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recruitment process outsourcing

Who should manage recruitment within a law firm? HR or Partners?

It is a difficult question and one that probably has no definitive answer because all firms are different.  There are also different types of recruitment across a full-service modern law firm and so trying to fit that process into a neat little box is, frankly, never going to end well!

When it comes to recruiting lawyers there is often a clash internally between the partner for whom the new recruit will work for and the HR team who have a holistic view of the firm and also a closer handle on the candidate market.  In my experience both parties can learn from the other and it is important to have an open and frank dialogue between teams.  A piece of recruitment coming to a successful conclusion always relies on a smooth, efficient process being followed by all stakeholders and it is here I have seen the biggest tendency for division internally.

Where a firm has an established recruitment process in place with definitive stages it is generally owned by either a specialist recruitment team or HR.  Some firms have recruitment specific partners for particular practice areas whilst smaller firms may have one firmwide recruitment partner who is also involved in the recruitment process.  Many issues arise where a partner does not trust or follow a process, perhaps because they have not had a positive experience in the past or do not trust the recruitment team to deliver what they want/need.  This can frustrate a recruitment or HR team who are trying to “follow the rules” while the partner “goes rogue” and does their own thing.  From the perspective of the partner, they can be frustrated at a slow and inefficient process, they know what they want and agencies are always sending CVs straight to them, why not just get it done?!

The challenge here is to devise a process that retains integrity and consistency but also maximises efficiency and partner engagement.  Partners want successful and speedy hires into their team, HR want firmwide consistency and a robust process where hiring decisions across the firm stand up to scrutiny over time.  As with any process there needs to be an element of compromise on both sides and an understanding that each perspective is valuable.  Partners running wild, hiring without thought for the wider firm landscape will end in disaster (often an expensive one) but likewise, a firm bogged down by red tape, an overbearing number of stages and rules will never be nimble enough in the competitive candidate market to recruit successfully.

So, what is the answer?

There is no magic wand.  A successful recruitment process begins with all stakeholders being open about what they are looking to achieve.  Existing processes will not all be completely wrong but they are probably open to some updating, refining and repurposing.  Why are there four different interview stages? Why do some partners feedback from interviews and not others?  Why can’t I just offer the salary I think is right or what the agent is telling me?

Partners need to trust that the process makes sense and works, they also need to understand that it will usually only work if they stick to it! HR/Recruitment need to understand the partner agenda, they have client work that needs resourcing, a team that is overstretched and time to hire is key for them.  It is often easier to align the end objectives and then work back from there, this way the partner knows that the process being devised is for their benefit and is more likely to be onboard, HR and Recruitment can then build the stages to ensure consistency and integrity across the firm.

The main theme is that recruitment is complex because people are involved and people have differing opinions and perspectives.  This can make things difficult but also these different views are essential to a well-balanced recruitment process and should be harnessed rather than eradicated.

Oh and to add another element to the mix, we haven’t even touched on candidates yet…

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