There remains a national shortage of conveyancing and commercial property lawyers at all levels. We are finding it harder than usual to recruit locums this year, although we still get CVs in to over 95% of assignments, but the permanent side is very difficult. What is interesting is the trend of firms recruiting new conveyancers (not via ourselves), and then calling us up within 3-6 months to say that the vacancy is open again as the conveyancer has left. When we ask about salaries and conditions the firm will often indicate these and we will inwardly sigh.. It is almost immediately obvious that someone has joined the practice on a salary level too low, conditions that are too harsh and then subsequently has been headhunted or lured away by salaries & conditions elsewhere. The market is still expanding and property lawyers remain in short supply. Firms need to be nice to their new staff and these are our tips for doing this:
1. Offer decent salaries.
2. If you can’t afford a salary level sought by the candidate, offer them incentives. Bonus structures are the best way of incentivising staff.
3. Offer commitment – pension contributions work particularly well. Private health insurance does not cost the earth and again is often more valuable in the eyes of potential employees than it costs you to implement financially. Pension contributions demonstrate professionalism and a long term commitment by the employer.
4. Office hours need to be competitive. Just because the senior partner is a workaholic and stays every night in the office until 8pm doesn’t mean all the staff need to do the same. There is plenty of research to suggest that working more than 6-7 hours in a day is counter-productive in the longer term to everyone.
5. Annual leave needs to be generous. It does not cost much to offer 28 days a year plus statutory days. Work it out. Close down at Christmas – very little point being open anyway.
6. Hold and advertise annual staff days out. These go down particularly well and again do not cost the earth. Works for generating a team spirit and loyalty, which again may result in you holding onto staff and recruiting successfully.
7. Always be nice to your staff. We have been advising law firms about this for many years, but some still slip through the net…
8. Use locums and make sure your staff know this. So many people contact us every year to recruit locums and then find the firm refuses to sanction the booking when everything is in place. Not recommended – conveyancers in particular like locum cover because they know everything is going to get dealt with whilst they are on annual leave and there will not be a terrible backlog when they return.
9. Have a structured interview procedure. This demonstrates professionalism. Ask candidates to review a file for you.
10. Talk about future prospects at interview. Everyone has different reasons for working and you need to emphasise both future advancement for those who may be interested but also future development of the role you are recruiting for – eg increased responsibility or opportunities to increase the salary.
Jonathan Fagan is MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment – to contact him please email firstname.lastname@example.org