Eversheds Sutherland win Insurance Team of the Year at Legal Business Awards 2022

The Legal Business Awards on 27th September at the Grosvenor House Hotel was one of the first black tie events in the legal industry for quite sometime and you could tell… Most of our clients jumped at the chance to attend, arrived early and were on great form, and we were very excited to be hosting a table.

We chose to sponsor the “Insurance Team of the Year”. Recruitment into the insurance industry forms a large part of what we cover and we have some great insurance clients regularly hiring, from Lloyds insurers looking for specialist experience, insuretech and start-ups looking for their first lawyers, through to the largest global insurers hiring corporate, commercial and regulatory insurance lawyers. With so much regulatory change affecting the industry recently, especially in the sustainability and ESG space, there has been a big uptick in the amount of opportunities for talented lawyers looking to move from private practice to in-house.

The winners EVERSHEDS SUTHERLAND were presented with the award by LOUISE MINCHIN and our own Director, Tracy Brown and it was great for our table to share a drink with the winning team following the 3 course dinner and wine. The band played, the after party started and the event went on into the early hours.

Congratulations to all the evening’s winners and you can see more pictures on our LinkedIn company page here – https://www.linkedin.com/company/fry-brown/ .

Market Update For You

Everyone has been through a lot recently and the recruitment market has also been through a lot. Following an understandably quiet 2020, we were starting to wonder what our next business venture might be! Luckily we have great clients that kept their word and went ahead with hiring the candidates that had been offered and completing interview processes that were already in progress.  We heard horror stories of people resigning or leaving only to find their new job offers were pulled, but with lawyers being so incredibly busy still we are pleased to say we didn’t have any first hand experience of this. Following the summer, in-house legal recruitment levels gradually picked up and for those who were brave enough to make the jump and start new roles largely remotely, there were financial institutions busy enough to invest in them. For a year or so, there was a reasonably normal recruitment market with the supply and demand for candidates mostly equal. We knew that after years of minimal recruitment activity (due to Brexit as well as Covid) at some point things would really need to pick up but we couldn’t have predicted this!

Over the last 6-9 months the market has really gone crazy and although there have been signs of dip at times (and there are certainly concerns in the wider economy), it has not materialised as yet and it looks like we are going to be sticking with a busy market for a while. So what’s been happening and what can you expect if you’re looking to move in-house now?

  • Transactional areas are very busy – general lending, capital markets, corporate, M&A etc.
  • Regulatory lawyers in demand as always – but now it’s wholesale banking and wealth as well as retail.
  • Demand for technology lawyers seems to have eased off – there are definitely the jobs for them still but not so many in financial services, possibly due to a more precarious fintech/start-up market.
  • Commercial lawyers are still in demand – with complex and high value transaction experience very desirable. But broader general commercial roles are available too with the option of expanding experience into data protection, operations, regulatory, funds and other areas.
  • Less corporate governance roles – very little in legal risk, board support, corp advisory etc.
  • ESG is becoming an element of most in-house lawyers roles – however, there are very few roles that purely focus on this, and we know many of you would love to move into this area.
  • Demand for regulated funds lawyers has picked up – more so than private funds.
  • Several business roles – either lawyers to be sat with the business providing transactional support, or options for lawyers to move into business and sales roles whilst using their legal skillset.
  • High demand for junior lawyers – due to the salary increases being paid and hybrid options being made available to keep these lawyers in practice.
  • More “head of” roles – no obvious reason for it but we’ve seen an increase in Head of Legal roles, mostly requiring very specific skill sets.
  • Not much movement at the senior associate (c. 5-10 PQE) level – concerns that legal teams are top heavy due to the difficulty in hiring junior lawyers.

Salaries

  • Budgets for in-house legal roles remain largely unchanged since the market picked up.
  • Hiring managers are not surprised to hear that people are looking for top end or over budget.
  • Whilst the budgets may remain fixed, we are seeing employers increase what they are prepared to pay for top calibre lawyers.
  • Real discrepancies at the senior in-house lawyer level, as some teams increase internal salaries in line with what they are having to pay new hires and others do not.
  • Less margin between junior and senior lawyers in-house.
  • After many years of fairly static figures, in-house salaries do seem to be increasing although certainly not at the rate seen in private practice.

Flexibility

  • Almost all in-house lawyers now work to a hybrid model – 2-3 days in the office a week.
  • A few employers are still demanding 5 days in the office – usually for cultural reasons (often start-ups, establishing cultures)
  • More entirely remote roles – often to combat the salary increase issues and the battle for good regional candidates who are prepared to travel to London for a couple of days.

