Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Rules of BD Attraction

This Article was first published in Legal Services Network Briefing Magazine - September 2014

The current market is strong and confident, but we believe it more essential than ever, that law firms get the entire recruitment process right in order to secure quality talent. As we move into the latter stages of 2014, we have identified some trends and patterns that we feel would be very useful to take into account when recruiting for BD teams.  

  1. The current state of the recruitment market within the legal sector.

It’s extremely buoyant with a wide range of roles across the entire sector and at all levels (including more at a senior level). It is also probably the most competitive market (for sourcing talent) that our consultants can remember in almost 20 years of working in the sector. It is very much “Candidate-led” – more roles than relevant applicants - and very good people are at a premium.  The firms that don’t recognise this, struggle to recruit at the moment, as the process has to be spot-on from start to finish.


  1. Are law firms adapting to the current recruitment market?

Many have but some haven’t. There is a varied approach by firms to what for them is a very challenging recruitment market. Some continue as they did when the market was much more “Client-led” and subsequently struggle to fill roles for months (and in some cases much longer). Common issues revolve around complicated CV and interview processes (a good candidate is going to react better to a firm with a smooth, quick process) salary bands (where a firm is low in comparison to its direct competitors), lack of a bonus structure (more of an issue now that bonuses are being paid again) and a general lack of selling of a role on the part of a potential employer. More than ever an interview should be seen as a two-way process and quite often unfortunately it isn’t.


  1. Specific candidate or skill shortages we have seen when recruiting in the past 6 months

Specialist roles, whether they be pitch, CRM, PR, Digital or anything else are generally more difficult to source. We have also found recently that practice/sector based BD Manager roles (E.g. ones in Corporate or Financial Institutions with a strong pitch focus) can take a long time to fill. Firms need to try and make these roles as attractive as possible to candidates by ensuring they have broad remits.


  1. Is this likely to continue for the next 6 – 12 months and why?

We think that pitch specific roles and broader BD roles with a strong pitch element will continue to be more  thedifficult. One reason for this is that if good BD specialists come onto the market, often their primary motivator is to reduce this part of their role. At a BD Manager level in particular, the hours that many are expected to work (due to pitches and having smaller teams than before) can be quite extreme and this is why they are looking for a change. They will not be attracted to a role that on paper looks exactly the same.

  1. Beware of counter-offers!

There is an extremely high chance that high-calibre candidates (currently in employment) will be counter-offered if they resign. In fact we are finding that they may be counter-offered more than once, even after contracts are signed and start dates have been agreed. If this ever works, it is a fairly short term solution as candidates will generally be looking again within 3 – 6 months but it does mean, that offers need to be highly attractive and a candidate needs to be bought in completely to making a move. A good recruitment consultant can be invaluable in these situations.

  1. Leighton Taylor’s blueprint to attracting quality candidates in the current market!

·         Ensure the CV process is fast, efficient and uncomplicated both for the candidates and the agencies recruiting on your behalf.

·         Where possible avoid the use of specific firm coversheets for candidates. Good quality agencies should automatically provide their own as part of their CV which should include interview notes and information on salaries, notice periods etc. If agencies are asked to produce a specific firm CV & coversheet this will take more time and the CV may already have been sent quickly to (the majority of) other firms that just accept a normal (agency) CV. Less complicated = a quicker process.

·         Don’t hide behind a CV extranet system. CVs can just become a number when they are placed on these, so ensure that constant dialogue is maintained throughout the process. This incudes as much information as possible on roles (agency briefings are key), feedback on submitted CVs, candidates interviewed and also regular updates on timescales.

·         Well briefed interviewers and partners who don’t just question the candidates but also sell the merits of the firm to candidates who are generally going to have more than one option.

·         A smooth process from beginning to end, with limited delay. Also if you see someone you like, move quickly and efficiently and jump on them!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Christmas Cheer well into New Year!

Six or seven weeks into 2014 may seem an odd time to reflect on the market, but we've seen and experienced things over the past few months which have felt different (in a very positive way) to previous years.

The old recruitment cliché is that after a quiet couple of months leading up to Christmas (when recruitment is put on hold whilst the holiday celebrations go on), everything then starts again on the first day back in January. The general perception is that firms suddenly decide that the start of the year would be a good time to recruit as candidates will come flooding onto the market, the holiday period having convinced them that they want a change of role.

Having recruited these roles in the professional services sector for the past 17 years (and therefore having experienced that number of  Christmas/New Year periods) the reality is nearly always different. You tend to get slight changes in activity over the November, December months where it becomes a little quieter and more difficult to schedule interviews/meetings with clients,  and then you get a slight influx again - often starting a couple of weeks into January.

This year however has been noticeably different and we view this change as a very positive sign going forward. Reflecting back on the last 2 or 3 months of 2013, there was a constant and exciting flow of activity and no slow-down at all. Firms were posting new roles and holding agency briefings right up until Christmas. We even had some candidates going in for interviews on the afternoon of the 24th December simply because clients were keen to either get a process started or keep momentum going.

We also saw a significant increase in the number of interviews taking place between Christmas and New Year, a time when we were also getting many new enquiries from candidates. As we returned in the New Year, we had vacancy briefings with clients booked in for 10am on the first day back and we have seen no let-up in the proceeding weeks.

The fact that the holiday period remained extremely busy has had a fantastic knock-on effect in January/February. None of Leighton Taylor's consultants can remember a time (and this includes periods where the market was at it's strongest) when we have had so many offers made by clients (and therefore placements) in the first month of the year.

Overall it means clients want to recruit and candidates are confident enough in the market to move. Expectations remain high on both sides but we expect and hope that these are all good signs for 2014!