Netting legal applicants through the web
The future of legal recruitment lies on the internet, with every aspect of the process - even interviewing - soon able to be carried out online. Tim Bates says recruitment consultants need to catch up
It is estimated that more than five million CVs are held on at least 300 internet job sites in the UK. The internet is having – and will continue to have – an explosive impact on legal recruitment. Climbing the career ladder in law is never going to be the same again. You only have to look at what is happening in IT recruitment to grasp the pattern of what will inevitably follow through to its legal counterpart.The number of job sites in the IT sector has jumped dramatically in two years; 90% of all job applications are now received via the internet. Admittedly, we are nowhere near this sort of percentage level in legal recruitment, but we are certainly heading towards it every month.But if internet recruitment in the legal sector is to perform as successfully as it appears to within IT, there are a number of industry changes that still need to take place.Within the legal market, generalist recruitment portals such as Monster.com and Hotjobs.com may be some of the fastest-growing and most recognised internet sites globally, but are considered of little use to lawyers because you simply cannot be sure that the site will provide you with a fair selection of opportunities at every stage of the legal career.What lawyers need is for either the above sites to bring in a specialist brand, or for niche consultancies to develop a strong internet presence. Among specialist consultancies, legal web recruitment is a dedicated area that can flourish, particularly at the end of the market where the client and the candidate neither want nor need a middleman.The days of the recruitment agency that simply draws in CVs from candidates and pumps them out to clients are numbered. The scenario where someone submits their CV in the evening via the internet and it is on the desks of thousands of end-user companies the next morning effectively demonstrates this point.Legal recruitment consultants will now be obliged to up-skill the recruitment process and offer a truly consultative service to middle- and top-end candidates. This might include mentoring, training and specialist career advice alongside traditional search and selection.As far as delivery of the legal recruitment service is concerned, consultancies will have to make themselves available at all hours because of the immediacy of the internet. Out of 5.5 million people who logged on to the web in the last six months, 40% of them were home users, proving the need for consultancy services outside office hours. As does a recent direct mail that we posted out to newly-qualifieds – more than half of the responses received were transmitted via e-mail sent after 5.30pm.A further aspect of market change is the effect that the technology that is developing around the internet is having on legal recruitment. The advent of the viewcam has caused great speculation as to the future format of the job interview, but there are serious technical issues still to overcome.From my own experience, this form of visual device will only take effect in the long term. It could be very useful if recruiting overseas and could bring great benefits to the consultative side of our service. However, I would always advise client and candidate to meet face to face. The internet might be effective in nearly every instance of legal recruitment, particularly when trying to facilitate a long-distance first interview, but it gives no real indication of how two people will function when they are working alongside each other. Technology gets in the way of ‘instinct’ and the gut feel you have about a potential employer or employee when you shake their hand and meet them for the first time.It is highly unlikely that direct relationships between employee and employer will be substituted by internet communication, but it is fairly obvious that the technology is going to have great impact on legal recruitment. And it is here to stay.
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