How to Find Top Legal Technology Talent during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Hiring the best talent is critical to a law firm’s success, and with the increased remote workforce due to Covid-19 you may be questioning how to find the best person for your IT job opening. Finding top IT talent and leadership to support attorneys and staff is an imperative part of any firm’s business strategy.

There are two types of job seekers: an “active” job seeker is someone enthusiastically looking to make a change immediately. They may be unemployed or just eager to move for a variety of reasons. A “passive” job seeker is gainfully employed but open to hear about opportunities in line with their career goals.

In a soft hiring market, like we are in now due to Covid-19, the passive job seeker is more likely to stay in their current role and avoid risks involved with making a change, especially if they are not 100% certain it is the right career move.

While some outstanding legal technology staff have been let go during Covid-19, most firms are doing their best to keep existing IT Staff on board to solve new technology challenges caused by remote workers and related data security risks. Vertex Advisors’ Frank Gillman notes “the rapid expansion of the remote workforce has significantly increased the attack surface of corporate networks, creating multiple vulnerabilities for hackers to inflict chaos or to steal sensitive information for profit” and how to address it.

With a limited talent pool of fewer active job seekers in addition to the reduced number of passive job seekers, finding the right legal technology talent is more critical than ever. These four steps can help successfully guide you along the path:

Step 1: What can your firm offer to the candidate?
Most firms are facing some challenges during this unprecedented economy. Make sure to strongly tout any positive information to prospective candidates. Here are some topics worth consideration if applicable:

Financial Stability or Improvement:

  • Strong Q1 & Q2 financials.
  • Partners taking larger pay cuts to ensure staff has had minimal impact.
  • Decrease and/or repayment of pay reductions after a stronger than expected financial performance.
  • Remaining committed to complete important technology initiatives, where this new hire is needed, despite staff reductions in other areas.

Improvement of Employee Benefits and/or Firm Culture:

  • Expanding or modifying remote work policies. For example, according to Law.com, Linklaters is offering a new Agile Working Policy allowing staff and partners to work remotely for 20-50% of the time.
  • Making sure your benefit plan is in line with the competition and if already better, don’t be shy in sharing the overview.
  • Providing education and training for staff. IT employees heavily value opportunities to earn certifications and stay up to date on technical knowledge.
  • Supporting participation in legal industry events for IT staff. i.e. ILTA
  • Creating social events when people do return to work, such as a coffee barista on Monday mornings, free lunch on Tuesday, Casual Fridays for the next few months. Anything firms can do to alleviate the stress or anxiety of a return to the office can be a positive recruitment tool.

Step 2: Plan with your ideal candidate in mind.
Firm priorities have likely shifted over the last few months. You want to add the right resources to meet those priorities so set the bar high by investing thoughtful, strategic time in dreaming up your ideal fit. Where should this person be located? If the right person is not available in that area is there another viable location worth consideration? Clearly define the job role and craft a detailed working description of the position. Identify what the new hire should accomplish in their first 90, 180, and 365 days working at the firm. Present the draft iteration to key stakeholders for input and make any necessary adjustments.

Finally, don’t forget to consider soft skills or other qualifications you won’t necessarily see highlighted on a technical resume. For instance, what kind of person fits best with your firm’s culture and can bring a more diverse set of skills or experiences?

Step 3: Recruit technology talent with determination
Once you know who you want and what the firm can offer, where will you find this perfect legal IT professional?

When it comes to hiring top talent in a tight Covid-19 impacted market, it requires more work at this stage than simply posting the opening on the firm’s website and job boards. Keep in mind the ideal candidate you dreamed up during step 2, may not be actively looking. One place to also search are relevant alumni networks, other law firms, or industry events.

You could do the hard work of scoping out all these options, and the heavy duty recruiting work that comes along with it, or consider reaching out to an industry-specific staffing firm to share these insights so an account manager can perform those tasks in your stead. Experience counts when searching for talent.

Finally, involve others at the firm in recruitment and hiring processes, and make it clear to candidates they will likely interview with HR representatives, hiring managers, coworkers, stakeholders, and firm partners. Candidates in today’s market want to know they are a cohesive part of the team. Highlighting that point upfront with both candidates and the internal team is a win-win for the firm.

Step 4: Be selective and competitive with offers
As noted previously in step 1, keep expectations high and only screen and interview IT professionals who have the skills required to help the firm succeed. Once the candidate pool has been narrowed, consider the culture fit and soft skill criteria identified in step 2, and seek alignment utilizing third party personality profile testing tools such as DiSC, Predictive Index, CliftonStrengths, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Make sure each prospective candidate feels appreciated and respected throughout the interviewing process. Remember: the candidate will be assessing the firm during this process and weighing all their options given the unsecure job market we are experiencing during Covid-19. It is important to be transparent about the interviewing and onboarding processes and the workplace environment.

Finally, once the firm is 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. Don’t overlook the importance of nontraditional benefits, especially if the firm cannot meet the top candidate’s preferred salary. Consider whether sweetening some work-life balance perks (the number one concern of candidates in the market today) is possible. Perhaps consider more unique and surprising perks, such as pet insurance (one in three Fortune 500 companies now offer this) to stand out from other firms.

The last step of the search for a great legal IT professional should be to conduct a background check as permitted by law. After all, the firm and the new hire should both enter the working arrangement with total confidence.

Though the market for legal technology talent is tight right now, and likely to remain so until things around the world are more settled, firms are not without options. With the right planning, preparation, and recruitment strategy, and a smooth interviewing and hiring process, empty seats can be filled quickly to ensure a firm stays innovative and competitive in an increasingly technical legal environment.

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

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