The last few years of recruiting and hiring marketing staff for law firms has certainly been interesting. On the plus side, law firms continue to invest in marketing and business development personnel. Some might argue that it is even more important as we come out of COVID and start to connect and reconnect with clients, prospective clients, and referral sources. The law firms that have retained me have been wiling to make the proper investment to hire the right people. On the minus side, depending on geographic location (I’ve placed marketers in the MidAtlantic, Northeast, Midwest, and South in the last year), the pool of candidates can be quite shallow. I won’t go into specifics, but some markets simply have more available talent than others.
My marketing column in the July/August 2022 issue of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Magazine, Staffing Your Law Firm Marketing Team, addresses many of the issues and concerns that law firms have (or should have) when it comes to new hires. Like the job market everywhere, there are lots of moving people and moving parts. In some cities, the best some law firms can do is poach junior personnel from competing law firms by overpaying. This is happening more at the lower to mid-level positions on a marketing team. To oversimplify things, you end up hiring someone else’s marketing coordinator by offering him/her $75k when they are earning 50k where they are.
Pre-COVID, there was no talk of hybrid versus fully remote, and less discussion of a willingness to hire in a satellite office market versus one of a law firm’s more substantial office locations. As I often tell my law firm clients, I’m still a bit old school when it comes to having a marketer that you can see and interact with at the water cooler on occasion. On the flip side, I’ve had some marketers complain to me that it made no sense to sit in an office when 95% of the attorneys there are working from home (or the shore, or in the Virgin Islands somewhere). I’ve found that “back in the office” is more about geography than a law firm deciding across the board. I’ve sat down in many law firm offices across the country in the last year—yet not a single visit to New York City (which is a quick New Jersey commuter train from my home), although I’ve been to ballgames and other sporting events in NYC.
Since I authored this column, the Great Resignation has slowed a bit. With inflation increasing, law firm personnel are a little more hesitant to jump ship when a recession could lead them into that “last person in, first person out” territory if cuts come along shortly down the road. The firms that overpay for underperformers are going to make that correction soon enough.
In the meantime, I’m sitting at my desk reviewing resumes for an excellent opportunity at a nice, midsize law firm, with good compensation and flexibility in location and WFH (the fact that work-from-home is such a recognizable acronym now is a little sad). What has not changed is seeing the good, bad and the ugly in applications. Despite clear job requirements and expectations, there are those with zero actual credentials, some with decades, and a bunch of in-between. It’s my job to find the right fit for the law firm—an inexact science for sure, but definitely a science.