Key Factors Law Firms Consider When Recruiting Lateral Candidates


What are the key factors law firms consider when hiring lateral candidates?

Apart from the obvious factors such as the required legal experience, exposure to similar matters and similar clients, there are key factors law firms consider when making lateral hires. Special focus is usually placed on the candidate’s openness, flexibility and willingness to be trained in line with the way the firm operates. Since most lateral hires will generally be more experienced, law firms are acutely aware of the challenges listed below.

1. Will they work well with our clients and can they find new clients?

Law firms will have clients that expect a certain level of service to be provided, they are familiar with the way the firm operates in terms of delivery of legal services. Some long-standing clients could provide the law firm with substantial streams of revenue so it’s vitally important that any new lawyers protect the reputation of the firm and uphold the level of service expected.

Any lawyer at an Associate level and above starts to come with a considerable salary expense. It’s important to the law firm that the lawyer quickly hits the ground running and is charging their time as soon as possible. Although the law firm will have available matters for the lawyer to work on, it’s crucial the lawyer has adequate business development skills to find and secure new clients and bring in new business to the firm.


2. Are they flexible, can they be managed?

As lawyers gain experience and progress in their careers, it’s safe to say some get “stuck in their ways”, they have certain habits and like to do things, their way. Which in itself is not a bad thing, it’s simply the way they have been trained.

However, there are many intricacies and variations in the way firms operate, this can range broadly from the way they secure new clients to the format and structure in which they draft documents.

With any new hire, a law firm will be aiming to make sure the potential candidate is flexible and open to learning new things and are able to be developed in certain areas that fit within the law firms modus operandi.


3. What has their previous tenure been like, will they stay?

Law firms are acutely aware of the cost associated with bringing on new lawyers, especially if external recruitment agencies are involved. In saying that, the financial costs are not only to be considered, but there are also many non-financial factors to be considered such as induction, training, time and energy. As a whole, both the financial and non-financial factors can place a considerable drain on the firm’s resources.

Because of this, it’s crucial that any new hire can demonstrate they are a stable employee and have a history of long-term employment. Law firms don’t like to make a habit of investing time and resources into new hires only firm them to leave within a short space of time.

In some cases and for a variety of reasons, some lawyers do move on from law firms after short periods of time. This doesn’t necessarily mean that as a lawyer if this is your situation that it will negatively affect your application, it is just important that the reasons are reasonable, clear and justified in the circumstances.


4. Will they fit in with the team?

Work culture is a hot topic within the legal industry and toxic work culture is being cited as one of the main reasons lawyers decide to leave law firms. This means law firms are increasingly more focussed on maintaining positive work cultures and protecting team morale.

During the interview stages, the internal legal recruitment team or hiring managers will be probing any potential new hires with questions related to culture fit. It’s important the values of any potential candidate closely align with that of the law firm.


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