Many law firms entered the pandemic nervous about the future. However, most need not have worried. Understandable initial nervousness regarding market conditions soon gave way to levels of activity unseen since before the financial crash, resulting in an aggressive hiring spree at the top end of the market. Driven by M&A, private equity, finance, litigation and technology practices (amongst others), firms have been on the hunt for quality partners to spearhead their next phase of growth. Technology has been central to this hiring activity; 'remote' interview processes, albeit sub-optimal, have proved efficient.
Now, as restrictions ease and parts of the economy appear robust, the demand for high performing partners shows no signs of abating. To capitalise on these opportunities, swift decision-making will be more critical than ever. For example, technology has made out-of-hours meetings a thing of the past. Additionally, firms can congregate large groups of partners, across time zones, without the need for anyone to leave their desk.
Pre-pandemic, joining a new firm without having met future colleagues in person would also have been unthinkable. Not so, any longer. Moreover, these new remote recruitment practises are unlikely to disappear when restrictions ease, given the logistical ease and accessibility they afford firms.
We worked with a partner who, having attended in-person interviews just before the pandemic first struck, found themselves having to continue discussions via vidcons. To their surprise, disruption was minimal. On the contrary, the candidate had quicker, easier access to a broader range of partners, globally. Moreover, once the partner has started with her new firm the entire integration process was executed, successfully, by way of remote meetings.
The pandemic has, by necessity, altered law firm recruitment processes and, in doing so, has demonstrated that technology can be a vital and productive tool in securing laterals. There will, of course, be a return to travel and face to face meetings. However, law firms who recognise and utilise the best elements of virtual meetings will have an advantage in a turbo-charged, high-octane lateral partner hiring market.
Seamus Hoar is senior partner at Major, Lindsey & Africa