Scorched Earth Hiring - How to Avoid Being a Toxic Law Firm


All the smart algorithms and great matches can’t make up for bad hiring practices at a law firm.

In our work placing thousands of legal professionals in thousands of roles, we’ve had first row seats to which hiring practices work and which don’t. We’ve seen wonderful hiring scenarios play out where law firms looking for some temporary help end up finding a permanent, valued member of their team and attorneys find their dream job. In other cases, all the smart algorithms and great matches can’t make up for bad hiring practices at a law firm. 

There are firms that have churned and burned so many attorneys that they’ve already got all the candidates in their geographic area in their rearview mirror and finding anyone new is nearly impossible. This is an extreme example, but not as rare as you might think. As law firms begin to think more about culture, benefits, and promoting mental health, compensation alone won’t be enough to attract and retain talent.

So how can you avoid becoming the “toxic” firm that legal professionals warn their friends about? Check out this list of suggestions we’ve compiled to help you fine-tune your hiring practices.

Treat People Like People We get it—schedules change, work gets overwhelming at times, and you get busy. The expectation isn't that you hand hold anyone, but be reasonable. Whether you're dealing with a candidate, a colleague or a junior, give them a heads up about what's going on, what's expected of them, and what they can expect going forward.

Don’t Leave Candidates in Limbo The best candidates are being pursued by other recruiters and other firms and when it comes to hiring, absence does not make the heart grow fonder. Candidates will respond best to hirers who show timely, intent interest in hiring them. Even if your timeline shifts, keeping in contact with your recruiter or candidate will help the candidate know that their application isn’t sitting in some giant (metaphorical) pile gathering dust.

Current Culture Affects Future Hiring Word spreads quickly and candidates trust their friends’ and colleagues' assessment of a firm’s culture. If current employees are treated like billing robots and are looking to jump ship as soon as possible the pool of interested candidates will continue to shrink.

Use Your Words If you really like working with someone, don’t keep it to yourself! Make sure you give them positive feedback and if you have something in mind for the future, try to indicate that you are thinking about them and their career in the long term. It’s always tragic when an employer or manager loves working with a permanent hire or contract worker and has plans for moving them up in the future, but the worker doesn’t know and takes a job somewhere else. The conversation ends up happening once a decision has already been made and usually can’t be undone. 

Don’t Forget to Update Your Recruiter If you are working with a recruiter, don’t forget to keep them in the loop. If they are helping you manage your candidate relationship, then they need as much information as possible, as quickly as you can communicate it. This will help them to manage the candidate’s expectations so that they don’t become discouraged and disengaged.

Happy Hiring!