How to pinpoint, attract and acquire the right leaders for your legal business
The relevance of leadership for UK law firms today
You might be in a state of expansion at the moment, where leadership talent is principal to your hiring strategy. Or, it might be an area your law firm’s looking into for the first time to address a period of instability. Whatever the predicament and business trajectory, there’s no denying its relevance in an increasingly competitive landscape for law firms across the UK.
A good law firm concedes their success doesn’t stop at good lawyers. From a growth perspective, good leadership is integral because a lack of it has a disastrous impact on staff turnover, which has a knock on effect in terms of client service and satisfaction. Not to mention the associated costs involved in losing staff (and clients).
And it doesn’t stop here. Hiring good leaders will do wonders for attracting top talent in general.
So, how do you get them? In order to find and hire the right leaders for your business, there are two essential steps to undertake beforehand.
- Get clear on your business's values and vision
- Identify the type of leader you're looking for: the 'right' leaders for your business
1. Get clear on your business's values and vision
There’s a multitude of reasons why this is important. An underlying theme and put simply: it’s imperative to know ‘yourself’ before others can, and if people don’t know who ‘you’ are and what ‘you’re’ about, they won’t be inclined to work with you.
So, before you set out on an expedition to attract great leaders to your firm, take a long hard look at the business itself: its current position and future direction. Is there anything the business must address before it starts exploring the leadership market?
Ultimately, reflecting on the business values and vision enables you to identify the key strengths needed in your leaders (more on this below).
Lastly, if you’re clear on the business values and vision, you can use this to attract top leaders. In sharing an inspirational vision, you’re more likely to attract the right and the best for your business (again, more on this below).
2. Identify the type of leader you're looking for: the 'right' leader for your business
You won’t get the right leaders if you don’t know who they are.
If you skip the above, it’s almost impossible to ascertain who the right leaders are and what they look like because leadership style has a context: a time and place.
Starting from scratch
By getting clear on your business values and vision, you’re now in a position to clearly set out what it is you want/need from a leader. Inevitably, like any employee, their values should align with those of the business and they should be on board with and share in the business’s trajectory.
Another tactic is to reflect on current leaders within your business: what do they look like and if they’re effective, you might want to model their leadership style. Or, if there are areas within the business that you’re struggling with, recognise these gaps and how a good leader might rectify or distinguish them over time; from here, what sort of leadership style is needed in order to ‘fix’ any problems?
Top tip: Don’t write off the less experienced talent in fulfilling your leadership goals. If you can envisage someone’s leadership potential, talent with the lesser experience can often be less stuck in their ways, and more likely to experiment on the job. You might also find they make more effort to succeed (and learn).
Finally, how to attract and acquire the leaders you're looking for
If you’ve completed both the steps outlined above, most of this process should come easy and be relatively straightforward, but it can also feel like the hardest step as it doesn’t happen overnight – it requires a great deal of patience.
The good news is, the above steps don’t just feed into the final step – the outcome and result – indirectly. In a direct sense, with your clear values and vision at hand, you can share this throughout the hiring process in order to attract and acquire top leadership talent. Transparency is key: you should emphasise the importance of the business values and vision and convey them in an inspirational way.
Top tip: If you’re in the fortunate position of already having one or more great leaders within your business, involve them in the hiring process. Where you don’t have distinct leaders per se – look to your best talent to help.
Finally, it goes without saying: set the standards high. As stated, given the competitive landscape for law firms across the UK, as well as immense pressure on smaller businesses to grow (especially if they’re currently short of talent), there’s a risk of ‘settling.’ Don’t lower your standards to tick boxes in the short-term as you’ll only end up stalling long-term goals such as retention.