Are top tier firms hiring “top tier talent”?

The obvious trend in Quarter 1 is that the Top Tier firms in Australia and New Zealand (NZ) are focused on hiring. Economic pressures or not, these firms are still actively taking on new legal talent.   What’s surprising is the proportion coming from in-house and smaller City firms/Not Top 50 firms (60% of hires during this period for Australian Top Tier firms[1] are from these sources and 44% for NZ Top Tier firms[2]).  

There is also a high Net Hire Ratio (NHR) of 1.6 and 3 for the Australian and New Zealand Top Tier firms respectively.  The NHR shows the total net growth or loss of employee headcount for a given period.  In the Top Tier Australian firms, for every 1.6 lawyers hired, 1 lawyer resigned.  While in NZ for every 3 lawyers hired, 1 lawyer left – almost double the Australian ratio.  This drive for hiring was anticipated in a recent Lawyers Weekly[3] article that asserts most firms expect to increase headcount this year.

It’s interesting that the Top Tier firms don’t appear to be hiring many lawyers from each other, or from larger national firms/other Top 50 firms.  This begs the question as to the quality of talent being hired.  There is a perception that lawyers moving from in-house or smaller firms into a top tier environment can need additional support and training as opposed to those lawyers who began their careers in Top Tier firms.  Although there are always exceptions both ways. 

Even with the best onboarding practices, new hires joining top-tier firms from different environments are likely to need greater support than those transitioning from other top-tier firms.  Existing staff will need to fill any gaps in their knowledge and foundational training.  It is also likely that re-training may be necessary in some cases – ‘unlearning’ habits acquired from previous roles.  The burden of this training and possible re-training is likely to fall on existing staff (who are often already stretched in terms of workload).  This extra time investment may be overlooked when considering hiring lawyers who have started their careers outside of the top-tier.  The worst-case scenario is that new hires and existing staff both burnout and leave due to the bigger step up required of new hires and those new hires being more of a hindrance than a help to existing staff.  

If firms are looking to grow, it’s vital that their new hires are the right fit for the firm and role.  Simply making ‘easy’ hires from in-house and smaller firms can be risky when done in bulk or coupled with a poor onboarding experience. So what is the solution?

At Insource, we consider the gold standard of hiring is to prospect and pipeline. 

What is the difference between ‘prospecting’ and ‘headhunting’?

Prospecting means contacting lawyers (identified through the powerful search ability of the Insource platform) to gather information and ascertain their interest in possible opportunities with your firm, either now or in the future.

The major difference between prospecting and headhunting is that your firm is not asking the prospected lawyer to move right now. Lawyers who are not active in the market are more likely to engage in a prospecting conversation, than a current live opportunity at your firm.

Prospecting is a long-term resourcing strategy and a key element of future proofing the quality of your firms’ hiring decisions.

Once you identify a lawyer is interested in working for your firm in the future, they are added to a pipeline on the Insource platform where the Activity Tracking System makes keeping in touch easy.  Then when the right opportunity (for both firm and talent) arises it’s as simple as picking up the phone to fill the seat.

To operate at this gold standard, Insource is needed to address and transform firms’ recruitment practises. As part of a subscription to Insource, firms receive in depth training and a step-by-step guide to effective headhunting, prospecting and pipelining.

To discuss how Insource could help your firm make effective and quality hires, contact us today to book a demo.

[1] Allens, Ashurst, Clayton Utz, Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Wood Mallesons and Minter Ellison.

[2] Bell Gully, Buddle Findlay, Chapman Tripp, Dentons Kensington Swan, MinterEllisonRuddWatts, Russell McVeagh and Simpson Grierson.


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