The position of in-house counsel for your company carries weighty responsibilities, which makes finding the right individual extremely important. Legal recruiting can be challenging for a company since most law departments are not in constant need of new talent and the legal recruitment process typically commences from a cold-start. Add the time constraints from internal corporate clients of finding the perfect match and you can be faced with a potentially frustrating endeavor.
One of the greatest challenges for hiring managers is working with a limited or non-existent candidate pool. Nonetheless, with the relentless ticking of the clock, managers must develop and execute a stringent and thorough hiring process to ensure the vital role of in-house counsel is filled by the most qualified lawyer.
Failure to hire in-house counsel who is the best fit could result in legal issues, lost competitive ground, a jeopardized brand reputation, wasted time and lost money. If you ever find yourself responsible for recruiting in-house counsel for your company, here are some tips on how to succeed in fewer than 100 days.
Set a Timeline and Realistic Goals
Budget each phase of the hiring process to fit within a 100-day schedule. Set deadlines for each phase, including a resume acceptance cut-off date, a review period and a block of time for interviews. Make certain the goals you set for your hiring process are realistic, meaning they can be obtained given your current workload and time constraints.
Know Your Ideal Candidate
Develop and refine the ideal candidate profile by involving key executives. They many not have time to engage with all phases of hiring, but they can help to refine a list of essential characteristics.
Determine the Most Attractive Way to Present the Opportunity
One of the biggest mistakes made when trying to attract top talent is spending too much time discussing the job specification, rather than the short and long term opportunity at hand. In order to attract the very best talent, you need to concentrate on what makes the opportunity great. This should include the short and long term potential career path, the impact the individual can make on the law department and company, the management team which the candidate will be working with as well as the selling points of the company and its prospects for the future.
Look Outside the Usual Suspects
Attend relevant conferences and be mindful of the speakers and keynotes, as they may be the rising talent you’re seeking. Leverage your network by sourcing outside counsel and other acquaintances who could potentially know a lawyer with the exact skills you seek. Consider looking in other states or industries for promising candidates who may have ties to your area. Don’t forget, the best candidates are often those already gainfully employed. Be sure to reach out directly to passive candidates and consider internal talent in addition to all others.
Hiring managers must be amiable but direct during interviews to execute a deep assessment of each qualified candidate while remaining conscious of time. To do this, you will need to know exactly what questions you need to ask, how to ask them and how to interpret the answers to gauge character, skill and experience. Don’t hesitate to define compensation expectations early on and be sure to interview for behavioral traits in addition to skills and experience, as compatibility with company culture is equally important.
Consider Enlisting the Help of a Legal Recruiting Firm
A legal recruiting firm with experience assessing in-house counsel candidates will have the relationships and industry expertise necessary to quickly find the right individual for your company. Hard-pressed by years of practice, top legal recruiting firms are already familiar with many of the lawyers you want to consider, are skilled at how to approach them, and assessing if they are a good fit for your company.
The best firms also provide consulting throughout the entire process, which is vital when filling a position as important as in-house counsel.
To learn more about how to assess legal candidates and ask the right questions, download our guide, “8 Ways to Evaluate Legal and Compliance Candidates.”