We hope this is helpful. To keep updated you can follow us on LinkedIn here and search our vacancies here .

Jul 2022

How important is job title when moving in-house?

At Fry & Brown we recruit lawyers into the financial services industry and whilst many move between in-house roles, the majority are making the jump from private practice.

A major consideration for many of these lawyers is work-life balance and predictability of hours, with salary and package being the trade-off. But something that can be equally important to consider when making a move in-house is the job title – and this can often be overlooked.

Private practice titles are relatively transparent and easier to compare, with associates, senior associates, managing associates, directors, partners, and their equivalents. But in-house can be more complex and varied, especially highlighted by the diverse industries and the varying size of companies from start-ups to FTSE 100’s. In addition to the in-house legal titles there are the corporate titles, which can be especially complex at large financial institutions with matrix reporting including analysts, AVPs and VPs, EDs and MDs. The Assistant/Associate General Counsel title is particularly confusing with the position being very senior at some organisations and quite junior at others. Smaller organisations without an existing legal team might not have even considered legal titles when you get to offer stage whereas larger organisations may have so many titles that you have no idea where you should be pitched, and often the structures are not logical. 

What should you read into the title, and how important is it?

  • Entry level roles would normally be associate, assistant, or legal counsel and the “counsel” title, indicating that you are in-house, is probably always preferable to lawyer.
  • For most people it would make sense to aim as senior as possible. In-house legal departments tend to have flatter structures with less opportunity to progress until others move on, so make the most of your first move by aiming high. Whilst senior legal counsel, or equivalent titles are normally used for those 6 PQE and above, we’ve recently had lawyers from 3 years post qualified up getting a more senior title, but then at more bottlenecked legal departments lawyers with 9 or 10 years’ experience are still struggling to move up.
  • Much depends on the size of business and hierarchy around you. Do your research and look at your peers on LinkedIn. But consider tenure at the organisation as well as seniority. How many others have that title? How long are people generally at the organisation before their job title changes? Is there evidence of lawyers moving sideways for promotion, and could you expand your skillset if you can’t improve on title?
  • Senior Legal Counsel is a very common title and is generally understood to indicate competency and possibly some junior management responsibility. Sticking to a simpler title may make it easier when looking for your next role with people clearly understanding the level you are at and what you do.
  • The Legal Director title is fairly common in-house as well as being used in private practice but it’s meaning can be quite vague. It will often be used for a senior or sole legal counsel role where the Head of Legal or General Counsel title may over-pitch it, although it can also be a very senior title. It’s worth considering whether this title accurately reflects your role and if it will be understood internally and externally.
  • Head of Legal can be the most senior lawyer, or can report into a General Counsel, or be a sole lawyer. If you are the most senior lawyer in the organisation, it is worth pushing for the GC title, especially if you would expect any future roles to also be GC. General Counsel positions usually carry extra board level responsibilities and look after other departments and teams such as company secretarial, compliance and risk, but not always. However, it is worth being aware that GCs, like Partners in law firms, can struggle when looking to move on. A lot of hiring at this level is done through head-hunters and word of mouth so those actively looking can find it difficult. Even if you will consider a more junior title or a contract position, employers can often be put off if someone has previously had a very senior title.

Think about how you will be considered both internally and externally. You won’t enjoy working in an environment where your peers feel that lateral hires are being brought in over their heads. A “head of” title sounds great, but what are you head of? A head of a team reporting into a more senior lawyer might be better than Head of Legal as the only lawyer. And whilst you want to aim for a senior title, make sure it is going to be understood and doesn’t limit your future options. Accept that titles vary hugely in-house and are considered much more important at a US than a UK bank for instance, where what may seem like a step down could be the right move so long as it is correctly pitched within that organisation.

In truth, the right job title depends on the context, and most lawyers will have little choice anyway. But it is important that you feel comfortable that the title is accurate for the job that you are doing and the level that you are operating at.

To discuss your career options in-house get in touch with us at Fry & Brown

Tracy – tracy@fryandbrown.com – 020 3743 0695

Jane – jane@fryandbrown.com – 020 3743 0697

Networking and Recommendations

So, we admit it… we can’t help everyone find their dream job, as much as we may try. As recruitment consultants, we work on the jobs our clients instruct us on and the vacancies in the market, and as a result there are some very good lawyers who we can’t always help.

We are not careers advisors, but we often have ideas to share and advice to give, and one of the main things we would recommend is using your network. Lawyers get plenty of opportunity to network. Some love it, and some hate it. Some are good at it … and some not so good. But there are different ways of networking and one or more of the below will hopefully suit most people.

