Finding Your Ideal Law Firm Culture

You spend a LOT of time at work, and while much of your job satisfaction comes from the actual work you do, a large part of it also come from the work culture you’re in. The term “culture fit” gets tossed around as one of the most important factors for both job seekers and employers. But, what does culture fit actually mean? How can you evaluate a law firm’s culture?

Finding Your Ideal Law Firm Culture

For clarification, a healthy law firm culture isn’t about everyone getting along, hanging out on the weekends together, sharing the same interests, or working exactly the same way. Studies have actually shown that the variant perspectives derived from social, racial, and gender diversity, lead to more innovation, better problem-solving, and an improved bottom-line. So a healthy culture isn’t about sameness, but rather about operating from a shared set of values. For example, one law firm may have values of being results-oriented, compassionate, and client-focused, while another values employees who are detail-oriented, respectful, and have fun.

While there is no foolproof way to determine with certainty during the interview process that a potential partnership between an employee and a law firm will work well, our tips below are a good start for evaluating culture fit during the interview process.

What Do You Read?

Before the interview, do a little online research on the law firm to learn more about their values and personality:

  • Are you able to find the values, vision, and/or mission of the law firm on their website? If so, do they align with your own values and vision for your work?
  • What kind of tone does the website use—is it factual and to the point, or more friendly and casual?
  • On their careers page, what words do they use to describe their employees or team? What benefits or perks does the page highlight?
  • Do they promote press about themselves? What do these articles say about the firm?
  • Look at the leadership page and read the bios if they are there. How does what’s highlighted in these bios reveal the law firm’s values?
  • Can you find videos created by the firm? Does the firm have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram? What do these other channels reveal about the law firm’s culture and values?
  • Do they mention pro bono work or charitable efforts? Is this important to you?
  • Look for online reviews from employees and clients. Take these with a grain of salt—the majority of online reviews are complaints, not compliments—but take notice of any patterns in the reviews. If something really jumps out as a potential red flag, prepare to address it before accepting or declining an offer.

Keep in mind, what you see online might not be the whole truth. What a firm claims on their website might not actually exist in the real world and an online review from a disgruntled employee doesn’t reveal the whole story. Still, this online research is a good starting point for developing questions to ask in the interview, observations you’d like to make, and ultimately assessing if the law firm is a good fit for you.

What Do You See?

As you enter a potential future work environment, be ready to take notice of specific choices made by the law firm about the space:

  • Is it an open office set up, or more of an office environment?
  • Is it buzzing with activity, or relatively quiet.
  • Are there private meeting spaces and/or soft furniture areas designed for collaboration?
  • Does the decor give a sense of the culture of the place—are wall decorations inspirational, fun, or traditional?
  • What is the lobby like—bright colored, modern, muted, or dated?
  • Are employees dressed casually in jeans or in traditional business attire?
  • Is there a shared eating area? How is it laid out and furnished?

Set your observations aside as you begin your interview, but plan on assessing them later. Maybe you know that you work better in quiet privacy or that having a nice place to take a break during your day makes you more productive. These environmental things might not seem like they reflect a companies values, but they are usually related. For example, an open office set up is more common at a law firm that values collaboration while as enclosed offices imply that privacy is more highly-valued. The work environment is not the most important aspect of a job, but it is worth considering before accepting a job offer.

What Do You Hear?

Some aspects of culture can easily be discussed in an interview and you should come prepared to ask questions that help you understand the culture of the law firm:

  • How are decisions usually made and communicated at this law firm?
  • What motivates people to stay at this firm long-term?
  • What challenges is the law firm facing and how will those challenges be addressed?
  • What do successful employees look like at this firm?
  • What is the leadership style here?
  • What’s your favorite aspect of working at the law firm?
  • How do you feel the values of the organization are lived out?

In addition to these specific questions, you can understand more about the law firm’s culture by evaluating the questions your interviewer asks you, their interview style, and the things they share with you about the job. There aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers to these questions—what might be a nightmare culture for one person could be an ideal culture for another. Notice if any parts of the conversation raise alarms for you, or conversely, sound highly appealing.

