Law Firms Need To Be Better To Job Candidates


As many readers of this column know from firsthand experience, getting hired by a law firm is a brutal process. Job applicants often need to interview with many attorneys, and sometimes must appear at a law office three or more times to be interviewed for a job. In addition, job applicants often need to fill out long conflicts forms, background check forms, and other documents in order to be hired by a firm. Perhaps the worst part of the hiring process is how long it often takes to get hired. As someone who has been on both sides of the process, I understand firsthand how law firms need to respond faster and be more respectful to job applicants out of courtesy and to reduce the stress of applying for a job.

Throughout my career, I have been both a job seeker and an individual tasked with reviewing applicants for jobs at the firms at which I worked. It has always been very frustrating to observe how long it usually takes for the hiring process for a law firm to take place. Although some job hunts can take less than a month, I have seen job searches take as long as six months. During the hiring process, numerous job candidates are left in limbo as they nervously await a decision from the firm that they hope to join.

I remember earlier in my career when I was a job candidate and had interviewed at a variety of firms. For months, I waited in trepidation. I checked my emails religiously and made sure my voicemail box was empty so I could receive messages from firms. Not a day passed that I didn’t think about my job search, and most days, I constantly thought about my experiences at interviews and my chances of getting hired at a firm.

Given that the hiring process is such a trying time for many attorneys, you would think that firms would prioritize interviewing candidates as soon as possible and notifying everyone within a few days about whether they have been selected for a job. However, that is often not the case.

At many of the firms at which I worked, partners did not prioritize the hiring process and delayed responding to the candidates they had interviewed. I understand some of the reasons why partners take such a long time to respond to job candidates. For one, partners have a number of competing obligations, the most critical of which is billing hours and making money. Although adding personnel can lead to increases in revenue, taking the time to interview candidates in the short term can take time away from billing hours. In addition, law firms operate on cycles, and some periods, such as the holidays and the time leading up to Labor Day, may be slower at a shop, and many key partners may be away. As such, it is sometimes unavoidable for partners to take weeks and months to respond to job candidates.

However, partners need to understand that job candidates are often extremely stressed out about the hiring process and would like a decision as soon as possible. This is even more true for attorneys who have been laid off and simply want the nightmare of being axed to end. As a result, partners need to have compassion and factor in the stress of job candidates when deciding on the timing of a hiring process.

In addition, partners should try to minimize the amount of trips a job candidate needs to make to a firm while interviewing for a position. Every time applicants show up for interviews, they need to take time off from their current jobs (which could arouse suspicions with their current bosses) and make other arrangements. I once had to travel to a firm three times to meet with attorneys during a job search, and the last time was for a ten-minute interview with one person! Firms should try to do screening interviews by phone whenever possible.

In addition, firms should not grant interviews out of kindness or because of office politics when there is no chance the candidate will be hired. Sometimes, I have seen firms offer interviews to a client’s relative just to show the client they care about them, and this is usually fine. However, one time, I was tasked with interviewing a job candidate after our firm had experienced rounds of layoffs and financial uncertainty. There was no way we would hire new people in this situation, but our firm still “interviewed” a candidate since this person had connections to one of the partners. All things being considered, the kinder option might have been to not waste the candidate’s time with an interview when there was no way that candidate was going to be hired by our firm at that time.

All told, the hiring process at many firms is brutal, and one of the worst parts about this process is how long it typically takes to hear back from firms. The job search often takes months, and job candidates often need to attend multiple interviews and won’t hear updates throughout the process. Even though partners have a number of responsibilities, they should try to conduct the hiring process quickly and notify candidates of their decisions as soon as possible.


Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at jordan@rothmanlawyer.com.



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