Attend industry events – and look wider than law firm’s seminars and training. Try the events put on specifically for in-house lawyers. The Lawyer, Legal Week, Legal Business, Legal 500, The Economist, Thomson Reuters/ Practical Law Company all host General Counsel and In-house Counsel events. See our conferences post here – . To make the most of these events, arrive early, stay till the end and ditch the electronics if you can – although you might also want to make use of their social media networking opportunities.

Host smaller events – If you’re not meeting the right people at events arranged by others, then get involved in hosting events yourself. Smaller events such as breakfasts or a gathering of peers who have moved in-house will sometimes be the most successful. A good speaker will attract good delegates, and one good delegate will attract another.

Respond to recruiters – even if you’re not actively looking. Having conversations with your recruiter could open up all sorts of opportunities in the future. So often our lawyers end up doing something quite different to what they were expecting and you never know what options there are unless you are prepared to listen.

Recommend your friends – Suggesting others for opportunities that aren’t right for you means they might do the same for you. And helping your recruiter by suggesting someone they might want to try, will never be forgotten and keeps you in mind for when the right thing comes up for you. You can always say that you’d rather they didn’t use your name when approaching your recommendation, although most people would be grateful.

Network and volunteer internally – This could be volunteering within the legal department or getting involved in company wide projects or D&I initiatives. It will broaden your network outside of the legal department into the business world and you may find that when someone moves on from your company, they recommend outstanding colleagues to their new employer.

Use your secondments – Stay in touch with your line manager and the team and make them aware that you might be interested in opportunities in the future. Make the most of your time whilst on secondment, networking and immersing yourself as if you were a permanent employee.

Speak to your clients – Many people we speak to are concerned about confidentiality, and understandably so. But if you can develop good relationships where you can drop into conversation that you would always be interested in hearing it is not only the GC that could contact you, but their GC network too.  

Don’t be afraid to let people know – We get that you probably don’t want your boss finding out you are looking, but chances are your boss is interested in hearing about new opportunities too. We find that more senior lawyers are always much more open than the more junior lawyers we speak to. And it is about how you do it, you don’t need to tell anyone you are looking for a new job, but saying that you always have an eye out for the next opportunity does you no harm and if anything improves relationships and opens your network.

At Fry & Brown we try not to group people as “candidates” and “clients”, but we have lawyer contacts, not necessarily actively looking to move, but always open to a good conversation.

Candidates are back in control – so how can you secure the top talent?

As result of the pandemic, and after many years of a client led market, candidates are now back in control and we are regularly hearing stories of hiring managers missing out on the preferred candidates to the competition. If you want to successfully hire, you need to re-think your hiring strategy to match the shift in the market and face these new challenges.

Company impression – Line up your full hiring process before you start. You might be ready to do the big sell, but have you decided who else is going to interview? Has “the sell” that you want them to communicate to the candidate been shared? Has the headcount and budget been agreed? Are you going to be able to make that offer and get the paperwork out quickly when you have chosen a candidate or is internal red tape going to slow things down, creating a bad impression of the company.

Be self-aware – You need look at your talent attraction and not leave it to the company and brand to promote your vacancy. What can you provide and offer the top talent, and is this obvious from the outset?

Personal impression – is important, candidates want a boss they can trust, they can go to for career advice, someone who understands their ambitions and personal situations as well as someone they can recommend.

Social Media – LinkedIn job adverts have limited success, but you can use the internet as a platform to show how great the job and company is. Post content and tag colleagues to reach out to a wider network. Build your personal brand so there is something interesting to see when candidates look at your own LinkedIn page

Network – Chat to colleagues and peers and let them know that you’re hiring. Ask them who they recommend and to spread the word. Consider hosting an event for people in your industry where they can bring someone else along and you can showcase your company and brand.

Think back to previous candidates – don’t give up on a candidate who turned an offer down previously, wasn’t ready to move, or accepted something else. We’re in a very different world and people’s opinions on their careers have changed. Don’t forget good secondees you’ve had in the past too. Apparently 1 in 4 are considering changing jobs at the moment.

Interview process – make it snappy. Not pages of application forms, rounds of interviews and multiple assessments. In this market, if someone pulls out because they don’t want to do your test, it isn’t necessarily because they aren’t up to it – they just have enough other interesting options that don’t require it. Create a process that is streamlined and once you have candidates engaged, then you can start extracting the heavy detail.