Whether you’ve been burned by a poor culture fit in the past, have had such a good fit you hardly know what we’re talking about, or are somewhere in between, we firmly believe you’ll be your most productive and happiest self when you’re working for a law firm that’s the right culture fit for you. We love helping technologists, litigation support professionals, and attorneys understand what they’re looking for when it comes to law firm culture.

Chat with one of our recruiters today!

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ESP Legal Releases 2018 Salary Guide

Our 2018 salary guides present data gathered and analyzed from law firms ranging from small law firms with 20 – 30 attorneys to large international firms. Our data includes salaries from ESP’s recent placements, as well as national and local research.

Demand for Tech Staff at Law Firms Grows

In 2017, we saw an increase in the demand for technology staff in the legal marketplace, continuing the upward trend in IT recruitment and hiring. This trend is likely to continue, with 70% of CIOs planning to increase their technology workforce in 2018 according to the Society for Information Management’s 2017 study. Among our clients, the demand seemed strongest for System and Network Engineers, Trainers, Applications Software Analysts and Desktop Engineering roles. Also noteworthy was the need for Help Desk Support and Security Engineers with security concerns continuing to grow for law firms.

A Tight Market for Attorneys

For attorney hiring, the candidate market is the tightest it’s been since 2006. Some reports show an unemployment rate for educated legal professionals (at all levels) under one percent. Our clients have been reaching out to us more quickly when a need arises and have been working hard to streamline their hiring process and provide timely feedback to secure the best candidates.

Work-Life Balance and Benefits Are More Important Than Ever

Candidates continue to express higher interest in better work-life balance, including having the option to work remotely at least part time. Additionally, affordable medical benefits are often a strong factor for candidates when choosing between offers and clearly defined career paths remain important. To attract and retain top talent you may need to focus on adding to your offerings or highlighting those you have in the recruitment and interview process.

With over twenty-two years of legal staffing expertise, ESP Legal continues to monitor and analyze hiring trends, including compensation and benefits in this rapidly changing economy in order to best serve you.

View Legal Technology Salary Guide 

View Attorney Salary Guide

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Our Top 7 Recommendations To Help You Hire And Retain Legal Professionals

Tips for hiring and retaining legal pros in 2018As you plan for the year ahead you might be aiming to make your hiring process more efficient, hoping to implement new employee retention initiatives, or analyzing your upcoming projects to identify your hiring needs. Whatever particular challenges you might be facing, 2018 is brimming with opportunities, and our team of experts at ESP Legal has put together these recommendations so you’ll be primed to take advantage of them.

Our Best Advice for Law Firm Hiring Managers in 2018:

1. Make or Promote A Remote Work Policy:

To recruit and maintain the best possible legal talent, make 2018 the year you evaluate your remote work policies. One of the major factors considered by candidates looking to make a career change is their ability to do their work remotely, either regularly or occasionally. If you already have a flexible policy, promote it with prospective hires. If you don’t, consider offering it as a perk to your new hires after they’ve proven themselves and as a reward to employees you are looking to retain. While not all positions allow for frequent remote work, with a structure in place to measure performance, many roles can be successfully executed through telecommuting.

2. Know the Legal Hiring Market:

It’s tight. Unemployment for educated legal professionals and technologists with legal experience is exceptionally low. If you’re looking to hire in the new year, it’s essential that you make yourself aware of what’s realistic to expect from both a skill set and compensation standpoint and draw up your job requirements accordingly.

3. Give Feedback:

If you’re working with a staffing firm, providing feedback in a timely manner is essential. It will help you get the best fit possible by helping your recruiter address concerns, adjust search efforts, and keep your favorite candidate warm while you work through your process. If you’re not working with a firm, feedback is just as important. Acknowledging a thank you note or informing a candidate of your next steps can keep them from losing interest or developing negative feelings about you or your firm.

4. Research Compensation:

The Association of Legal Administrators and the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) are great resources for detailed compensation guidelines, and ESP Legal also publishes a free annual salary guide for technology, litigation support, and attorney compensation trends. If you are not able to offer a competitive salary as compared to your peers, think strategically about how you can offset this with better benefits, opportunity to grow and learn, and some flexibility in work schedule, and be prepared to sell these advantages to prospective hires.

