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Should you interview candidates who don't match your criteria?

Brexit and government reforms have been hot topics for over two years now. Although nothing’s set in stone, it’s started to dictate the economy, and both the private and public sectors.

Impact on the legal market

As a legal recruitment consultant, I’ve noticed that despite the uncertainty; the new personal injury reforms to be introduced in the new year; and the nerves related to the unknown – how will the economy shape up? - the legal market remains buoyant for jobseeking lawyers.  

At the moment, I have live legal jobs in Birmingham, London and Oxford for the following:

  • Defendant clinical negligence lawyers

  • Specialist serious injury lawyers

  • Professional indemnity lawyers

  • Healthcare/inquest lawyers

This being said, from the other side, the candidate market is quiet and not just in insurance but across most practice areas in London and the regions.

Why a candidate shortage?

Previously, law firms have been spoilt for choice in terms of suitable candidates. Now, they're having to change their recruitment strategy: adopting a more creative/'thinking outside the box' approach.

There’s no definitive explanation as to why there’s a candidate shortage. Presumably, Brexit is dictating new client instructions or a lack of them, or there’s hesitation from experienced lawyers to move firms due to the potential economic downturn. Maybe the more experienced lawyers aren’t keen on a move in case they miss out on a pay rise or promotional opportunities. Or perhaps law firms are reluctant to take on trainees on the premise the likelihood of retaining them is slim. Who knows, it could be for one or all of these reasons.

This doesn’t help those recruiting because a lateral hire is never a fishing expedition, but 99% of the time it’s a critical business need.

I spend my working day speaking to clients who’ve made their own efforts to recruit serious injury or professional indemnity lawyers, to no avail. The reality is, the perfect candidate they’re looking for doesn’t exist or isn’t on the market.

The solution

Do you sit and wait it out until the right person comes along? What if that doesn’t happen for six months, a year or never? The answer (in short) is no. There’s work that needs to be done and by not recruiting, it negatively impacts on the rest of the team (and profit margins). This leads me to my next point.

If you’re struggling to hire, should you interview candidates who don’t match your criteria?

In the face of a candidate-short market, recruitment teams need to heed the advice provided to them, and consider applications from suitably matched candidates whose background and experience lend well to the roles they're hiring for, even if they aren't the ‘perfect match.’

A recent example

I recently assisted a leading international law firm recruiting for their professional indemnity team. They'd struggled to find lawyers with any kind of insurance litigation experience, let alone professional indemnity.

Following a lengthy conversation with the partners and their recruitment team, and having understood what underpinned their work: litigation, we agreed to consider commercial litigators who’d grasp the complex issues surrounding causation, liability, breach etc.

Thankfully, this approach was a success - it enabled partners to recruit successfully: lawyers they hadn’t considered previously based on their set criteria. Based on their feedback, in 'thinking outside the box' they've made some of their best hires. I'll take that!

The ideal vs the pragmatic

In an ideal world, you want someone who’s handled the same type of work. Unfortunately, in today’s climate, it’s not always that easy or simple and our advice to anyone recruiting is that sometimes you need to consider (and interview) lawyers who sit outside of your ideal criteria.

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