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.

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Asking for an Applicant’s Previous Salary is About to Be History

The Salary History Question: Is it History?

A change to the hiring process has been developing across America within the last 12 months. Currently, 8 states, 6 cities, 2 New York counties, and Puerto Rico have banned employers from asking for a candidate’s salary history, and bills are up for debate in several more states. What has spurred this development? After all, it is certainly understandable that employers have wanted to know this information in order to make informed hiring decisions and minimize costs. But lawmakers and advocates have argued that this common practice traps certain individuals in a cycle of underpayment, especially women, minorities, and people moving from places with lower costs of living. Even if your law firm is not located in a state affected by the recent flurry of laws banning the salary history question, we suggest you consider revisiting your hiring process and eliminate such questions. Here are a few reasons why:

A Unified Policy

If you do business across state lines, including places that have already banned the salary history question, or are near states that have, it will be easiest to have a single policy in place for all of your offices. These laws are quickly being debated and added by more and more states and cities (see complete list at the end of this article), so simply adhering to the stricter laws will help ensure that all of your offices are in compliance, and you will save yourself the headache of having to adjust your policies multiple times. After all, complying with these laws does not simply mean that you can no longer ask for a candidate’s salary history. Violations do carry repercussions, so you will need to train your HR staff and recruiters on what kinds of questions are appropriate and legal for compensation discussions. This approach has already been followed by Google, Facebook, Cisco, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.

A More Accurate Valuation

Asking for someone’s salary history may cause you to undervalue certain candidates due to conditions that have nothing to do with their abilities. As a result, you might lose out on qualified candidates who receive a more competitive offer elsewhere. The goal of these laws is to narrow the pay gaps for women and minorities—if they were underpaid in the past, revealing their salary history puts them at risk for getting underpaid again. Even if their new job actually increases their pay, it will likely still lag behind the standard due to starting from a lower point to begin with. By avoiding the salary history question, law firms can instead focus on paying a candidate a wage determined by their skills and the requirements of the job.

What To Do Instead

Perhaps you’re considering abandoning the salary history question, but are still looking for a way to determine an appropriate salary for a candidate. One option is to simply set a range for the position beforehand and be upfront with the candidate about it. Your scale can account for experience, education, and performance, in order to pay what’s fair. Most of the laws being passed do allow you to discuss salary expectations, which can serve a similar purpose to the salary history question, but leaves the candidate feeling more respected and fairly treated. These strategies will improve your relationship with the candidate and encourage a smooth hiring process.

There are many benefits to complying with the new standards created by these laws, including increased clarity and efficiency for your team during the hiring process, a widened candidate pool, and better candidate relations. In addition, it could help you increase diversity at your law firm, which in turn can improve the bottom line. By adhering to these laws—even if they don’t apply in your state—you make your firm more appealing by empowering your HR department to pay appropriate wages for the position, regardless of an individual’s past pay.

If you’re not sure how to determine fair pay, we’d love to use our knowledge of the legal hiring market to help you out:

Talk to an Account Manager

View Salary Guides

 

Current statewide bans (date of effect): California (1/1/18), Connecticut (1/1/19), Delaware (12/14/17), Hawaii (1/1/19), Massachusetts (7/1/18), NJ (2/1/18 [public only; but senate passed bill this year for all employers]), Oregon (10/6/17), Vermont (7/1/18), Puerto Rico (3/1/17)

In process:  Florida, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island

Current citywide or county bans (date of effect): Albany County, NY (12/17/17), New York City, NY(10/31/17), Philadelphia, PA (on hold), Westchester County, NY (07/09/18)

Note: additional cities have bans for city offices only.

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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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Telecommuting – It’s Good for Employers in the Legal Tech Niche

3 Reasons Remote Work is a Great for Legal Tech EmployersToday, technology has connected us in powerful ways. With smart phones in our hands, we literally have the world at our fingertips – especially when it comes to business. We take conference calls on the road, check and send emails at lunch, and remain available even when traveling. In a way, we are always reachable, and expected to be so.

With this expectation, many of us are already working remotely throughout the workweek. Yet, some law firms are still skeptical about integrating telecommuting into their business and hiring models. Well, as we are on the heels of a new year, it’s time to face the fact; telecommuting is here to stay. But don’t worry – telecommuting is beneficial to the employer, too.

Hire the Best Talent

When it comes to finding and hiring the best talent, the option of telecommuting greatly opens the talent pool. For starters, you can say goodbye to geographical limitations and hello to the perfect candidate.

As law firms begin their candidate search, from Attorneys and Secretaries to IT Managers and Programmers, they know they need top talent to compete in a competitive marketplace. However, not many law firms know they should be seeking out candidates with telecommuting in mind, in order to obtain that top talent.

As the worlds of tech and legal meet, this becomes an issue, since the tech industry has long embraced remote workers. According to a Monster article, “The tech industry is well known for its flexible schedules and telecommuting opportunities. Which makes sense considering most tech companies are web based and that technology is the greatest resource when working from home. With video chats, conference calls, VPN networks, and wireless internet, we can constantly stay connected as though we were sitting in our office rather than at home.”

So, what does this mean for legal? The best tech talent has already experienced the luxury of telecommuting, and furthermore, they’ve come to expect it.

The nature of IT is very demanding because technology can fail anytime, and therefore support is needed at all hours. Fewer on-site IT resources are necessary thanks to programs like GotoAssist and TeamViewer where connecting to the PC remotely can solve most problems. Support centers are already operating like this, so why wouldn’t you? Denying the option of telecommuting could prohibit your firm from acquiring the best talent.

Enhanced Productivity

Remote Workers are Happier and More ProductiveThink that working from home causes more distractions and less productivity? Think again. Research indicates that employees use their time more efficiently at home. One potential reason being that more distractions are present in the workplace. In a study conducted by Stanford professor, Nick Bloom, the benefits of working from home were evaluated. The results revealed that home workers were more productive, made more work calls, took shorter breaks and less sick days, and best of all, reported being happier than their counterpart office workers.

Happier Employees, Better Retention, and More Money

Working from home offers the employee many reasons to be happy: no commute time, a flexible schedule, less company politics, healthier at-home lunch options, and more. According to a study by communication researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, teleworkers experience lower amount of stress and less distractions, and therefore report beingmore satisfied with their jobs compared to those working mostly in the office because working remotely alleviates more stress than it creates.”

Bloom explains that employee happiness in working where they desire to, whether at home or in the office, is crucial to employee retention. Retaining quality staff will save the company recruitment, training, and loss of productivity expenses. If tech issues remain unresolved for long periods of time due to short staffing, your company becomes at risk for dissatisfied high-level staff and missed deadlines.

Cost benefits also include reduced office space and other office fees. Telecommuting requires that the employee use their own furniture, electricity, and other utilities, therefore saving the company money. An estimated $2,000 per employee could be saved each year on office expenses, Bloom finds.

When it comes to your firm’s bottom line you might want consider hiring a remote worker. Of course, telecommuting is not for every personality type, but it can certainly be used as a great employee retention and top-talent recruiting tool.

If you are looking to work remotely, or to hire a remote worker contact us for current openings at careers@esp-ca.com or 949.753.7575. ESP Legal focuses exclusively on matching top legal technology, litigation, and attorney talent with the best law firm opportunities.

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