As featured in Attorney at Work on July 17, 2019
A checklist to use before your search begins.
Sooner or later, all firms find themselves asking whether they should hire a marketing or business development professional — closely followed by “how” to hire and whom.
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the five factors that signal your firm and partners are ready to hire someone. Typically, it’s the realization that the firm’s growth has stalled and the current working model actually hinders growth.
Now let’s talk about how to find that professional.
How Do You Identify the Right Person? Three Elements.
Experience has taught me that no single criterion will determine the “right” match, but common patterns often emerge. Over time, I’ve developed a framework based on what I know law firms value. Here are three key elements.
1. Organizational Cultural Fit
It’s always essential to test technical expertise. But organizational and cultural fit is more important. At its core, cultural fit is about ensuring all of your professionals share the values your firm and leadership have established. Put simply, it’s “the way things get done around here.” For some firms, that means hiring entrepreneurial professionals in an environment that encourages creativity and risk-taking. For some, it means hiring professionals who thrive on competition in a driven and hierarchical environment. Each firm is different, so each hire will be different.
Cultural fit is hard to incorporate into a formal interview. To properly consider whether the values of the candidate match those of your firm, create situations where the candidate is more relaxed and make sure the person conducting the interview is armed with the right questions.
People choose to stay at firms because of the cultural fit and the right leadership at the top. Technical knowledge is simpler to identify, and gaps are more quickly resolved through training.
How senior and involved in the business will this professional be? There are four levels for the professional you’ll consider hiring.
3. Recruiting Strategy
You may not realize it, but your recruiting strategy affects your firm’s reputation and how the industry responds when you’re searching. Think about how long it should take to run a search, who should be involved in the process, and how people will engage with the candidates along the journey.
Marketing and business development professionals do have the reputation of typically changing jobs frequently. Senior marketing and BD folks will seek out roles with more authority, empowerment and strategy. For mid-level professionals, what’s important to them when they move relates more to the culture, firm leadership and a firm’s tendency to promote from within, as well as title advancement. For juniors, it’s typically all about promotion and work-life integration.
Against this backdrop, we’re experiencing extreme competition in the legal profession and a 50-year-low unemployment rate. Handling your first search well and hiring correctly will help you avoid headaches and preserve your reputation as a well-run and progressive firm.
Specialist knowledge, professionalism, transparency, proactiveness, deadline-driven; these things are, in my experience, critical to a successful search. Failed searches have at least one and often most of these elements missing from a sound recruiting strategy.
It is a challenge to make the decision to hire and then find the right marketing or BD professional for your firm. Before you hire, consider this checklist:
And remember, this is a defining, exciting and precedent-setting time for your firm. Getting it right is far more important than quickly checking it off your list.
Kate Harry Shipham is the Principal of KHS People LLC, an executive search firm for BD and marketing people in professional services firms. Kate has done search and recruiting for nine years and prior to that was an attorney.