The lateral attorney market is hotter than ever and, despite offering huge salaries and bonuses plus sometimes almost astronomical signing bonuses, legal employers scramble to fill their openings. Dollar numbers are easy for competitors to match or outmatch; therefore, that strategy provides no real advantage.
Organizations must find other ways to differentiate themselves to both recruit and retain lawyers and staff. This is especially important for in-house legal departments or mid-sized and smaller firms which cannot compete with Biglaw on the basis of money. The question is how?
The answer is within.
Every organization has a treasure trove of information embedded in its current cohort of workers, and especially among its recent lateral hires. Stay interviews, informal one-on-one conversations with all team members, can reveal why members of your workforce like working at your firm. Targeted follow-up sessions with your lateral hires can reveal even more, including why they chose to join your firm and what worked and didn’t work during the recruiting and onboarding processes. You might even discover some unexpected factors affecting engagement.
You can use information gleaned from these internal interviews to craft a recruiting message that lets candidates and prospects know, specifically, what differentiates your organization from others. Moreover, you can learn how to communicate those differences most effectively to candidates, outside recruiting consultants, and the marketplace generally. Added benefits are that you can make any changes highlighted in these interviews to keep your team on board plus, by demonstrating that you value their feedback, you can further cement retention.
Ask your laterals about their experiences with your firm during the recruitment process, onboarding, and life at the firm thereafter. Listen with an open mind and emphasize that candid, constructive criticism is exactly what you want to hear.
Some questions to get the conversation started:
- Why did the lateral choose your firm over others they considered?
- What worked/didn’t during the recruitment process?
- What can be improved during recruitment?
- What did other firms the lateral considered do better?
- What were their priorities when interviewing, and were they addressed?
- What were their concerns about your firm before joining, and were they addressed?
- Where did the firm exceed their expectations?
- Did the firm clearly communicate its USP (Unique Selling Proposition—how and why it is different from other organizations)? If not, how can that communication be improved?
During onboarding and after:
- What was most valuable to the lateral during onboarding?
- What information or experiences did the lateral wish the firm had provided? What was unnecessary? What else should be provided?
- What needs improvement?
- Where did firm exceed their expectations?
- Are the expectations established during the recruitment process being met?
- If not, where is the disconnect?
- Are they getting the marketing, business development, training, administrative, and technical support they need?
- What did their previous firm(s) do better, and how?
- How would they describe the firm culture?
- What makes this firm different from their previous firm(s) and other firms they considered during their search?
- What do they like best about working at your firm? Least?
- What would they tell others about why they should join this firm?
Once you’ve gathered and synthesized the information, use it.
First, do your best to address any negative feedback you received to improve your recruitment and onboarding processes. You can even turn any negatives into positives by promoting your organization’s openness and responsiveness to the opinions of people at all levels of your workforce and your flexibility and willingness to improve.
Second, use the valuable information you learned to hone your recruiting message. Distill the feedback into a clear statement or checklist of what differentiates your organization from the rest of the legal marketplace. You can’t be all things to all people, so figure out who you are and the type of candidates who would appreciate and thrive in that environment.
Then, share this information broadly. Tell your inside and outside recruiters specifically why prospects should join your firm over any other. Make sure your message is clearly reflected on your website and social media posts and in your recruitment and onboarding materials.
You’ve got the secret to successful recruiting within your reach. Candid feedback from your lateral hires is a gift. Listen and learn.