How to Snag Top Legal Tech Talent in a Tight Market

Tips to snag top legal tech talent in a tight market

Hiring the best talent is critical to a law firm’s success, and because technology and security are more important than ever in the legal industry, finding top IT talent to support your attorneys and staff is an imperative part of that hiring equation.

The thing is . . . you’re not the only firm looking to find a great fit for a legal tech role. According to a recent survey, approximately 50% of firms and legal departments may be looking to do the same. But that doesn’t mean you should settle for a mediocre IT candidate. These three steps can help guide you along the path to finding the legal tech talent you need—even in a tight market.

Step 1: Plan with Your Ideal Candidate in Mind

If you start your search for a new tech candidate with low expectations, you may just get what you planned for. Instead, set the bar high by investing thoughtful, strategic time in dreaming up your ideal fit. Clearly define the role and craft a detailed working description of the job or contract position. Identify what the person should accomplish in his or her first 90, 180, and 365 days working for your firm. Then, present this to your stakeholders for input on their needs and make any necessary adjustments.

And don’t forget to consider soft skills and other qualifications you won’t necessarily see highlighted on a technical resume. For instance, what kind of person would fit in best with your firm’s culture—both in terms of similarities and perhaps needed differences that would bring your team a more diverse set of skills and experiences?

Once you know who you’re looking for, determine what your firm has to offer that person. Consider things such as:

  • What differentiates your company?
  • What salary budget range do you have to work with?
  • What benefits do you have to offer (think: healthcare, health savings accounts, short-term disability, life insurance, profit sharing, retirement plan contributions)?
  • Are those benefits competitive with the market today?
  • What soft perks might you be able or willing to negotiate (think: flex time, remote work, paid training or other further education, and in-office perks)?

Rather than feeling intimidated by the tight legal tech job market, remember that your firm has a lot to offer—and don’t forget to highlight those things during steps 2 and 3!

Step 2: Recruit Tech Talent with Determination

You’ve got the who and what down. Now the question is: where will you find this legal IT pro of your dreams?

When it comes to hiring top talent in a tight market, you have to put in more work at this stage than simply posting the opening on your website and job boards. Keeping in mind the ideal candidate you dreamed up during step 1, consider where you may find this person. Are there certain alumni networks, other firms, or events that he or she may be a part of? You could do the hard work of scoping out these options and doing some recruiting work yourself, or you may consider reaching out to an industry-specific staffing firm and sharing these insights so an account manager can start scoping out your market for you.

Whichever option you choose, your recruitment strategy should also include networking and relevant promotion of the opportunity. You may consider posting the opening on industry-specific job boards such as ILTA or ALA, or simply searching those boards for creative leads on your next great hire.

Finally, involve others at your firm in the recruitment and hiring process, and make it clear to candidates that they may interview with HR representatives, the hiring manager, coworkers, stakeholders, and firm partners. Candidates in today’s market want to know that they are a cohesive part of your team, and being clear on this upfront with both candidates and your team internally is a win-win.

Step 3: Be Choosy in Your Selection and Competitive in Your Offer

Though you should have a clear timeline for the interview and hiring process (both internally and one that you can communicate to candidates), as with step 1, keep your expectations high and only screen and interview IT pros who have the skills required to help your firm succeed. Then, once you’ve narrowed the pool a bit, consider the culture fit and soft skill criteria you identified in step 1, and seek alignment by utilizing third party personality profile testing tools such as DiSC, Predictive Index, CliftonStrengths, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Make sure each of your prospective candidates feels appreciated and respected throughout the interviewing process. Remember: while you’re the one doing the interviewing, your interviewees will likely be assessing your firm as well and weighing all of their options given the hot job market. So, it’s important that you are transparent about the interviewing and onboarding processes and your workplace environment, that you’re clear about the kind of professional experience you’re looking for, and that you recognize top tech talent for their skills and accomplishments.

