Congratulations--your firm is expanding and you need a new associate. Or condolences--an associate moved on, with or without your encouragement. In either case, you need to hire someone good, relatively quickly. Let's make sure you're not overlooking any strategies for finding that next great attorney employee.
Hire Someone You Know
Sounds too obvious, right? The point is to not just reflexively throw the door open to everyone when a vacancy arises. Take some time to contact lawyers whose ability you know and trust and who would be a good fit for your firm. If appropriate, poach. Make them an offer they can't refuse. This is a strategy that calls for identifying a pool of talent before your hiring need arises. It's why you engage with the legal community. But not just superficially--pay attention to the work these younger lawyers are doing and get a first-hand sense of whether they might be an asset to your firm should you need to hire an associate.
Hire Someone You Know Knows
The pool of talent personally known to us is limited. This doesn't mean you have to go on a fishing expedition just yet. There are the people known to your colleagues to consider. You have people in your network whose opinion you trust, and they might personally know a good candidate. The power of networking will really manifest itself if you decide to employ this strategy. A close relative of this approach is to hire off reputation. Fifty million Elvis fans can't be wrong, and it's a good bet a young lawyer with a stellar reputation will turn out to be good for you as well.
Pan for Gold
You might not have first- or second-hand knowledge of any good associate candidates, or even if you do, you might think there's someone better out there for you. The time and cost associated with advertising and interviewing could be negligible compared to the chance to snare that superstar waiting in the wings. The major channels for publicizing your job opening are:
1. Word of mouth. Everyone you talk with should get the message, subtly or forcefully: you're hiring. This is like the network approach discussed above, but broader. You're not necessarily concerned with the quality of referrals you might get at this point; rather, you're trying to expand the pool as much as you can.
2. Your firm's website. If you don't already, you need to have a "careers" section of your website where potential candidates can learn about job openings. Keep this up to date so people can trust in its currency. As a means of developing a pool of candidates, you might also want to post a statement that you are always interested in speaking with talented attorneys, and solicit resumes on an ongoing basis. Have a plan for dealing with inquiries if you do that--you could get a constant stream.
3. Law school career offices. These are good places to seek out younger attorneys, especially if you're targeting graduates of a particular school. The school obviously has an interest in seeing its graduates placed, so advertise through their channels and piggyback off their efforts.
4. Job websites. This is perhaps the main way associate jobs are advertised and sought. Spend your time (and in some cases, money) posting on the sites most likely to be used by attorneys first. There are sites not specific to attorneys, like craigslist, Monster, and CareerBuilder, that can be fruitful. You may prefer the attorney-specific sites, such as FindLaw's Law Career Center, attorneyjobs.com, lawjobs.com, or lawcrossing.com. There are many others serving particular market segments or niches. The job sections of association websites are also good places to target associates in a specific practice area.
5. Recruiters. You can always hand the recruiting process over to an expert. Now you're talking money, but the expanded reach and screening capability of a recruiter might be worth it.