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Win the turf battle with HR.

Summary: You know the drill. Your department wants to hire a new counsel to senior counsel-level attorney. You don’t want someone too junior who will need ...

You know the drill. Your department wants to hire a new counsel to senior counsel-level attorney. You don't want someone too junior who will need training and struggle to operate independently. But you are not offering a management level role with a high salary, so many good candidates will be overqualified and overpriced.

Your opening is a good one, your company is attractive for many reasons, and your internal policies dictate that human resources take charge of the recruiting effort. A posting goes out, and dozens or even hundreds of replies pour into the HR inbox. Former law firm colleagues and other contacts call you asking about the position. None of those personal contacts pan out, either because their qualifications are off-point, the position is too junior for them, or you may simply not want to hire the person making the inquiry.

Three to four weeks after the posting goes out, HR presents you with a list of "qualified" candidates. Some are off-point completely, others look promising, but you are left with a sense that you better take charge of this process. You may even wind up reviewing all of the incoming posting replies yourself. Interviews take place, weeks or even months go by, and you may finish the process with a really good hire. Or, you may end up really frustrated.

Either way, you are seeing too many candidates, but not necessarily the right ones. And you are absolutely missing out on excellent attorneys who were busy and did not happen to see your job posting at the time your company placed one. Is it important for you to make the best possible hire? Do you value your time?

I encourage you to weigh those questions against the pressure to play nice in the corporate sand box. If you want a smooth recruiting process that goes quickly, saves you time, and most importantly provides a better window into the candidate pool, then here are a few ideas for winning the turf battle with HR.

If you want to use an outside recruiter, offer to use the law department's budget to pay for the fee. The cost is barely a blip on your radar screen compared with outside counsel use. And your HR colleagues may actually be relieved. Working on a law department opening, especially if they don't work on attorney positions frequently, is stressful for, and outside the comfort zone of, most internal HR folks.

If you cannot wrestle search control away from HR, then win the turf battle by creating success metrics for HR and holding them accountable for servicing your need properly. Set timelines. Use your logical powers of persuasion to convince HR to use an outside recruiter after a set amount of time if these metrics are not met.

If and when outside recruiter use is authorized, provide your input on the search firm selection. Your HR folks may not have working experience with a legal search firm. Tell them who you want vetted or used based on your first-hand experience and your knowledge of a search firm's reputation. Think of this as you would the selection of a law firm.

Supply and demand dynamics are interesting at this mid-level hiring point. At the top, the number of qualified in-house counsel far exceeds the number of open general counsel seats. But the GC role is critically important, so vetting through those options merits use of an executive search firm. At the very junior end, you are hiring for potential and not actual experience, so options are plentiful but once again the vetting process matters. The difference is that truly entry level positions do not merit search firm use.

In the middle it becomes trickier, actually. You are competing with other companies at this "sweet spot" and the supply of desirable candidates is not as abundant. So, sourcing matters along with vetting. Which openings merit search firm use? I have always been candid with my readers, and I think this is the correct answer: 1. Not as many as those of us in the search business would like. 2. Many more than are going to search firms now. The desire to save some money is leading to weaker candidate choices and longer lead times for your legal department.

Identify your important openings and use a little political or budgetary capital to get them filled the right way.

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Publication:Inside Counsel
Date:May 2, 2016
Words:774
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