Give Your Law Firm an Advantage by Hiring in December

Harrison Barnes

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Summary: December is the best time to find the best candidates for your law firm. Don’t wait until the January hiring rush. Get an edge on your competition now.

  • The perception is December is not a good month to hire. That is wrong.
  • December is your best time to hire attorneys and legal staff.
  • Hiring in December gives your law firm an advantage over other legal employers.
  • The best candidates are focusing on their job search in December.
  • Another reason December is best? Because January is worst.

In December, not all of the gifts are under the tree

The low down on the slow down—two important reasons why your firm needs to speed up its hiring at year’s-end:

  1. The pool of candidates you have to choose from will never be better. By January, your competitors will all be looking for new attorneys and legal candidates. By recruiting in December (and even November) you’ll have a jump on landing the best candidates for your openings.
  2. By hiring candidates in December, you will already have new attorneys ready to start working in January when the work begins in earnest. Other law firms will just be at the beginning of their hiring processes, and they may not find the right candidate for two to three months.

Recruiting professionals will tell you they make more placements in November and December than any other time of year. So while some law firms put off recruiting and advertising their positions until the New Year, the smartest firms are planning ahead and ensuring they avoid the hiring rush and are ahead of the game. By focusing your efforts on hiring in December, you will not only give your firm an advantage in the market, but it will pay dividends in the long run.

  • By focusing on talent acquisition in December, you’ll ensure your law firm will have its new associates ready to go in January—when you’ll need them most.
  • December is when law firms are assessing their upcoming workloads. This is the time when their needs will be identified for the months ahead. As you know, the hiring process takes time—sometimes a long time—so when hiring begins in December, you’ll have your new hires on boarded and ready to power up ASAP.
  • It’s also good to note that while the January and February can bring a flood of candidates, the majority will be likely be more inexperienced than what you’re looking for or interested in moving firms for the wrong reasons. Many may be completely unqualified. On the other hand, those seeking in December, and even November, tend to be the most dedicated and earnest. The pool you’ll encounter in December will most likely be truly interested in your firm in particular and not just any firm.

The December search is good from both sides

Apart from hiring in general, lateral recruiting also gets hot in December. This is true for associates as well as those at senior- and partner-levels. Of course, if your firm is in the market for senior- or partner-level hires, you know that these positions take even longer to fill. In December, most bonuses have already been announced, and candidates will be itching to get paid and leave. This is why December is the most advantageous time to reach out to those attorneys.

Yet, law is nothing if not a tradition-bound industry. For large law firms, February to mid-April has often been thought of as the busiest hiring time. (And definitely don’t wait for the summer months.) And so the myth that hiring in December is as cold as the month itself persists—but don’t mistake its pervasiveness for its truthfulness. There is no evidence. Although February to mid-April is the period of highest activity for law firms, it doesn’t mean it’s also the best time to search for the best candidates—in fact, quite the contrary.

And even more reasons for heating up your search in December

  • Not only will your firm need to wrap things up by year’s end, in some cases you may already have jobs that have been unfilled for many months. Hiring for these openings is no mere “loose end”. This makes your recruitment actions in December all the more urgent.
  • Among all the work you may be behind on come January, the last obstacle you’ll want to face when returning to the office is a talent shortage. Without talent in place, your revenue machines won’t be firing on all cylinders. December hires mean New Year’s profitability.
  • Because work slows in December, chances are you won’t have a better time to devote the necessary time and resources into reviewing candidates and getting it right.
  • End of year also brings attrition: Among them may be those that won’t be making partner or having the futures they’d imagined, or those that received poor reviews or unsatisfactory bonuses. Don’t let your firm be unprepared for January and have to do your searching in the feeding frenzy that January and February bring. Also know that lateral hiring is at its most intense in February and March.
  • September is often the least active time of year for hiring. In October law firms are finishing up with their law school recruiting, junior associate hiring, and final decisions about which summer associates will and won’t be hired on. By the time November begins activity will have slowed considerably, making your law firm’s hiring efforts in December stand out.

Not just lawyers but paralegals too

To add even more pressure, the job opportunities for lawyers are shrinking by just under 8% from where they were 10 years before. (Lawyer employment peaked in 2007.) This could mean even a wider and hungrier pool come January. The demand for paralegals, however, may be on the rise. The BLS predicts their prospects to increase by as much as 15%. Searching for paralegals and other legal staff during December could also have enormous benefits too.

January myths

There’s a perception that hiring is pushed off by law firms until January to save money before they close the books on the old year’s budget—this on top of lowered staff levels and all of the other end-of-year business that comes due. Who wants to add the fuss of onboarding new hires to the mix? This is why law firms feel extra pressure to fill open slots before the end of the year. And when there’s work to be done, the deadlines don’t care what time of year it is, or anything else. What does matter is that law firms’ very existence depends on billable hours. If there are not enough attorneys to do that, those unfilled vacancies will be revenue killers.

Therefore, it’s not unheard of for firms to hire people during the holidays, including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. That fact that someone is hiring on New Year’s Eve is a good indication of the urgency involved.

Then there’s the possibility of losing funding for those positions that aren’t filled by the end of the year. HR, recruiters, etc. are under the gun to get candidates in and interviewed before everyone leaves for Christmas break. For this, the first weeks of December can be some of the most important hiring times of the year, especially in times when the legal job market is strong.

And, the last few years have been strong: lateral hiring has been up almost 4%.

Don’t let the December trail get cold: What to do if you don’t beat the clock

While urgency can be high, the pace can be slow.

One challenge is getting all the necessary people for making the hiring decision all together. The hiring volume may have slowed, and so have staff and resources, even though the need has increased. When people are absent from the office, it does complicate things—especially if your candidate needs to meet with several associates or partners. This is where communication technologies can save the day: Face Time, Skype, Google Meet, Meetup, Zoom, and others are great options for video interviews. By utilizing video conferences, your scheduling options open up for interviewing.

If you can’t complete the hiring process in time to beat the end-of-year deadline, the next best thing is to conduct screening interviews and stay in touch with the candidates you are interested in to keep the connections active. That way, you can at least keep them in the pipeline until the hiring committee is in the office again.

Since there are fewer job seekers and fewer resumes being sent out in December, doesn’t that mean that the pickings will be slimmer? Absolutely not. You may have fewer resumes to sort through, but the candidate pool will be much better. The field in December is more serious and committed. This is a boon to your firm and one you should definitely seize upon.

The standouts will only stand out even more—and your signal-to-noise ratio will be much better. What you’re witnessing is a golden opportunity and you’ll need the best resources for getting the most out of it. You’ll need a hiring partner, and for that HiringPartner is your go-to resource.

To find your candidates, you’ll need more than a job listing on your law firm’s Careers page or to post jobs on a few popular job boards. You’ll need a recruitment process that includes state-of-the-art applicant tracking, intuitive and integrated data management, and the finest customer support when you need it—support from an actual human. You’ll need the full-service and complete experience that only HiringPartner can provide.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in job searches and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company, LawCrossing, has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About HiringPartner

HiringPartner is a data-driven recruiting and applicant tracking system. Hiring Partner delivers the intuitive, integrated management tool you need, while maximizing your attraction of top talent through our exclusive network.

There are many job boards, applicant tracking systems, and ways to recruit law firm attorneys out there—but there is only one Hiring Partner. Hiring Partner is the most powerful legal recruiting tool ever for law firms. In other words, Hiring Partner is not just an organizational tool, but also a talent magnet. For more information, please visit https://www.hiringpartner.com/