Craig Wilson
Craig Wilson

Articles From the Team

Why you should instruct a dedicated in-house legal recruiter

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Historically, the in-house legal recruitment market has been a small sector (relative to the size of the private practice sector). This has meant a limited number of recruitment consultants have focussed on this area of the legal market exclusively. However, since the recession and economic difficulties 10 years ago, the in-house sector has grown and more and more companies are recruiting lawyers and growing their in-house legal department. In turn, this has attracted more recruiters to try their hand at the field.

In-house legal recruitment

In the same way that not all lawyers make a good in-house counsel, not all recruiters make good in-house legal recruiters. To be successful in an in-house counsel role, or as a recruiter focussed on the in-house legal sector, you need to have a genuine interest in business and what a company produces or does.

Like their legal in-house counterparts, In-house legal recruiters should be pragmatic, commercial and down-to-earth. And they should focus on building and maintaining long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with clients. It’s not about making a quick buck! It’s about understanding the culture and personalities within a company - this is vital. Also, success isn’t measured on a lawyer candidate’s technical ability and knowledge alone; in-house legal recruiting is just as much about matching people, company cultures and operating styles.

Private practice legal recruitment

Successful private practice legal recruiters tend to focus on distinct legal specialisms and they’ll often focus on temporary/contract or permanent recruitment. They may also centre their attention on a law firm’s size, and/or via specific geographic regions within a larger region i.e. Greater Manchester.

In most cases, the main focus of the job is to identify the correct technical skills and experience to suit a particular role. As a result, personality and cultural fit can sometimes take a back seat.

How should each role specialise?

Private practice recruiters need to specialise because of the sheer number of lawyers employed by individual private practice law firms. A commercial department within a firm can have 10+ lawyers so their aim is to fully understand the specialism - becoming a subject-matter expert.

For in-house recruiters, the number of lawyers at any one client is usually quite small (think Sole Counsel or in-house departments of two or three), so they increase the size of their client base by focussing on wider geographic areas (think North-West, North-East and Midlands etc.) across a range of industry sectors and company sizes. They also cover both permanent and interim recruitment and focus on taking the time to learn about each company’s products, structure, culture, and of course, what’s expected in its legal department.

The in-house recruiter is less focussed on the technical skills of an applicant (although it’s still important), and is more focussed on learning and assimilating information about disparate and distinct companies across many industry sectors. While at the same time, assessing and understanding the personality types, cultural fit and suitability of the lawyer candidates they represent.

Can you be good at both?

A successful private practice recruiter doesn't automatically make a successful in-house recruiter. The two sectors require subtly different personality traits and approaches.

Speaking from past experience (circa eight years ago now): it's incredibly difficult for a legal recruiter to be all things to all people.

As a subject matter expert on a specific legal discipline and the associated private practice law firms and candidate pool, a private practice recruiter doesn’t have the time to fully focus on in-house matters effectively. Equally, the same applies to in-house recruiters trying to deal with law firm recruitment while operating across a broad territory (involving hundreds of companies; many different sectors; cultures; legal departments; styles and approaches; and indeed, the associated in-house lawyer candidate pool).

Interested in working with a legal recruiter?

If you choose to work with a legal recruiter, always look to work with one that’s a specialist in their field. Recruitment consultants who are a jack of all trades (focussing on both private practice and in-house) across many legal specialisms, are unable to provide you with the same level of knowledge, insight, advice and quality of service as those who specialise. This is even more so when a recruiter is dabbling in the in-house market and working private practice roles at the same time.

Picking your recruitment partner is an important decision. BCL Legal’s In-house team has been established for over 15 years and each of our seven consultants focus solely on in-house legal matters. Four of the team have worked in legal recruitment for at least 10 years and we all have a proven track record of working with leading UK and international companies and their in-house departments.

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