In case you have not been paying attention, law school classes have been shrinking for some time now. The decline in the size of law school classes is widespread — and is not something that is isolated to specific schools or regions.
Law firms that are excelling are well aware of this trend and are making the necessary adjustments today to ensure that they are recruiting and hiring the best possible lawyers. On the other hand, many law firms, and law firm owners, have simply had their head in the sand. By having their head in the sand, adjustments have not been made to ensure that the best possible lawyer candidates are being recruited and hired.
What does the data mean for law firms? What adjustments do law firms need to make to continue to thrive in the face of declining law school classes? These are all important questions that law firms need to ask.
While this list isn’t all-inclusive, below are some initial suggestions that law firms might consider:
1.) When law school classes were at their peak, it used to be that law firms could post a job somewhere and be flooded with attorney applicants. Many of these candidates were also so eager to get a job that they were willing to work for meager salaries. That isn’t necessarily going to be the case any longer. It might be that during periods of time where new lawyers are being admitted into their state bars, applicants can remain pretty high. But at other times, applicants might fall well below where they used to before law school classes began shrinking. This means that law firms cannot simply count on posting jobs, waiting for resumes to pour into their resume banks and then making easy hires.
2.) Law firms need to really make recruiting a part of what they do at their law firm. That might mean enlisting a full-time recruiting director to help bring in applicants. It might also mean reaching out to individual attorneys through social media like LinkedIn, other social media platforms, and doing more to leverage referrals from attorneys and staff. All of this can help ensure that there are a healthy number of lawyer applicants coming into the firm.
3.) Law firms should really consider utilizing the best recruiting software to ensure that their jobs are posted in as many places as possible. ZipRecruiters and SmartRecruiters are two great recruiting tools, but there are others as well that law firms should consider as well. Most law firms simply cannot expect to thrive without the utilization of recruiting software.
4.) Law firms really need to look at their salary and benefit packages. With high law school graduating classes, average salary numbers were becoming deflated in terms of what lawyers used to make. But with smaller law school graduating classes, one has to expect that average salaries will end up rising again. Thus, are you examining your budget thoroughly, and looking at what you charge clients, to ensure that you can pay to get the best possible applicants? If not, you might really struggle.
5.) On a positive note, with smaller law school graduating classes, that will mean less new lawyers will be likely competing with you in same figurative pond with you for the same business. Thus, while it might be harder to recruit and hire the best lawyer possible candidates with fewer in the job market, law firms might find that it is easier to gain new business over time with less new competition. If that turns out to be the case for your law firm, be sure you are looking thoroughly at your salary and benefit packages for attorneys.
While law school classes are smaller, most law firms are still finding it relatively easy to recruit and hire paralegals/legal assistants. Smaller law school classes also has no effect on a law firm’s ability to fill various administrative positions. But in terms of finding the best possible lawyers, most law firms really need to make adjustments given the shrinking law school classes.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.