Finally, when you’re ready to make an offer to a candidate, be competitive. Though money isn’t everything, put forth a salary and bonus potential that is, at minimum, fair and in accordance with industry standards. And don’t overlook the importance of nontraditional benefits, especially if you’re not able to meet the preferred salary of your top candidate. Consider whether you can sweeten some of your work-life balance perks (the number one concern of candidates in the market today) from what you originally proposed. Or maybe throw in a more unique and surprising perk, such as pet insurance (one in three Fortune 500 companies now offer this) to stand out from other firms.

Your last step of the search for a great legal IT pro should be to conduct a background check as permitted by law. After all, you’ve made it this far—you and your new hire should both be able to enter into the working arrangement with total confidence.

 

Though the market for legal tech talent is tight, your firm is not without options. With the right planning, preparation, and recruitment strategy, and a smooth interviewing and hiring process, you can fill your empty seat quickly and ensure your firm stays innovative and competitive in an increasingly technical legal environment.

If you’d like to streamline your search for the ideal legal tech candidate and receive additional market and industry hiring insights, our ESP Legal account managers are always happy to help.

Start Your Hiring Search Today

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How to Make a Great Career Move in a Hot Legal Tech Job Market

Make the right legal tech career moveGreat news for IT pros working in the legal industry: you’re more in demand than ever before. An estimated 75% of companies are planning to increase the number of full-time IT employees on their teams in 2019. And one recent survey revealed more than 50% of firms and legal departments plan to increase their investment in technology in the coming years.

The hot legal tech job market not only means increased job security and higher pay—it also means now is the ideal time to make a move that advances your career. The following five steps will help you leverage your skills and expertise to land your next great fit.

Step 1: Develop a Strategy

Despite the hot job market, when seeking a new opportunity, you still need to do the due diligence required of any job search. Start with an honest assessment of your IT skills: evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and your favorite and least favorite facets of your current role. Then consider how you would like to advance and grow professionally.

Once you’ve honed in on what you’d like to do, consider where you’d like to be doing it. Conduct research to get a sense of the firms you might work for and their reputation in the legal industry. Determine the kind of workplace culture you’re looking for, and see if any of the firms you researched align with your ideal.

Finally, address the how of your job search. Do you have any professional connections at the firms that most pique your interest? Would you prefer to work with an industry expert recruiter who can help you leverage the market and provide the inside scoop on companies and managers? Being intentional about how you plan to take action will help you land an interview faster and propel you toward step 2.

Step 2: Present Yourself Professionally

This step is about highlighting your skills and interest level to your prospective employer and positioning yourself for success down the road during step 5 (hint: it’s all about negotiating).

Here are a few specific tips to help you put your best foot forward from the start to the finish of your job search:

  • Ensure your resume is error free and formatted professionally.
  • Update your technical resume’s content, highlighting any skills that align with the job description requirements listed for the position you are applying for. (Yes, this means you have to tweak your resume each and every time you apply for a new gig).
  • Review and update any virtual professional resources, including your LinkedIn profile and any digital portfolios. And don’t forget to do a quick scan of your personal social media accounts to ensure there isn’t any less-than-professional content to be found!
  • Add additional specific, applicable details about your unique qualifications in your cover letter (which, like your resume, should be error free and formatted professionally). Answer the question: Why are you a good fit for this opportunity, and why do you want to work for this firm?
  • Dress up for your interview (even a video interview) whether or not the firm has a casual dress code. Make sure everything about your appearance is in line with the industry you are working in.

These small but significant choices can make a huge impact on a prospective employer. Plus, when you present yourself professionally, you increase your chances of being heard and taken seriously. Which brings you to . . .

Step 3: Make a Lasting First Impression

Even though your skills are in-demand, you shouldn’t approach your interview with the expectation of being wooed by the law firm. During your conversation, focus on the firm’s needs and how you can assist them—not your needs. You will get a chance to address your needs later in the process.

