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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Look Before You Leap: Career Advice for Legal Technology Pros

Career advice to help legal technology professionals decide whether they should leave their jobs.As a recruitment firm, we’re big believers in making career moves that help you advance and achieve greater job satisfaction. We’ve also warned about the risks associated with taking a counteroffer. But there’s a third option, one that happens before either the job seeking or counteroffer stage—evaluating whether or not you should leave your law firm or legal technology department in the first place.

This is an important starting point—and one you shouldn’t race over. Before making the leap to leave your legal tech job, consider the following five areas of opportunity at your current place of employment.

1. Compensation: Can You Earn A Competitive Salary?

There are several publications that offer salary information for the legal industry. For example, the Association of Legal Administrators, the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA), and ESP Legal all publish free salary guides revealing average technology and litigation support compensation trends. Peruse these guides and see where you land. Are you being paid a competitive salary given the size and location of your firm, the other benefits (such as health insurance) provided to you, and your years of experience in the industry?

If you feel you are being underpaid, can you meet with your manager and share your concern? Without mounting a case against anyone or threatening to leave, present the market information and salary statistics you’ve discovered to support your claim that your wages fall below average. Then, give you firm a chance to consider and respond. Many firms will try to adjust to bring you in line with market standards—but you may have to wait until your next review.

2. Career Growth: Can You Advance and Reach Your Goals?

Talk with your manager and ask what opportunities your firm has for advancement—and what steps you can take to ensure you’re on the right track for long-term growth. Your desire to move up the ladder should go hand in hand with your desire to learn, so during this conversation, ask your supervisor for ongoing guidance as a mentor and find out what other training and educational benefits your firm provides. Educational reimbursement, for example, could help you earn your college degree or MBA or even a certain technical certification. All of these actions will enhance your skill growth and make you a better internal candidate to promote.

Sometimes, there are no avenues for upward mobility within your department and you need to look outside of your organization. But even then, one of the hardest career moves to make is to get hired as a manager without any management experience. So again, look to your current employer to gain further experience before you try making a leap. Ask to lead a project or mentor the junior staff. Who knows—maybe showing that initiative will get you a promotion after all.

3. Work-Life Balance: Do You Have Job Flexibility and Healthy Work Boundaries?

The hours you put in—and are expected to put in—whether or not you take work home or are always “on call,” your commute, and your ability to work remotely or flex your time are all important considerations when it comes to long-term job satisfaction. Some things—like your commute—may not be adjustable . . . but things like your ability to work remotely certainly could be.

Talk with your firm about your schedule and see if you can realign some of your tasks and/or working arrangements to better suit your at-home needs. Start small—for example, delegating one project or beginning to work remotely on a trial basis once a week and extending that to two or three days a week over time if the arrangement is serving the best interests of both you and your firm.

4. Benefits: Do the Perks Round Out Your Employment Package?

Sometimes a firm can’t give you a salary increase but can give you a bigger bonus or increase your paid vacation time as an incentive. In addition to flexible work arrangements, medical benefits, and education reimbursement (all of which we’ve already mentioned), profit sharing, stock options, PTO, 401(k) plans, HSAs, childcare assistance, pet insurance, student loan forgiveness, and other smaller in-office perks are part of the “package” your firm has to offer, and they should be considered as a collective whole along with your salary when assessing the fairness of your compensation plan.

Talk with your manager or HR representative to see what options you might have. And, if you are actively looking for new opportunities, carefully evaluate how changes to these benefits could affect your overall take-home pay.

5. Leadership: Do You Respect and Get Along with the People In Charge?

If you love your job but hate your boss, you already know you’re in a difficult position. Statistics have shown that 75% of turnover can be influenced by managers. We recommend having a heart-to-heart with your boss before reporting any dissatisfactory behavior to HR or higher and also before making a career change. Your boss may not know how you and others feel and may be open to changing the behavior and your interactions in a way that better suits your work style. Don’t you always appreciate when someone comes to you to try to work out a problem instead of going behind your back? Who knows—when your boss sees you as a straight shooter and someone who is trustworthy, your relationship may improve more than you could have ever imagined!

If, however, your boss won’t hear you out, doesn’t change the behavior, and is creating a negative working environment for you and others—it’s time to seek a new opportunity. You can go to HR, but they will likely already be aware of the situation, and your conversation may not result in a change. What’s worse, HR will need to inform your boss of your report, which could make your life even more miserable. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of avoiding the leap but knowing when the time is right to make it.

 

There’s not always a way to advance your career and increase your financial earnings without exploring new job opportunities. If you’ve thought through these five areas and have come to that conclusion, let us know—we’re always here to help you find your best legal technology fit. But if you see untapped areas of opportunity where you’re currently working, we hope you will take some steps to improve your job situation and grow where you’re already planted.

