The ‘soft landing’ growth strategy for law firms

Posted by Pierre Watson, head of talent acquisition at Legal Futures Associate Acquira Professional Services

Watson: Firms can make the mistake of doing things the traditional way

Increasing demand for ‘hot’ areas of law inspires opportunist law firms to hire more specialists to add to their firepower – the right people at the right time.

Yet this is a big ask. Who are the right people? What is the right time?

The pandemic has, if anything, made professionals even more risk-averse than they were. In the legal world, you may observe people so attached to their firm that they idea of leaving is anathema to them. The building may be on fire but still they hesitate to leave.

Within this context, how do you attract the right calibre or begin to tempt them to consider pastures new?

The answer is that you offer them a soft landing and a brighter future.

Firms can make the mistake of doing things the traditional way. So, let’s explore the wrong way. The shot-in-the-dark approach, that many firms choose to adopt, is to pour money into marketing or advertising, or to rely on the ‘free’ personal introduction method.

That one shot soon turns into a scattergun approach, with few shots on target.


Marketing is useful when it opens doors to new clients and employees. But too many firms fall into the trap of self-aggrandisation, the ‘look how good we are’ schtick. This is about as appealing as a note with PTO written on both sides of the paper.

Many firms promote the idea that they are ‘passionate’ about their clients or services. Or ‘passionate’ about looking after their own people.

What does this actually mean? In our book, being passionate is best reserved for the boudoir.


Advertising for people to fill specific roles is another shot in the dark. This is because it only addresses the active market – those already seeking a move.

The great swathe of the market who are passive – the classic “I’m not looking to move” – are not reached via this method.

Then there is the question of where to advertise. Who’s going to see the advert? Will it have the desired impact?

Most uninspiring of all, the advert makes a humdinger of a schoolboy error. It offers a long, droll list of tasks for which the hired candidate will be responsible. Wake me up once you’ve read to the end.

It’s a two-way street! What’s in it for them? How is this a career-enhancing move for them?

Joining your firm is not the prize in itself.

Personal introduction

Something that sounds like it belongs to the precarious world of online dating should be a red flag.

It requires care and diplomacy. These things can be an afterthought. This is the “it’s quite handy that Bob knows Clive in Firm B and could tempt him on board after a few sherries.”

This approach fails due to the lack of a go-between, a mediator ensuring both parties’ interests are understood and represented, so that the hiring process proceeds on the best foundation.

Yes, occasionally you may strike lucky and secure a talented individual to add to your team. But what ‘below the line’ factors have you missed along the way?

An alternative option

The big challenge with all of these approaches is that they miss the essential steps that an effective independent third party will be careful to follow.

A key oversight is the lack of the ‘sell’ to the candidate. Why would they want to jump ship to join your firm right now? What is your future vision and growth strategy? What can your firm offer to allay any concerns about joining you?

All firms say they offer a ‘competitive package’. Does this translate to a real carrot to entice people onboard, or a total turnip?

How is your culture different to that of other firms? How far do you embrace the idea of flexible working? Or as a ‘traditional’ law firm, is it all about being at the office, all the time?

A personal, targeted, bespoke approach offers a balanced way forward to enable optimum hires. It is vital that the above questions, and more, are addressed at the outset. Aim to have a win/win.

Happy hiring!


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