Candidate experience – you snooze, you lose. You can’t afford to take days to feedback. And if you’ve promised a response but don’t have the feedback yet, at least call to update. There is only so much covering for you the recruiter can do.

Hiring is not a transaction – to the candidate at least, it is their life. They need a personal, exciting experience that they connect with. People buy people.

Further advice on hiring is available on our blog –

Summer Conference Review

Now that Autumn has truly arrived, we thought it was a good time to look back at the legal conferences that have taken place over the summer months.

For Fry & Brown, conferences areso important. The lockdowns created a big hole for us when as well as having no industry events, we couldn’t even meet people for coffees. Jane and I left management positions back in 2017 because we wanted to be back in hands on, face-to-face recruitment roles, and whilst some recruiters squirm at the idea of networking with strangers, it is definitely essential to being a good recruiter and we both love meeting new people!

2020 saw most events cancelled and those that ran, switched to virtual conferences. We had no choice but to try a few, but we weren’t really convinced they could work for recruiters. As sponsors the most we could do was sit in on the sessions and have our branding on the site. Interaction was close to zero and we had limited ways of letting people know we were there.

However, after a year of cancellations and chasing refunds, it was great to see events companies being innovative and putting on some super events during the summer this year. Here’s some highlights:

The Lawyer – In-House Financial Services Conference

This event stayed virtual in 2021, but as in-house financial services recruiters, this is our signature event, so we decided to go ahead and sponsor anyway. And we are very glad we did – what an improvement for 2021.

One of the advantages of virtual events is the sheer number of attendees signing up. There is no requirement for lawyers to sit through the whole 2 days and most found it useful to be able to drop in and out of sessions that were more important and relevant to them. People who probably wouldn’t have been able to get away from work to attend under normal circumstances could join and there were many people who hadn’t attended before. The new format really worked from a networking perspective too with attendees able to sign up for smaller groups in webinars and round tables as well as a book club and a fantastic wine tasting and quiz. The calibre of attendees was impressive, and it was great to see people able to relax and be themselves, even on screens.

Ah Media – General Counsel & Compliance Strategy Forum

With this being our first face-to-face conference earlier in the year, we were incredibly nervous – not only about Covid itself, but about how many people would attend, how the event could be run safely, and whether Covid restrictions would mean no opportunity to network, which would defeat the object of attending.

But it was brilliantly well organised. One-way systems were in place, face masks remained on and table service and regular cleaning in the breaks meant everyone could relax. Group networking was replaced with one-to-one organised meetings and even the England Euro’s match was shown in the auditorium allowing us space to social distance whilst enjoying the game. I would imagine that there were some who decided, understandably, not to attend, but the numbers were still good.  And those who did attend were definitely committed. Delegates were enthusiastic and smiling as everyone was fully engaged and wanting to make the most of it.

Legal 500 – Legal Business Awards

This was the most recent event taking place at the end of September after being cancelled last year. It is highly anticipated by lots of you, and it was great to see a winner from the financial services sector with Chris Thomas from Brewin Dolphin winning Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year.

Whilst for us the main conference season is over, there are still other networking events going on this year if you’re keen to get involved.

And please do let us know if you’ve been to any good ones that we’ve missed out on! Jane and I would be keen to hear your experiences.

Perfect Your CV – for the in-house legal role

There are heaps of guides out there for writing your CV, and lots of templates too. But they’re so generic. You need something more tailored. And you’re a lawyer – so yours must be perfect, right?

Having both spent 20 years in the industry, looking at up to 50 CVs every working day, we’ve got a good idea what works and what doesn’t. The majority of the CVs we see are great, but there are times when we know the person behind the paper is better. And as you can imagine –occasionally we come across a bit of a shocker!

Before you start, think about what you are trying to do –

  • Demonstrate relevant technical skills
  • Show that you have the right level of experience
  • Show that you understand, and have the different skills, required to adapt to in-house.
  • Secure an interview, allowing direct contact with the hiring manager

The Format

  • Font – Arial/Calibri or similar.  Size 10-12. Keeping it simple means it is easy to read. Don’t use too many fonts and sizes and don’t over-do the underlining, bold, italics etc. It ends up looking messy and distracts from the content.
  • Fonts, sizing, spacing all needs to be consistent throughout.
  • Don’t use colour – it can be harder to read and isn’t printer friendly.
  • If you are going to use a table, check the format in word and pdf and test how it opens on different size screens as well as the mobile.
  • Don’t use too many boxes and sections. It makes it difficult to know what should be read first and distracts from the content.
  • Spell and grammar check! Sounds obvious but we see typos in lawyer’s CV all the time.

