Large firms failing to optimise social media in hot recruitment market

Marshall: Firms not communicating what they stand for

Large law firms are failing to make the best use of LinkedIn as a recruitment tool, with the top 100 firms often receiving no applicants as they fail to sell the roles effectively.

This is against a background of separate research finding that many firms are trying to grow through recruitment while also worrying about retention post-Covid.

Law firm marketing agencies Flare Insight and TBD found that 825 lawyer jobs currently available across the top 100 firms had no LinkedIn applications, with an average of just 1.34 applicants per lawyer role in all.

The figures, which LinkedIn makes openly available, do not take into account applicants through other means, such as recruiters or direct through the firms’ websites.

Researchers said that whilst listed firm DWF had the most roles advertised on LinkedIn, 53% of them had no applicants. By contrast, Lewis Silkin was the most effective, with an average of 6.5 applicants per role.

Out of all top 100 firms, only Lewis Silkin and Watson Farley & Williams that shared five or more jobs and had at least one applicant for every role.

Ince, which ranks eighth on average for applications, was the only firm using LinkedIn’s ‘easy apply’ tool for all its job vacancies.

TBD founder Simon Marshall said: “It’s a hot market for law firm talent and law firms are struggling to attract the right applicants right now.

“Before conducting the research, we didn’t expect to see quite so few applicants per role. In previous years, our experience tells us that each of these roles would’ve had maybe 30 or 40 applicants each.

“What’s clear is that recruitment teams need to try some new approaches. Our view is that recruitment teams should be working with their marketing and communications teams to ensure that these job descriptions are going to attract the talent that the firm needs.

Mr Marshall said that, pre-Covid, remote or flexible working may have been enough to make a firm stand out, but no more. “Firms haven’t yet communicated what they stand for as of today that is proving attractive enough to candidates to want to move.”

He said often adverts did not really talk about the person the firm wanted to hire. “They talk about the role. In a busy market, that can be the difference between them reading on/applying or not.”

Catriona Collier, founder of Flare Insight, added: “People are going to spend on average at least five to six years working at your law firm, so it’s incredibly important that make sure that your job descriptions are tailored to the specific role and really details what that person’s going to be doing, who they will be working for, and what might be expected of them.

“It’s clear from the results in the report that we need to see a change in how people are using content marketing methods to attract the very best talent.”

Separately, a survey of 203 law firm partners by Harbour Litigation Funding found that 45% identified retaining staff as the biggest challenge they faced after the pandemic, ahead of the current macro-economic conditions or retaining profits.

Nonetheless, 37% were trying to grow by hiring more lawyers, with 60% of large firms (over £500m turnover) actively hiring more talent.

This was despite 86% saying they were under pressure from clients to reduce fees or offer alternative billing arrangements.

Harbour said the results highlighted a conundrum for firms: “Are there creative ways to retain or attract talent without simply increasing the salary bill? Responses to the survey suggest that firms are exploring ways to remain competitive without those solutions weighing heavily on the balance sheet.”

This meant 37% said their firm was actively seeking external finance to help support growth while a similar number said they were considering a more traditional route of bank loans, or sourcing capital from private equity.

Litigation funders were also increasingly regarded as a source of working capital to support the running of law firms and their plans for growth, with 73% of partners saying they would consider seeking capital from a litigation funder.

Ellora MacPherson, chief investment officer at Harbour said: “We have seen more law firms interested in having conversations around external finance as they see the value in strategic partnerships like this as a way to fuel a culture of growth and innovation.

“This is also something which is attractive to the next generation of lawyers who are not always immediately tempted simply by large pay cheques.”

Finally, a LinkedIn poll run by the Law Society reported that 69% of around 11,000 respondents said they now preferred hybrid working, with 21% saying they wanted to be fully remote works and only 9% keen to be in the office full-time.

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