bonuses at the end of a major project or team accomplishment, or increase performance-based bonuses with annual reviews.

Making sure to find the perfect fit — not only for the position but for the firm — is essential in hiring and retaining top talent.


Julie Linehan is a vice president and division director with Robert Half Legal’s Boston office. Her legal recruiting experience includes both temporary and direct-hire staffing. Contact her at


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