Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Clarity Versus Certainty: How to Hire the Best

For many, a great thing about working at a BigLaw firm is the certainty around compensation.  With each passing year you and your peers advance up the ranks with an associated compensation increase.  There aren't many other jobs out there where you know what you can expect to earn each year for the next eight years on your first day of work. 

Small firms cannot provide this sort of certainty, which can make recruiting top talent a challenge.  So, how do you compete with the big guys for great talent?  Fight certainty with clarity.

BigLaw attorneys have no clarity.  None.  They don't know how their firm makes money (or does not make money) off of their efforts, how the firm is faring financially, what the partnership objectives are and most importantly, what is expected from them so they may succeed and make partner.  Some don't even know what their bill rate is.

This secrecy was tolerable when the certainty of advancement seemed guaranteed.  Lately, it is harder to count on the certainty that BigLaw offers.  Layoffs, compensation cuts and other career disenfranchising has made it difficult to believe the way that BigLaw lawyers used to.  For many, the secrecy of BigLaw has become intolerable.
  

How can small firm partners leverage BigLaw's newfound uncertainty to recruit the top performers in the field?

  • Share the firm’s objectives.  Provide some background knowledge on the firm's growth and future expectations for business development.  Where do you see the firm in 15 years, and what does your hire's position look like in your vision?  Knowing there's a plan for growth and that they play an important role in achieving that goal gives your recruits the stability they need to stick with your firm over BigLaw offers.
  • Create a clear path for attorneys.  This means more than a list of titles. It should include the objectives and an understanding of the overall firm development.  You should also give your attorneys an understanding of how their contributions effect the firm's reputation and bottom line.  Above all, your team will benefit from a strong understanding of how they provide excess value to the firm and how they get paid for it.
  • Provide professional development tools.  Make sure your attorneys know that they will become better attorneys by working with you.  BigLaw attorneys can fall through the cracks, but small firm attorneys have the benefit of working closely with senior members.  Lay out the processes in place at your firm to help your team members hone their skills.  I listed several methods for incorporating professional development into your firm's everyday operations in a previous post.


Small firm partners who know how to communicate all they have to offer can be sure that they will hire the best of the best.


David DePietto is the founder and CEO of NexFirm. He can be reached at dd@nexfirm.com.

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