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Job candidates want to know what sets a law firm apart

When law firms are looking to hire top talent, it can be as much a sales exercise as it is a recruitment process, Toronto legal management consultant Mark Dormer tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Not only do you have to find the right people, but you also need to attract and retain them. Firms have to sell themselves in a changing environment, where the talent pool is getting smaller as lawyers go in-house, work abroad or leave the practice altogether,” he says. "Of those who remain in private practice, lawyers who have strong client and business development skills are even more rare and hard to find."

These changes can make it more challenging to find the right candidate, says Dormer, owner and president of Cosgrove Associates Inc., a company which teams up with firms in their talent search to keep their business plan on track.

Additionally, he says litigators — particularly in family law — can be more challenging to find than corporate or more transactional areas of law.  

"The practice of law is stressful in and of itself. There are many moving parts, and so much attention to detail required. However, when you start getting involved in the human aspects of family law litigation, it can compound that stress,” Dormer says.

He says while placing a job ad in Ontario Reports is a tried and true way of attracting candidates, firms should not overlook the power of networking.

“Whether it’s through social media channels like LinkedIn or letting colleagues know your firm is hiring, people sometimes forget that word of mouth can be a strong way to find great candidates.”

Once a firm is at the interviewing stage, it’s no longer adequate to just screen applicants based on grades and experience, Dormer says.

“You have to sell the firm to prospective hires,” he says. “Candidates want to know what sets the firm apart, what kind of career path they can have, what kind of work they will do, and is there flexibility in terms of work hours, etc.”

Dormer notes that “fit” works both ways — as much as a firm is assessing whether a candidate is the right person for the role, the job seeker also wants to know more about the environment and culture of the firm.

He says this is especially true for younger lawyers.

"I think it's true to a certain point that younger lawyers are not as motivated by long hours and high pay any more,” Dormer says. “They're often more interested in a flexible work attitude where they can build their careers and become invested in the firm.”

It’s equally important to deliver on these value propositions after the candidate has been hired, he notes.

“Once the person is hired, a firm has to make good on its claims. You have to walk the walk," Dormer adds.

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