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Virtual Roundtable Discussion: Legal Recruitment

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In April we hosted another virtual roundtable, this time for a select group of individuals operating in recruitment functions in law firms. 

The purpose of the discussion was to share challenges and opportunities currently faced because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a lively discussion, and we’ve captured the best and most relevant insights below:

Recruitment slowdown

Inevitably, there has been a slowdown in recruitment,with the majority of roles being put on hold.

However, for roles that are deemed business critical, it is business as usual. These have tended to be replacement roles for people within specialist positions - firms are recognising that essential skillsets simply have to be replaced. Similarly, roles that can easily be performed remotely have also been recruited for.

Meanwhile, there was a sense among attendees that, as lockdown continues, there may be an eagerness to press on with recruitment plans for new starters who operate remotely.

Video interviewing

As we know, firms are having to rapidly adapt and although video interviews were not very common before, they are now becoming the norm - using platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype.

Some of the group suggested that they’ve struggled to get commitment from candidates to move roles via video interviews. However, the majority said that they’ve been able to progress to the offer stage relatively easily – and that the value of video interviewing is now well proven.

At Ambition, we’ve developed a number of clear tips on getting the best out of video interviewing.

Panel interviewing is a definite no – we suggest having no more than two people conducting the interview. Having a templated backdrop can also be an effective way of making candidates more comfortable – after all, people’s homes can be distracting! 

And most importantly, keeping candidates engaged and in the loop is especially important. In these strange times people badly need reassurance.

New ways of onboarding

Thank goodness for IT and courier services! Although the onboarding process is of course different at the moment, it is not stopping firms from doing everything they can to ensure a smooth first few weeks for new starters. The organisational skills of HR and recruitment teams are being utilised to the fullest, ensuring new joiners have all of the equipment, software, guidance and support to settle in as smoothly as possible.

We have also seen firms creating buddy systems for new joiners – which looks like a really smart move in the current circumstances.

Feedback from new joiners has also remarkably positive. In some cases, people are finding that they have been even more supported, and spent even more time with their teams than if they were in the office!

It was also really positive and reassuring to hear that firms have honoured all offers made before Covid-19 and are not back-dating start dates. Indeed this seemed to only have happened when requested by the candidate.

Team spirit

A lot of time and energy is being invested by everyone to ensure a positive outlook.

We heard numerous examples of firms offering work-out classes, yoga sessions, weekly competitions, quizzes, and team drinks that often included colleagues who are currently on furlough. 

This was particularly pleasing, as it’s vital that firms keep furloughed employees engaged in these uncertain times. 

What next?

This of course is the hardest question of all.

There are discussions happening about how best to integrate workforces back into offices, but it is safe to say that there is no defined strategy yet.

The key questions being asked were:

  • Do we bring 30% of the workforce back initially? And if so, how do we prioritise?

  • Do we bring people back in teams?

  • Are people going to feel comfortable commuting?

  • Should people decide for themselves if they are prepared to come back into the office?

  •  Do we encourage working from home for as long as possible across the entire business?

It’s clear that firms will do whatever is in their employees’ best interests only. This pandemic has shown that firms truly care about the health and wellbeing of their staff.

It has also shown that it is possible to work from home and still be successful. Remote working has been questioned by traditionalists for years, but even they have had no choice but to accept how well it’s working. That will definitely affect how firms operate long into the future.

It is safe to say some things will never be the same again – but actually, that will bring many positives. Flexible working has only been given lip service for many years, and far too many firms have failed to implement it. Covid-19 has shown its potential – and that shift cannot be entirely undone.

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