Contact details

  • Contact details – We are constantly surprised by how many people don’t include these, or only include email and not a mobile number. You want to make it easy for them to hire you, not leave them scrolling through emails or covering letters to find your number. In-house lawyers need to be accessible and available, which leaving off your number contradicts.
  • Include your right to work – saves time and possible difficulties later. With more technology being used in hiring, many systems won’t enable you to progress without stating you are entitled to work in the UK.

Education

  • You need to include institution, dates and grades. Lawyers will expect to see them and if they are not there, it will be assumed they are not good.
  • Short courses and on the job training could be added at the end of the CV or under the relevant employment. Keep it easy to see your A Levels, Degree, LPC etc or equivalent.
  • Remember to include your date of qualification as a lawyer.

Profile

  • Start with a brief simply-termed profile. Your CV often goes to HR first who may side-track you if they don’t recognise the technical jargon.
  • Keep any profile/skills section to a short paragraph or a few bullets. The more you put, the less realistic it is that you actually have all those attributes. And employers want to see your tangible experience, not personality traits that anyone could include.

Experience

  • Tailor your CV to each role you are applying to. If you are lacking the motivation to do this… is it really the job you want?  Include the language and keywords in the job spec. Edit your softer skills to match company values.
  • Don’t just add new experience on to the old CV. Every new job you get makes the first one less relevant so cut back information on previous roles and check that previous experience isn’t written in the present tense.
  • The first thing employers will look for is your most recent experience, so make sure this is towards the top of the first page and is the most obvious part. Include the company you work at, the dates, the location and your job title.
  • Demonstrate how you have gone above and beyond in your current role. There is a pre-conception that lawyers who have been educated at top universities and are working at top city firms are all very good, but all the same. Show how you are different in a work environment.
  • Highlight your in-house experience – don’t just leave it to dates of a secondment. Your future employer will be more interested in whether your in-house experience is comparable, and your in-house skills will be as relevant as your private practice experience. Think about the elements of your in-house experience which are different and highlight these – working directly with the business, commercial decision making, broader legal risk, variety of work. Demonstrate that you understand what an in-house role involves. Show that you are not going to be sat behind your screen but will be out on the floor adding value to the business.
  • Be careful about listing deal after deal. Whilst relevant experience is essential to include, many of the hiring managers have been there and will know what kind of deals you have worked on depending on the firm. They will want to see what your involvement was on the deals. Including a short list of the most recent deals may be more appropriate.
  • Include dates on your CV and include all your work history. You don’t want to leave huge gaps and questions with your CV, or for it to be unclear whether you are actually qualified because you decided to leave your training contract off. Pre-legal careers or very old experience can be just listed as date, position and company. You want to avoid employers assuming there were gaps in your career if there wasn’t.
  • But check your dates! The most common error on CVs is mixing up dates of employment or education so that it looks like you were working at 2 places at the same time, or have large gaps.

Interests

  • Hobbies on the CV has been in and out of fashion over the years but we think it’s best to include them, especially if you have something more unique than socialising and eating out. If the employer can’t decide whether to interview 4 or 5 candidates, something that you have in common might just get you in front of them and also means the elevator conversation will focus on more than the weather, settling you for the interview.

Don’t include

  • Title and contents pages – no one wants to scroll through to search for what they are looking for.
  • Educational transcripts, practicing certificate, references and articles. These can be provided when required later and won’t make a difference to you getting an interview. You could include links to articles and publications in the CV.
  • Charts and diagrams etc. It distracts from the content and will often distort when opened on different devices.
  • Huge numbers of appendices. If you are a transactional lawyer, include a deal list if relevant but leave it as this.
  • Motivational sayings or phrases. This may be the mantra you live by but the chance of it correlating with the interviewer’s is small, and the company you are interviewing with will have spent thousands on perfecting their values.
  • Quotes from clients and employers – anyone can include these, and they distract from the content. Employers would rather get references directly at a later stage. Do, however, include any awards, Legal 500/Chambers entries etc.
  • Referee contact details – this is jumping the gun somewhat and could lead to difficult situations if employers were to contact them early.
  • Reasons for leaving. People move jobs more often these days and so stating these looks like you are trying to justify moving on. They can ask you in interview.
  • Travel and career gaps – add this at the end of the CV or under interests if they are significant. Don’t break up your work experience with your holiday in Spain or house renovation.
  • Photos
  • Religious beliefs
  • Date of Birth
  • Family details
  • Home telephone number – unless you are at home all the time or don’t have a mobile/signal.

