The pandemic has been brutal on the job market:
- 3 million women left the workplace in 2020 leaving the U.S. with 10 million available jobs and 9 million available candidates
- One in three labor force participants in the U.S. is a millennial
- 24% of millennials have been employed at five or more organizations
- 65% of employees claim their stress levels have skyrocketed over five years
- Happy employees are five times more likely to stay
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is about hiring paralegals. I hope these tips help you create a recruiting plan that makes your firm even stronger in 2023.
Law firms are known for being notoriously slow in hiring. One of my favorite jobs took me five months to get after making the initial contact. I was employed at the time, but five months is a long time to wait. Job candidates tell me they can go weeks or even months without hearing a status update from a potential employer. While I was willing to wait five months, this scenario is unlikely to work in your favor in today’s employment climate.
Great candidates are often hard to come by and they move fast. If you have a long hiring process, the candidate is likely going to take another offer that comes in faster. Most law firms have a slow hiring process (and even slower termination process). In today’s market, you should at least try to hire faster. And by 90-days, you should have a good sense of whether a candidate will work. If not, don’t put off the inevitable, release them after a 90-day trial period before you’ve invested too much time and resources down the wrong path.
Post your jobs on LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter or other online job options. Your post can be as formal or as informal as works for you. Some firm members post on their personal LinkedIn account, “My firm is hiring, this is a great place to work, send me your resume if you’d like to join the team!” If you are trying to decide the appropriate message for your firm, view how other companies and firms are posting jobs on the various platforms.
Also, post your position on job banks or career centers offered by paralegal schools, paralegal associations, and bar associations, such as the NCBA Career Center.
Recruiters are often a last resort for some law firms because of the fees. However, when your time is money, working with recruiters is an investment in your firm. You don’t need a recruiter to hire an entry level candidate but working with a recruiting firm to hire an experienced or specialized paralegal can provide you with access to candidates you otherwise might not have had.
A recruiting firm has access to a database of candidates, as well as having recruiters search for candidates directly or through their network of contacts. Recruiters can provide background searches, personality tests or skills testing, as well as the first round of interviews. If you work regularly with recruiting firms, they will begin to know you, your firm, and the type of candidates who would be good fits. Many recruiting firms also offer to refund fees if the candidate does not last a minimum amount of time in the job.
Some firms don’t want to invest in recent graduates. However, the inside of the classroom today looks different than 30 years ago. It’s always been true that many paralegal students are second career students. While they may not have written a motion or searched a title, paralegal school provides a practical education. You learn to draft the document, how much the filing fee will be, and how to get to the courthouse. Yes, hiring a recent graduate may require more time investment from you, but take the long view that this is an investment in your firm.
Working with paralegal programs to hire interns is a great way to introduce your firm to the school and to start meeting students who you might end up hiring. Sometimes, students can get classroom credit for internships, other times, you may need to pay a salary.
The ABA has a directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs – Approved Programs Directory (americanbar.org).
The NC Paralegal Association has a list with 36 paralegal programs located in North Carolina – Paralegal Educational Program Listings (ncparalegal.org)
Networking with Non-Traditional Candidates
Search for non-traditional candidates. Anyone who has worked in customer service will know how to deal with clients, whether they worked in a call center, a restaurant, or retail job. Also, people who have worked in other professional services such as finance or accounting will have many transferrable skills. As a former paralegal educator myself, I’m not discouraging paralegal education. But an excellent candidate might be one with transferrable skills that can be complemented with on-the-job training, attending paralegal school after being hired, or by taking continuing education and CLE programs.
Recruiting is a multi-prong effort. Commit your ideas to a written plan with implementation dates. Interviewing candidates for summer positions may happen in the winter semester of classes. Working paralegals who have completed paralegal programs may be job searching in the spring. Online recruiting is always an option – but you must first create the job description and post it. View these efforts as investments in the firm and you will see results over time.
Camille Stell is the President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services and the co-author of the newly published book, RESPECT – An Insight to Attorney Compensation Plans available from Amazon. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.662.8843.