The success of any in-house legal department depends on its ability to attract and retain top talent. One crucial aspect of this process is writing well-defined job specifications for the positions you seek to fill, and we are regularly surprised by how empty a job spec can be, or worse, how full of words they are when they don’t seem to say anything at all. Often they are re-hashed from old job specs or are obviously company wide templates that are hardly altered and could be describing any position at the organisation. And this is assuming we even receive a job spec! Sometimes we are asked to use a previous job spec, or to just given information verbally.
But a good job description is essential. It creates a good first impression by showing you are serious about hiring and you have put thought into what you are looking for. By clearly outlining the expectations, responsibilities, and qualifications required, the applicant can imagine themselves working for your company. It will save you time by weeding out those who don’t fit the bill, but more importantly by injecting some culture, personality and even fun into the job spec you can stand out from your competitors and attract someone who otherwise might not apply. And let’s admit it – the best candidates are fussy about which roles they apply for.
A good job spec is an important element of a seamless hiring process enabling you to find the right candidate who will contribute to your team’s success. So what should you include?
It is really important to get this right. The title is going to be on the job holder’s signature, business card, CV and their LinkedIn profile. It will be visible internally and externally and whilst many people aren’t precious about title per se, most will want it to show a step up from their current position and a step towards their future ambition. It needs to be accurate for the responsibilities and reflect the right seniority level, both inside the organisation and externally. Think about making the title attractive to the level of candidate you are wanting to hire rather than one that will feel like a sideways move.
You might not want to disclose a full organisational chart but some information about the size and international coverage of the organisation as well as the size of the legal department will save applicants needing to research before they even consider the role. You should include who the role reports into, either by name or title and any reports the post holder will manage. It is also useful to outline any stakeholders and back office teams that the employee will collaborate with regularly. Information on the structure helps candidates understand their place within the organisational hierarchy and promotes transparency.
A brief summary should highlight the purpose of the role and it’s significance within the legal department. This will allow candidates to quickly assess whether they have the right experience and whether there is any interest. Busy lawyers don’t have the time to read through heaps of job specs so you need to get to the crux of the position within the first few lines to entice them to continue reading and apply.
Clearly outline the core responsibilities associated with the role. Break them down into specific tasks and functions, allowing potential applicants to understand the full scope of the position. Order them according to weighting but also think about putting some of the most exciting aspects of the role first, leaving the BAU elements towards the bottom of the list. Be specific and realistic, avoiding generic statements that could apply to multiple roles. We read many a job description where you can get to the bottom and still not know what the role entails. Be careful not to list what you are looking for at this point and think more about what is important to the candidate than what is important to you. Use short bullet points.
Qualifications and Experience
This is your opportunity to outline what is important to you. Don’t just think about what you are looking for, consider who is likely to apply. We all know that regardless of what you put here, you are likely to get far more unsuitable than suitable candidates apply. So be specific about essential requirements – such as “Must be a qualified Solicitor in England and Wales or other common law jurisdiction”.
But on the reverse side of this, be careful not to include any language that dissuades good candidates from applying. Assuming you’re looking for a diverse shortlist you don’t want to write anything that might create any bias or exclude any demographic group such as mothers returning to work for example. There are online apps that can help you check that your job spec for any kind of unconscious bias.
If you are aware that this is a difficult role to fill think about how you can be flexible. We suggest listing the ideal skills you are looking for but also the alternative skills you will consider. If you include post qualification levels make sure this is a guide only, you wouldn’t want to exclude more junior, over-achievers.
- Educational background: Mention the necessary degrees, such as a law degree, JD, LPC, along with any specific legal certifications or licenses. Remember to include whether overseas qualifications can be considered.
- Experience level: Indicate the minimum number of years of experience in a relevant practice area or similar position. It might be worth mentioning whether this should be from either private practice or in-house.
- Specialist knowledge: If the position requires expertise in a specific area of law, or as is often the case in financial services, specific regulations such as consumer credit, MiFID, AIFMD etc. highlight it here.
- Technical skills: Include any necessary software proficiencies or specialist legal tools that you use and would like the candidate to be familiar with.
Personal Attributes and Soft Skills: Beyond technical qualifications, listing the personal skills that would contribute to the candidate’s success in the role not only helps attract the right fit, but gives the applicant an insight into the culture in the team. It can also help give colour to roles with specific stakeholder responsibilities or those that are sat with the business.
Compensation and Benefits
While it is common to save detailed compensation discussions for later stages of the hiring process, consider providing some details on the benefits. Salary bandings can exclude candidates that you might be prepared to pay more for. You may also find that applicants always expect the maximum available, especially in this market. Instead, highlight the benefits offered – especially if they are good. This information will help candidates compare packages and stops difficult negotiations at offer stage.
Crafting effective job specifications for your legal team is a crucial step in attracting and selecting the right candidates. By providing clear expectations, responsibilities, and qualifications, you enhance the hiring process and increase the likelihood of finding top-notch professionals who will contribute to your team’s success. Remember, job specifications should be accurate, concise, and reflective of the specific needs and goals of your legal department or law firm.
For more help with getting your job spec right contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org