Myths

  • Your CV doesn’t have to be 2 pages, but it does need to be concise. 2 pages will usually be enough so consider the content carefully if you have gone over 3.
  • Cover letters are not usually required and are often not read. Think about whether you really need one. Is there anything that can’t be included in the CV if it is relevant to you getting the job? We often find they either try to justify why the applicant thinks they are right when the CV does not a fit the job, or they are extended life stories which just puts the employer off. If there is something essential that can’t be included in the CV, perhaps a sentence or two on the covering email.
  • You don’t need to include everything. Leaving an element of intrigue gives them a reason to meet you.

We hope this helps and look forward to hearing any additional tips that might have helped you in the past.

How do you hire the best candidate online?

As we start to come out of what will hopefully be the final lockdown, optimism in the in-house legal recruitment market abounds. Hiring strategies within financial services are likely to get back on track meaning competition for the best candidates is strong, but interviews are likely to be virtual for some time yet, and for many will form a permanent part of the recruitment process. So if you’re looking to hire for your team, how do you choose and secure the best candidate online?

Before interviewing

  • It’s easy to leave everything to the last minute online. We’re used to going straight from one thing to next when sat in front of computer, dealing with what is in front of us. Be fair to the candidate and read the CV thoroughly beforehand. Flitting back and forth, trying to understand the geography and asking questions that are already answered on paper means the interview becomes stilted and leaves it difficult for the candidate to perform to their best ability.
  • Have the CV printed out or on another screen close at hand, so that you don’t need to swap between the candidate and their CV. But don’t read it during the interview as the candidate will notice you are not properly engaged.
  • Recruiting online is harder, so use your recruitment agent as a consultant, asking for their advice. We know the candidates and can often predict who will get the job – and it isn’t always obvious from the CV. Ask if they have done a screening interview, ask who has performed well in previous interviews, and if someone doesn’t look so good on paper is there is another reason they have put them forward?

Opportunity to diversify

  • When you are deciding who to interview, consider how video interviews and potential longer term flexible working could open your pool of applicants. Those with disabilities, those with childcare requirements, those based in other locations and others requiring flexible or adjusted working.
  • Ask your consultant to provide a diverse and varied shortlist and make the most of a wider talent pool than you may have had previously.

Avoid back-to-back interviews

  • If you were in the office you would need to allow time for getting the candidate settled, and doing the same online avoids you getting interview fatigue. We all know how exhausting coming off one video call and going straight into next can be.
  • Whilst it is good to be in interview mode and to be able to compare, there is also a danger that interviews seem to roll into one and you don’t get chance to properly assimilate your thoughts. It is useful to have time to write up notes in between, and properly compare as you go along. You are more likely to enjoy the meetings too rather than it becoming a chore.
  • This can really affect the outcome and make you confident about your decision. It doesn’t need to be long – just enough time for a loo/coffee break and to reset yourself.

Interview process

  • Think about your interview process. Many of our clients are doing shorter interviews and also less interviews. The whole process has become more succinct but you should potentially be doing more.
  • Group interviews don’t work so well online so split them up. If there is more than one interviewer, plan exactly who is going to cover what. You don’t want to be seen jostling for the big picture speaker view or cutting the other person off.
  • Remember Zoom and other platforms only allow one to speak at a time and conversation is much more stilted so organise and split your questions beforehand.
  • Not coming to an office means candidates are likely to meet less people. Factor in a meet the team interview where a candidate you are likely to offer spends 10 minutes or so with each team member. Your team will appreciate it too!
  • Consider a telephone interview. Not all interviews need to be via video and whilst video gives you something that telephone calls don’t, if you are happy with what you have seen on video you may find that a telephone call can be a lot more comfortable for both.

Technology!

  • Send out the link in plenty of time and provide a mobile number in case the link fails.
  • Arrive on time, not late and not early. Often we encourage candidates to log on early, check the link actually works etc., if they arrive 10 minutes just to test the technology it could be awkward if you’re already there, and candidates won’t expect you to be first.
  • Don’t battle on if the tech isn’t working, rearrange if you need to.
  • Allow enough time – often online interviews are more succinct and will take less time, but don’t rely on it as connection issues quickly eat up interview time.

Taking notes

  • If taking notes or typing during the interview, explain this to the interviewee first. They won’t necessarily be able to see what you are doing and it can be very unsettling if the person they are speaking to is consistently looking somewhere else.

