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Strategic, defined hiring process will net diverse candidates

By Jennifer Brown, Senior Editor

Whether you’re looking to hire a hotshot rainmaker or add staff to boost expertise in a particular area, recruiting requires a multifaceted approach, says Catherine Moffitt, an associate with legal practice management specialists Cosgrove Associates.

“Overall, I’m finding recruiting much more challenging. You have to open it up to many more options. You can’t just place an ad in the Ontario Reports or post something to The Law Office Management Association,” Moffitt tells

Law firms should also be looking to hire more strategically and consider candidates they may not have looked at before.

“In this day and age, firms are moving toward hiring for diversity,” says Moffitt. “Because law firms are such conservative groups of people, I think it is a growing trend for them to look for people with new ideas who can collaborate, are more tech-savvy, and have international experience.”

While firms have traditionally focused on looking at what school a candidate graduated from and their academic performance, those are no longer the only factors hiring managers should be considering when bringing on new talent.

“They need to go through a more strategic, defined hiring process to be successful,” says Moffitt. “Often they put the word out to other lawyers, but that word of mouth means they are choosing from a pool of people who are like-minded and that could be deemed as discrimination.

“If they are looking for fresh ideas, they should be using other options such as social media, posting on their own websites, law school career centres or paralegal/law clerk schools and targeted legal recruiters.”

Moffitt says it is also essential to create a detailed job description including specifics on what the job entails and the culture of the law firm in order to attract the right talent and eliminate those who are not qualified for the position.

“The important first step is to really define the job description and core competencies you are looking for,” says Moffitt. “Do you want someone who is good with teamwork, has leadership qualities or specific technical abilities? Define that first and keep it consistent through the process.”

For example, if you’re looking for a litigation assistant, define what specific areas of litigation that the candidate should have experience in and describe what they will do in the role.

“Being more targeted about your work product is very important. Many ads don’t include information such as the need to draft documents. Legal assistants don’t generally draft documents, because that’s more of a law clerk’s skill level, but if that is what they want the assistant to do, they need to be specific.”

Other options for finding candidates include law association job boards, online job search engines such as Indeed and Workopolis, which are increasingly being used by firms to find legal professionals. Moffitt says placing ads with local news platforms is also a good alternative as people are moving outside large urban centres and want a shorter commute closer to home.

Some law firms are also moving to blind screening to avoid discrimination and unconscious bias by focusing on what the prospective candidate’s skills and attributes are rather than the name on the resume.

“I think that is a move in the right direction as well,” says Moffitt.

Lawyers and human resource staff may also require some coaching on how to conduct interviews because it’s not just about how you seek out a new candidate but also putting in the time up front to thoroughly review a candidate.

“We’ve had situations where there is no testing done on candidates — they are relying on what their résumé says and they bring them in and have a conversation but realize after three months on the job that they can’t do the work at all — they may not have the right skills or are not the right fit,” says Moffitt.

Often it comes down to personality and trainability — something you will discover in an interview.

“If you have the time to train people sometimes it’s more about the personality. Are they trainable, do they fit with everybody and have a proactive personality?” she says.

In addition to carefully interviewing candidates, Moffitt suggests asking them to do a written assignment to summarize material or provide a video on how they would respond to a client’s particular issue.

“Develop your own tests for your specific practice areas based on things you do around spelling, grammar, even ask them to do few dictations, and always be sure to check their references,” she says.

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