Show the firm you are informed and prepared by asking thoughtful questions inspired by your research (step 1). But try to keep a 50–50 balance between talking and listening. Be aware of your body language, and show your interviewer that you are interested and engaged by maintaining eye contact.

Come prepared with upbeat, articulate responses to a handful of potential interview questions. ESP Legal’s interviewing tips for job seekers address the three biggest ones: “Tell me about a time when . . .,” “Tell me about yourself,” and “What is your greatest weakness?” Read up to learn what key information your interviewer may be trying to uncover by asking one of these questions, and then spend some time crafting your responses.

When you put in the work and come to your interview prepared, you’ll leave feeling confident. But there’s still one more step for you to take before receiving an offer. 

Step 4: Follow Up

Send a professional follow up email or handwritten note. This is a very important step and should not be overlooked as an empty formality or outdated courtesy.

Your follow-up is an opportunity for you to show you were paying attention by touching on some of the topics discussed in the interview. It’s also a final opportunity for you to remind the firm of your strengths and promote additional qualifications that you may have forgotten to mention during the interview.

Keep the tone of your note positive and professional, and maintain that positivity and professionalism even if you need to wait a while for a response. Remember, you may have been their first—and hopefully best—interview. Filling a role takes time. 

Step 5: Negotiate

If you’ve shined during steps 1–4, chances are you’ll soon be presented with an offer. But you haven’t reached the finish line of the job search process just yet. This is the step where the opportunities afforded to you by the hot job market really come into play.

A quick disclaimer: negotiation is not about upping your financial requirements once you’ve won a firm over. Be honest and up-front with your compensatory expectations prior to the interview so there are no surprises. The only exception to this rule happens when unplanned circumstances create variance, i.e. you just got a raise that was unexpected in your current job or received a competitive offer from another firm.

That said, sometimes a firm will come in below the target salary you presented, and when that happens, you should discuss and consider the other benefits and financial incentives being offered that could offset the difference. These may include perks such as profit sharing, 401(k) matching, a great medical plan, a flexible and/or remote working schedule, and greater vacation allowances and/or PTO.

Finally, keep in mind that sometimes making a career move isn’t about money. Sometimes you’ll move because you’re looking for a different company culture or looking to make a switch to a different tech area of focus. In these cases, be honest with yourself about your decision. Landing an opportunity that offers you the career potential you’re seeking at a great company is often worth a small trade-off financially.

 

In a hot job market, you don’t need to stress about landing a gig simply to pay the bills. You have the freedom to focus on your long-term career goals and make moves to help you achieve them. The only thing standing in your way is you. Get started today, and happy hunting!

If you’d like to streamline your search and receive additional support, our ESP Legal technical recruiters are always here to help:

Get in Touch with a Recruiter

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ESP Legal Releases 2019 Salary Guide

ESP Legal 2019 Technology and Litigation Salary GuideOur 2019 salary guides present data gathered and analyzed from a wide range of law firms and includes salaries from ESP Legal’s recent placements as well as national and local research.

A Hot Job Market for Tech Staff at Law Firms

In 2018, we reported that 70% of CIOs planned to increase their technology workforce. This year that number has gone up even further—with a projected 75% of companies planning to increase the number of full-time IT employees on their teams, according to the Society for Information Management’s 2019 IT Trends Study. In the legal marketplace specifically, we’ve seen an increase in demand for technology staff, which we anticipate will continue to grow. Help desk, desktop support, security engineer and system and network engineer positions remain in-demand amidst growing security concerns for law firms.

With this high demand has come increased compensation: those holding technology positions at law firms received salary increases of minimally 2% across the board, with application programmers seeing the biggest increase at 10%. Other hot job titles in 2018 included director of KM, CIO/CTO and IT manager.

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, opportunities for growth including paid trainings 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—particularly if you’re unable to compete financially with larger firms.

 

With over twenty-three 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 and Litigation/eDiscovery Salary Guide

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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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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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