Allow time for small talk

  • In normal circumstances there would be opportunity for small talk at the beginning or end of an interview, walking to and from the interview room but it is all too easy to just cut someone off on a video call. Don’t underestimate the benefits of small talk – introduce it into your online interviews too.
  • Read the interests section on their CV, ask about what they like to do outside work and discuss anything you might have in common such as sports, university, family etc. It will put them at ease and make sure you get the best out of the candidate. This in turn will help you evaluate whether you can work with this person and whether they are good cultural fit for the company.

Be forgiving for nerves, but don’t give the benefit of the doubt.

  • You may have conducted lots of online interviews, but for many interviewees this could be their first. And they are tricky when you haven’t done them before! Keeping eye contact for one is so much more difficult on screen, especially when you are put on the spot, so allow for this.
  • If they seem too nervous, ask the agents opinion. Experienced recruiters are often following these candidates for years and may well have met them face to face pre lockdown.
  • If the nerves disrupt the flow of the interview, think about how this will fit with their role within your organisation in the long term. In some positions it won’t matter, but with many businesses introducing more home working post pandemic, they maybe required to do video calls with senior management. Or is it a job where they won’t be required to be fully visible?
  • Don’t let things creep through that wouldn’t get through face to face. If you have any doubts, probe further, add an extra interview, ask the recruitment agent their thoughts – the candidate is likely to have been more honest with them and your agent won’t want you to take on someone who won’t work out.
  • If you remain unsure, what about offering a fixed term contract?

Give some extra time to the sell

  • The working environment is evident when you enter a company’s office and the candidate can usually get a feel for the culture as soon as they enter the building. The candidate will not get the same feel looking around your spare room on a webcam and you need to be able to explain the environment to differentiate your company from your competitors.
  • Describe the office and workstations, the management and the team. Describe the culture and tell them what you expect new working arrangements to be like when people return to the office. Explain why you like working there – everyone wants to work for an enthusiastic and passionate boss! Allow them to meet other members of the team virtually.
  • Even if you are not sure about a candidate, word soon gets out that you are hiring and you need to be creating a great impression of your company as an employer – so the sell is not wasted.
  • Lawyers will be concerned about how Covid19 might have affected your business. Be prepared to tell them why you are in a strong position to weather the storm and committed to hiring with the long term in mind.

Market Update: In-house legal recruitment

  • Firstly we are pleased to tell you we are still here! When offices started to close their doors back in March there was an instant freeze on hiring across the board and we saw many of our competitors implement new pay structures and redundancies. I can’t lie, we were worried. But Jane and I have both been in recruitment for 20 years now and having been through various economic downturns, the one thing that we have learned is that lawyers are required in bad times as well as good. Knowing that financial institutions are more regulated than ever gave us confidence that at some point the in-house legal recruitment market would bounce back. Although we heard of a few offers falling through, we found that all our lawyers with offers outstanding, and most of those at final interview stages were hired.
  • Whilst no one was recruiting, we spent our time catching up with senior lawyers and general counsels at as many of the banks, asset managers and insurance companies. They were all telling us the same thing – their lawyers were stretched before the lockdown and with the extra work created by new government initiatives such as mortgage payment holidays, CBILS, BBILS etc. and the COVID-19 policy changes, legal teams were really strained. Most will need to hire at some point, and certainly replace any leavers. But cost-cutting is also inevitable, and the major players with larger legal departments have been encouraged to just spread the workload. Only essential hires for one-off positions were going through and often on fixed term contracts rather than permanent, even though there was a permanent need.
  • Towards the end of May and during June we started to see some new roles come through, mostly from lesser known organisations with smaller legal departments. Often they just needed an extra pair of hands and the positions were broad and junior, which worked well as employers had plenty of choice from the newly qualified and junior lawyers who weren’t being kept on in practice. We also saw many of the roles previously put on hold come back to market as organisations got their working from home policies, practices and technology in place.
  • And then the summer holidays came! With kids off school and some let-up of the lockdown restrictions it felt like everyone went away, in the UK if they couldn’t get abroad. Very little moved forward and nothing new came through. Recruitment is cyclical though and we are used to the quiet summer and things picking up in September. It picked up sooner than we expected, with a variety of senior and junior positions across various areas of law. I wouldn’t say we are busy – the market is still relatively quiet, but it is active. The financial services industry is recruiting (although not in bulk) and we are relatively optimistic about the rest of the year and 2021.

So is it a good time to make the move?

