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Law Practice Magazine


The Thriving Lawyer: How to Turn a Great Culture Into an Effective Recruiting Tool

Anne Elizabeth Collier


  • Let’s assume that your firm has a great culture—it produces excellent work and the culture supports wellness. How do you turn your culture into an effective recruiting tool?
The Thriving Lawyer: How to Turn a Great Culture Into an Effective Recruiting Tool

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To say that recruiting is a challenge is an understatement. From Manhattan to Montana, firms struggle to find excellent people at every level. It’s not just a question of money. It’s a seller’s market, or at least it has been until recent fears about a recession have surfaced. Regardless of the economy, firms may struggle with attracting and hiring people who are a fit. The stress of the pandemic amplified this challenge. People are less tolerant of recruiting missteps. Further, pandemic burnout accelerated the trend toward prioritizing culture and wellness in career choices.

In “How to Solve the Performance-Wellness Conundrum,” I made the case that high performance and true wellness can coexist if you get the culture right. People want to work at firms with a healthy culture and where their life works. They leave firms with terrible cultures, and while they may also leave for better compensation, anyone who has exited a truly toxic culture will confirm that the compensation wasn’t worth the suffering.

Consider the effect of lackluster recruiting on the people who pick up the slack as they wait for the firm to hire, and then wait for the hire to onboard and get up to speed. Preexisting team members can become stressed and exhausted, which damages their own wellness and the firm’s culture. Add to that the cost of replacing a lawyer or staff member when it doesn’t work out, and successful recruiting is critical to every firm’s performance, wellness and culture.

Let’s assume that your firm has a great culture—it is producing excellent work and the culture supports wellness. How do you turn your culture into an effective recruiting tool?

The answer is in your thinking: You need to think like a marketing and sales executive and then manage the process accordingly. It’s simple; ask yourself: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” You get the point. If your potential candidates don’t know of your firm or that it has a great culture, your firm won’t attract the best candidates. You need to raise your firm’s profile.

How To Market Your Firm To Prospective Recruits And Clients

Yes, you read that correctly: Marketing your firm to prospective recruits will also attract clients. When you raise the firm’s profile, you raise it for everyone. Here’s how.

  1. Raise name recognition by promoting your brand. Firms, does your market for talent know about you? If not, ask yourself, “Why not?” Are you a small firm in New York or a medium-sized firm in the Midwest? Identify what makes your firm unique, such as a niche practice, your values and current talent. Get out there by presenting, writing and being involved. Become known.
  2. Take advantage of savvy digital marketing. Now that you’ve identified your firm’s brand, it’s time to get the word out via digital marketing. Promote your brand and your firm’s authentic personality and culture via a structured and consistent social media marketing campaign.
  3. Celebrate partners, associates and staff. If you want talent to consider your firm, they must see themselves at your firm. Present the human side of the firm by celebrating accomplishments, anniversaries and profiles. Share how people show up as the hero for colleagues and clients. Talent will see your firm as a collection of interesting people, rather than a faceless institution or just another firm. You also demonstrate that people are essential—signaling a great culture.
  4. Engage colleagues in promoting the firm. Asking lawyers and staff to follow and promote the firm’s accomplishments widens the firm’s reach and shows that people are positive about the firm—another effective yet subtle way of marketing the culture.
  5. Pay attention to numbers. Evaluate which social media posts—including those written by partners, associates and staff—do best. What are people interested in? Do more of that.

Get to Yes

You’ve got an interested candidate, so now what? You must ensure that your recruiting process signals that the firm does indeed have a great culture.

  1. Be clear about what you want and what you are willing to train on. To maximize the likelihood of a great fit and minimize the cost and pain of a misfit, clarify your expectations for a position. Partners don’t always agree, so don’t assume alignment concerning acceptable skill set or experience level. Be specific.
  2. Outline the process. People can be quite stressed about the job-hunting process. They often obsess over whether to reach out to the firm with questions. Is an email appropriate? Is it too soon? Will they think I am desperate? It’s like dating. Be kind by explicitly describing next steps and time frames.
  3. Get back to candidates quickly. Nobody likes being ghosted. You want candidates to feel valued, not that they are an afterthought. Follow up as promised or sooner.
  4. Anticipate and address issues. If there is an elephant in the room, address it. People interviewing for jobs sometimes hold back, afraid that questions about vacation or personal time signal a lack of commitment. Sharing this information during the interview reinforces a culture of candor and wellness.
  5. Be honest about expectations. It’s OK to say that the firm’s lawyers and staff work hard, but be specific. Don’t unintentionally cause a candidate’s imagination to run wild with fears of 100-hour workweeks. Clarify expectations about vacations and availability on weekends and off-hours. The more specific you are, the more aligned you and the candidate will be on expectations. Encourage the candidate to express concerns so that you can work them out before they result in failure to recruit or become a problem.
  6. Be curious about the candidate’s goals. Finding a candidate who is truly a fit means that the firm is a fit for the candidate. Develop a genuine understanding of the candidate’s goals during the interview and determine how the firm could support the candidate in becoming the hero of their own story.

A firm’s culture is critical to performance, wellness, recruiting and retention—the last being the subject of the next article in this three-part series. None of this is hard; it just requires thoughtful focus and trust in the process. Just remember, if you’ve got it, flaunt it!