Hiring At Law Firms: Do’s & Don’ts For Finding The Right Fit

Despite the seemingly low employment rate for lawyers, law firms do a lot of hiring. From expert witnesses to consultants to legal interns, there are quite a few positions to fill at law firms. And, it’s not always easy—amid the myriad of candidates—to weed out superb from scallywag.

Here are a few tips for finding the right applicant for the job.

1. Conduct blind CV reviews

On paper, it’s hard not to be biased by certain traits. Sometimes firms are biased toward certain institutions—a local university or an Ivy League one. Or, as a reviewer, you may not realize you favor candidates with certain extracurricular traits.

It’s even possible to cross-off a qualified candidate for, say, an expert witness because of an idiosyncrasy that happens to bother you (but not the rest of the firm!).

During the preliminary stages of hiring, one way to avoid these prejudices is to conduct blind reviews of CVs. In fact, one of the UK’s leading law firms, Clifford Chance, has done just that.

Clifford Chance, in an effort to stop hiring biases toward Oxbridge and other leading independent schools, is adopting “CV blind” policies for hiring. The overall object is to make sure we never lose out on talent, wherever it comes from,” said explains Laura Yeates, graduate recruitment and development manager at the firm, to the Independent.

“We need to make sure we have the very best people spread out across the whole of the UK in terms of institutions.”

Another way to identify the best candidate for the position is through additional written assignments outside a typical CV and cover letter.

Ask the candidtes to write a 250 to 500-word essay on a topic important to the firm. You’ll be surprised how many candidates won’t bother with the extra work, which is a great way to weed out non-serious applications. In addition, it will give a glimpse at their writing style as well as beliefs regarding the law, which may help identify those candidates who fit in with your current corporate culture.

2. Skip the phone interview

Lawyers often live on the phone. Whether it’s phone calls to clients or the courthouse, you’ll often find a lawyer’s life tied to his or her cell.

Telephones are certainly an efficient tool to conduct business, but interviewing candidates is probably not among its best applications. It’s difficult for both parties—the interviewer and interviewee—to really sound energized oor engaged over the phone.

How many times have you answered the phone at home in the middle of your morning routine and the voice on the other line asks you, “did you just wake up?” In most of these instances it’s embarrassing to admit, no, you haven’t. Your voice just doesn’t have the same tone as it does in person.

If you must interview over the phone, The Muse offers some advice to keep up your enthusiasm for the job. Although geared toward the candidate, the advice holds true for law firm managers interviewing candidates. For example, don’t forget to smile. Smiling can actually alter your voice to sound more enthusiastic.

In addition, try standing up as if you were speaking at a conference during your call. It will keep you “on your toes” in more way than one.

For more tips on phone interviews, read here.

3. Conduct 2 rounds of in-person interviews

Finally, consider shortening your interviews but offering two different ones. Most interviewees will make their mind up about a candidate within 15 minutes of talking. So, why bother going further?

Instead of conducting one hour-long interview, schedule each candidate with two hiring managers or lawyers for 15-20 minutes each. Take only those candidates with unanimous approval.

Try getting two interviewees with different interviewing styles—maybe one who is formal and the other more relaxed. Make sure at least one of them will ask questions that address whether or not the candidate shares corporate culture values with your firm.

In the end, the best candidate for a job fills the requirements of a position, not preconceptions about the requirements of a CV.

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