5. Share Medical Benefits During the Process:

The cost of medical coverage can vary drastically from one firm to the next and can be a big factor for job seekers. If you’re working with a recruitment firm, share medical cost information with your recruiters. We have seen far too many candidates turn down an offer at the last minute because they’ve realized their out of pocket medical expense combined with the salary offered resulted in a decrease in their total compensation. By providing these medical costs in advance, or at least during negotiations, you’ll save yourself time and get the candidate you want.

6. Outsource your Hiring:

We know this may sound self-serving, but many of our clients historically hadn’t used recruiters before 2017 or tried to fill a position without help before sending it to us first, and after working with us have shared their regrets over the time they wasted. By engaging a trusted recruitment firm immediately when a need arises, you’ll get a great candidate on board fast, and minimize effort on your part.

7. Interview Efficiently:

In every area of legal hiring, candidates are in high demand and usually have several irons in the fire. When there are delays in the process, your internal hiring team can become forgetful or distracted and worse, your top candidate may lose interest in you or accept another opportunity before you’ve even prepared to make an offer. Line up all your qualified candidates and interview them in blocks of time over a few days or a week vs. one by one over several weeks. Then schedule internal debriefs with your team so you can compare candidates and make an offer to your top choice as soon as possible. Streamlining and expediting your interview process in these ways can help you make the best hire.

If you’re a hiring manager or department head at a law firm, we hope these recommendations have given you some good ideas and will help make 2018 your most successful year yet. If you’re looking for more personalized advice, our account managers would be thrilled to discuss your unique challenges and help you find the best solutions.

Get in touch

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The Costs of Hiring and Not Hiring Legal IT Pros

What it costs to hire IT for law firmsAs you’re well aware, the process of hiring a new legal tech employee can be strenuous. The hours and effort put into finding a replacement can wear you out. However, there is another burden that is quite literally more costly. It can essentially be broken down into two parts: the cost of being without an employee and the cost of hiring. Although some employee turnover can’t be helped, it is very expensive, so it is important that your action plan for bringing a new employee on board is as cost effective as possible.

It generally costs 2-3 times the average salary of the role you want to fill to hire someone new. With that much on the line, how do you make the most of your time and money while trying to make the right choice?

The Financial Impact of Being Without an Employee

More often than not, law firms are overly concerned with hiring the “perfect” employee. They are passing over the smart, capable legal tech candidates one after another, because they may initially be lacking a certain skill, that often, could be quickly learned. Meanwhile they are losing money the longer they go without someone in that critical role.

Costs to consider:

  • The cost of the person(s) who fills in while the position is vacant, or the employee that steps up to perform that vacant job and has to work overtime.
  • The cost of lost productivity. If that position is completely vacant that’s 100% productivity lost for as long as you’re without someone.

Keep in mind, that while most roles are critical to some degree, when you’re looking for a c-level hire like a CIO or CTO, the cost of being without that individual is even higher. This person sets the direction for your information technology department and must be aligned to your other departments as well. Getting the right person on board, is extra important, but being without for too long could do damage to your law firm.

Sometimes hiring someone with potential makes better sense than waiting for unattainable perfection.

The Cost of the Hiring Process

Law firms can’t afford hiring mistakes, and the time it takes to sort through resumes, set up interviews, conduct phone and in-person interviews, and wait for HR to approve the person can be just as costly. There have been several articles recently discussing the ‘good investment’ of hiring a staffing firm to help with your search. Not only can a recruitment firm do the legwork (so you can stay focused on your workload and priorities), they also may be better connected to the legal technology professionals you want to work with and they’ll go after passive candidates, something you’re unlikely to have the time to do on your own.

For a c-level or director-level opening, a retained search may be your best option. You can get dedicated efforts from seasoned executive recruiters, specialized in the legal technology niche. Your firm should do the searching, selection, and background checks for you, so you’re only meeting the best qualified candidates from both a culture fit and technical perspective.

While some aspects of the hiring process can’t be helped, you can control the amount of time you invest in the hiring process by making a good investment in a staffing firm and being willing to recognize good talent when they walk through the door.

Learn more about our:

Retained IT Executive Search Services

Legal Technology Staffing Services

Litigation Support Staffing Services

Attorney Staffing Services

 

Note: this article was originally published in 2013. It has been updated to reflect current market trends and practices. 

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