Law firm launches legal recruitment business for in-house teams

Mallender: A first for a law firm

A law firm which provides experienced commercial lawyers to businesses to work in-house on a contract basis has launched its own legal recruitment business for in-house teams.

James Mallender, director and head of recruitment at The Legal Director (TLD), said TLD Recruit would target a different market.

He said TLD’s traditional clients generally had “no in-house resource”, while TLD would recruit lawyers for larger companies with in-house legal departments.

“There will be times when existing clients need to recruit their first lawyer. We want to provide that service where it comes to us. What we’re absolutely not doing is targeting our existing client base.”

He said TLD Recruit’s target market would be “legal teams which are hiring across the board – everyone from a paralegal to senior legal counsel”.

Mr Mallender said he believed it was the first time that a law firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority had launched a legal recruitment function as a complementary offering.

He was hearing anecdotally that the war for talent was making it “very hard” for businesses to recruit in-house lawyers at the associate/senior associate level, because they simply “cannot compete” with private practice salaries.

“The disparity between earnings in industry and law firms is so stark that it becomes really challenging to attract the right candidate in-house.

“The war for talent is being driven by law firms. I’ve not seen any suggestion that it is getting better.”

Mr Mallender said that things were different for TLD’s lawyers, who were generally “at the top end of the in-house market” – former general counsel or heads of legal with at least 15 years of post-qualification experience.

“There is a real desire to look at consultancy as an option towards the end of their careers, at a time when an increasing number of businesses are looking at the in-house model as something they want.”

He said TLD, which operates virtually, has over 50 lawyers on its books. Mr Mallender, a former real estate partner at Womble Bond Dickinson, is a co-owner of the firm with founder and chief executive Ed Simpson, and Kirstie Penk, director and head of business development and sales.

Mr Mallender said he and Georgie Rylance, the head of TLD Recruit, “completely redesigned” TLD’s recruitment process last year, which “massively increased the numbers of people we were talking to, interviewing and taking on”.

After that, clients and non-clients began to approach TLD to ask for help with recruiting permanent in-house lawyers.

“We saw this numerous times over the last 12 months, with three approaches in rapid succession. All the enquiries were inbound, with no advertising at all.”

Mr Mallender said TLD Recruit’s first appointment, being finalised this month, was for a senior legal counsel who would be second in charge. Further appointments next month could feature an interim in-house lawyer becoming permanent and a solicitor becoming a company’s first in-house lawyer.

Ms Rylance added that a business’s legal needs could change over time and many businesses were looking for a permanent solution.

“TLD Recruit was born because we want to support our clients at every stage of their journey, and we have the resources available to help. With TLD Recruit, we can provide businesses with a wraparound service for all their in-house legal needs.”

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