  • Who knows! We’re finding that it is very much like the property market at the moment. It is certainly not a normal market. Some people think it is a terrible time to move and others a great time. We understand that people we approach who are not actively looking to move are nervous about having a probation period again with an unknown employer. But some of the opportunities out there are unique, it isn’t all fintech, regulatory and data protection anymore. We have roles across litigation, employment, finance, capital markets, retail banking, and insurance. But there is also a lot of competition at the moment, so if you are unsure about an opportunity it is probably worth going along to find out more. And if you’re at one of the firms who have already made redundancies or cut pay, why not take control of your career and look now before you are forced to?

Any comments, feedback and suggestions would be welcome as we are always looking to improve. We would be glad to help any friends and colleagues that may be interested in making a move and if you are looking to hire someone yourself in the near future we hope you will remember us.

How can recruiters help you build a more gender diverse legal team?

Gender diversity? Everyone has an opinion on it – it’s importance and why; how diverse their own team is; whether their company has got the policies right.

Diversity in the legal profession has been a hot topic, and in comparison to other industries, slow to change. The logistics and structures of large international law firms has been blamed for this in the past but is no longer an acceptable excuse. There is a huge disparity in diversity between in-house legal teams versus private practice and there are several reasons for this. The main one being the long hours culture of private practice. Until this is addressed across the board we can question whether a truly diverse work force can ever be achieved.

As well as tradition, old fashioned stubbornness and ignorance, there are other more nuanced and deep-rooted reasons why diversity in the law is so difficult to achieve. Only when diversity is addressed from the outset, during education and training contracts, can we get balanced teams in law firms and then be able to offer a truly diverse shortlist to our in-house clients. As well as looking at how partners run their firms and treat their staff, we also need to look at how the clients treat external counsel. Will a male client usually give their work to a male partner? Do in-house lawyers’ expectations vary depending on who they instruct? Personal and homelife is still the main reason for women not being at the top of the profession despite women’s networks, mentoring and other incentives being put in place. The tone must change from the top and filter through all departments, including internal and external recruiters. We need to re-think initiatives that may have previously created silos to create gender balanced teams.

As 2 female directors at Fry & Brown, this is a subject close to our hearts. We both worked at large and medium sized businesses before setting up on our own small company and we have both experienced the gender imbalance. As recruiters, we were very much on an even keel with our male counterparts but when it came to career progression it was clear that sacrifices would need to be made, to satisfy our direct reports, peers, bosses and shareholders.

So we are often thinking about what we can do to help our clients create well balanced teams, as well as how we can help those who are ambitious to achieve and overcome the obstacles. These are some of the things we do to encourage diversity:

  • We ask the right questions of our clients at the outset, providing more information than most and gathering clear prospects, promotion and compensation criteria.
  • We use correct terminology in our adverts. Missing out anything that may be gender specific but including possibilities of flexible and agile working.
  • We source candidates using six different methods, ensuring our database is as diverse as possible.
  • We empower candidates to go for something that they might not normally go for, but their counterpart with the same experience might.
  • We encourage applicants to go for roles that don’t advertise flexibility and will ask questions on their behalf.
  • We ask clients to take part time, flexible and agile working requests seriously and provide personalised, practical suggestions.
  • We get clients to consider candidates who are changing careers or have taken time out.
  • We educate clients on how it can work and give examples from within other teams and organisations. With nearly 20 years’ experience each we have plenty of great examples up our sleeves.
  • We request and share flexible working and equal opportunity policies.
  • We get to know our clients and engage in dialogue around diversity – their views are as important as their actions and the attitude of the boss tells you so much more than company policies. Those with less sophisticated official policies sometimes have great ideas and can be more flexible to make things work for the individual.
  • We get to know your business meaning we can identify role models in the organisation and highlight them to talent you want to attract.
  • We stay in touch with people we have placed putting potential employees in touch with them, to hear their experience of how diversity works in practice.
  • We will share success stories as part of our company sell – part timers who have been promoted; women in management positions; companies who have adapted to employees needs rather than vice versa etc.
  • When appropriate, we support using blind CVs to avoid any kind of discrimination.
  • Our hosted events are at different times to suit different people. Not just drinks in evening but targeted breakfast seminars, lunches, webinars and group video calls at different times of the day to make accessible to all.
  • We are regularly looking at our statistics, setting targets, measuring progress and taking accountability, assessing how we can do better.
  • We commit to calling out any bias and bullying that becomes evident during a hiring process. Often this can be non-conscious and easily resolved, but we would be prepared to lose clients in any case where it can’t be resolved.

We don’t deny that it can sometimes be difficult to get right and we’d be keen to hear any further suggestions on how we can improve.

May 2020

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