The key to taking a leap and landing on your feet is intentionality. Whatever you decide, move forward with confidence until you reach your full potential.

Ready to take the leap? Our ESP Legal technical recruiters will help you speed up the process and land somewhere that aligns with your needs in all of these areas.

Get in Touch with a Recruiter

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How to Retain Top Legal Technology Employees in a Competitive Market

Tips to help you keep the best legal technology professionals on your team.We’ve shared about the importance of attracting top legal technology talent to your firm. Not only do legal technology professionals ensure law firms remain secure, competitive, and efficient—they’ve completely revolutionized the legal industry, generating an ever-increasing demand for “digital lawyers” and “eDiscovery” experts.

But what happens after you fill your legal technology roles? In today’s competitive market, retention is just as—if not more—important as making a smart hire. The following five recommendations will help your firm avoid the losses associated with filling an open position so you can instead focus your energy on taking advantage of the latest legal technology trends to serve your clients.

1. Develop and Promote Flexible Working Hours

Work-life balance perks are among the top concerns of technology candidates in the legal market today. They want the option to work remotely—at least part time—to flex their hours, and to take sick and family leave, among other benefits. If you don’t already have a generous telecommuting policy, consider implementing one to stay competitive with other firms. If you do, ensure your employees feel empowered to take advantage of your system and that there aren’t any unwritten cultural norms or biases holding them back.

We’re all about seeking win-win solutions at ESP Legal (we even put it in our values statement), so let us be the first to remind you: offering the option to work remotely is as beneficial for your firm as it is for your technology professionals. Take advantage of this effective, easy-to-implement benefit.

2. Train and Mentor Your Team

Paid training and education ranked as the number one most desirable benefit in our 2019 Salary Guide market insights—even above flexible working hours. Research has shown that the opportunity to grow and develop is an especially big driver for millennials. And a recent survey revealed that 34% of tech pros looking for new jobs in 2019 have been motivated primarily by a desire for a higher degree of responsibility. The same survey also revealed there is a 31% gap between the number of tech pros who rank “training and education” as an important benefit and the number who actually receive this benefit—which means this is a major area of opportunity where your firm can stand out from the rest.

As you look for ways to raise up your employees, especially consider how you are empowering and encouraging your female technology professionals to claim ownership over their positions and grow to become leaders in your technology department. Intentionally providing opportunities for diverse voices to be heard contributes to the overall health and innovation of your IT team—another one of those win-win solutions.

3. Keep Compensation Competitive

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 revealing average technology, litigation support, and attorney compensation trends. While not all retention-promoting benefits are strictly compensatory (see numbers 2 and 4 on this list), you’ll want to ensure that, at the very least, you are paying your legal technology employees a fair wage—especially considering that annual wage increases have become an expectation in today’s hot legal technology job market.

4. Focus on Medical Benefits and Other Perks

The cost of medical coverage can vary drastically from one firm to the next and can be a big factor for job seekers. In fact, 85% of technology professions list health insurance as one of their two most important benefits, according to a 2019 survey. With rising medical costs, it’s important to compare your company’s out-of-pocket insurance premium with the out-of-pocket expenses generated by some of your competitors’ medical plans. Once you’re confident your firm is offering a solid benefit, leverage your medical plan and promote it to your technology professionals in a way that helps them see more tangibly the cost savings afforded by your policy.

As an example, if the average law firm’s employees were paying $550 per paycheck or $1100 a month for medical coverage and yours costs $500 a month, this results in a $600 monthly savings or $7,200 a year in added benefits. Make sure your legal technology pros are aware of these kinds of numbers.

5. Outsource Your Hiring

One of the biggest reasons law firms lose technology employees boils down to bad hiring decisions. Luckily, this is also one of the most avoidable factors crushing your retention rates. When you solicit the help of a trusted recruitment firm like ESP Legal, you see and interview only those candidates who are going to add value to your team in the long run. We consider things like the alignment of compensatory expectations with what your firm is able to offer, culture fit, and how the long-term opportunities provided by your company might align with a candidate’s aspirations.

Plus, when you work with a recruitment firm, you save time and speed up the hiring process, which puts less burden on the rest of your technology department to make up for the lost productivity that results from the open position—thus helping you avoid the pitfalls of losing excellent legal technology professionals to burnout.

 

When you empower your legal technology employees to succeed, you directly impact your firm’s ability to thrive in today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving legal landscape. By staying competitive and aware of industry trends, you’ll ensure your firm’s many positive qualities and fun culture shine through and keep your technology professionals committed to succeeding as a part of your team.

If you’re looking for more personalized advice, our ESP Legal account managers would be thrilled to discuss your unique retention challenges and help you find the best solutions.

Get in Touch with an Account Manager

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