Industry Resources

Why Engage a Specialist Recruiter for In-House Counsel Searches?

At first glance, it might not be obvious why a company’s in-house legal department would benefit from engaging an external recruiting firm to help hire attorneys. After all, doesn’t the company already have its own internal talent acquisition function?

Some companies certainly do choose to search for attorney candidates without specialist assistance. But many in-house legal departments have come to appreciate the unique value provided by specialized legal recruiters.

Searches for legal talent are different

Internal company recruiters are usually generalists tasked with filling a variety of roles across multiple departments. Those internal recruiters know what their company values in its hires; however, they may not be familiar with the nuances critically important to assembling the right group of candidates for its legal department. For example, a company that needed an attorney with substantial experience drafting commercial contracts involving intellectual property initially conducted its search without external assistance. However, many of the candidates that the internal recruiter presented for consideration had the wrong “kind” of transactional experience; the internal recruiter hadn’t realized that attorneys with transactional law backgrounds could possess different subject matter expertise. A specialized legal recruiter can more adeptly identify candidates with the requisite skills and experience. A legal recruiter focused on in-house positions will also understand that the company needs an experienced attorney who appreciates the company’s business goals as well.

It is important to emphasize that engaging an external recruiting firm like Cadence Counsel does not mean sidelining a company’s internal talent acquisition team. Rather, our role is to partner with the team to construct the ideal profile and find candidates who match it. The internal recruiter is the expert on company culture and on screening for the personality fit that will set a new hire up for success in that culture. A legal recruiter can complement that cultural knowledge with a deep understanding of the specific legal tasks for which the new hire will be performing.

Specialist knowledge can generate a richer candidate pool in less time

As generalists working across departments, internal recruiters face competing demands for their limited bandwidth. In-house legal positions often require broad, nationwide searches in the case of high-level positions, or very specialized searches for candidates with industry-specific knowledge. Both demand time and resources frequently unavailable to them. Moreover, internal recruiters tend to rely heavily on direct applicants to fill positions. This is understandable when one considers the volume of roles that most internal recruiters are expected to fill. Another limiting factor is that the networks of internal recruiters are frequently limited geographically and substantively.

In contrast, a specialized legal recruiter has the bandwidth to devote more time to a law department search and can cast a wider net by using proprietary tools to tap their extensive networks. If necessary, the external recruiter can take the entire sourcing process off the internal recruiter’s plate, freeing them up to spend more time engaging with their internal business partners. 

A key part of the value external recruiters also provide is identifying and targeting the passive candidates who are not actively searching for new opportunities. Not only can external recruiters assemble the right candidate pool, but, because they can draw on years-long relationships, they can usually do so quickly. At Cadence Counsel, it typically takes 10 business days to scour the market and identify an initial group of candidates. Most roles are filled within 45 to 60 days, depending on the length of a company’s interview process.

A skilled recruiter can advise on market norms and strengthen the company’s process

The best legal recruiters are also able to tap their knowledge of the industry to act as consultants to legal departments, to help a company shape its hiring process to align with market expectations. We have a thorough understanding of trends in the broader market and how candidates are likely to react. For example, our recruiters can advise on how to structure the interview process to maintain candidate interest. And, when it’s time to construct an offer, our knowledge of market trends in compensation can help the company ensure it puts forward a competitive package.

A specialized recruiting firm is best positioned to explore interim talent solutions

Another differentiating factor that may not be immediately apparent concerns access to high-quality interim attorney talent. Some specialized recruiting firms are accustomed to searching for interim attorney talent while simultaneously conducting an executive search for a permanent candidate. Internal recruiters do not often search for temporary candidates. If anything, the internal recruiter may task a contingent workforce specialist in the company’s procurement department with backfilling the role temporarily.

Whereas the procurement function is unlikely to have expertise in finding interim legal counsel, an experienced legal recruiting firm like Cadence Counsel specializes in quickly deploying seasoned, highly-trained contract attorneys to legal departments to help bridge the gap in the volume of work that may be accumulating. By preventing a large backlog of work from building up, a well-matched interim talent solution can both smooth the path for a new hire and combat burnout among remaining team members during the search process.
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of using a specialized legal recruiter for assistance with your company’s law department hiring needs, whether for permanent or interim searches, Chi Chi Anachebe welcomes you to contact her ().