Edward Andrew, the former director of large Australian legal recruiter EA International, talks to The New Lawyer about how things have changed in legal recruitment.
You've launched Two Steps, a recruiter-free website for employers, into Australia having secured clients suchas Allen & Overy and Linklaters overseas. Is the Australian market ready tostart recruiting?
Very much so and it started slowly over twelve months ago with medium sized firms and expanding boutiques taking advantage of market conditions. We launched in Australia and Europe simultaneously and the take up rate from Australian law firms and corporations has been fast, from the major international firms, national firms and boutiques recruitment is ongoing in one form or another both for qualified lawyers and support services. Our business is also modelled on looking towards the future and it is very encouraging for the Australian legal services market that so many business are taking a proactive approach and investing in their future.
Is the talent shortage over for good (for now)?
I don't think so. The reality is that law firms and corporations will always need to recruit talent and their standards will not drop. People will continue to move away from law into other areas of work as they progress up the ranks and demand for the brightest and best graduates will remain fierce. However, there has been much debate that the halcyon days of the last decade may be over for good and if they do return the world will have moved on and recruitment will have taken a different form.
Has the Australian legal recruitment market changed in the past year? How?
The local market remains strong and vibrant and has bounced back far faster than in the Northern Hemisphere. What has been significant is the rise of the boutique firm, the merger of small and medium sized firms and of course the arrival of Norton Rose and Allen & Overy. The larger firms have been slower to recruit but that is the very nature of their size. There has been much speculation about the next mega merger in the Australian market but as firms are learning the lessons from the GFC, size is not everything.
For the "dummies", what is cloud computing, one of the software elements used by Two Steps?
We are now seeing a new breed of recruitment tool as cloud computing combines with talent banking and e-recruitment software. Cloud computing means ‘Internet-based computing’, whereby shared resources, e-mail, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices via the internet. Now the concept is more readily being adopted for recruitment.
The advantage of cloud computing is that data does not need to be held on a business’s own servers and is held effectively ‘in the cloud’ by a third party, not only saving on software and hardware expense but also on the human cost of managing that. It can be seen as another form of outsourcing.
Cloud recruiting is being embraced by law firms across the board. We are seeing just as much demand from single office boutiques who want their recruitment systems managed entirely in the cloud. The concept being led by twosteps is gaining momentum in Australia where employers are embracing the technology both in the corporate and professional services world with clients such as Mallesons, KPMG and Telstra.
How does web-based legal recruitment reduce recruitment fees for law firms?
The major cost associated with recruitment in any industry is recruitment fees, these can be anything up to 30 per cent of first year’s salary. When you take the legal industry as an example and see that more and more senior associates are taking their career development into their own hands by using online and cloud recruitment then hiring one 5yr PQE lawyer using a web-based recruitment tool can feasibly save you anything up to $25,000 in fees. When you compare that to the $195 it costs to post a single job advert on a job board, then the savings are immediately evident.
When you couple these low costs with the advanced screening and filtering tools available on twosteps you not only see a reduction in direct spend but also savings are made in the allocation of resources within the HR and recruitment departments of law firms. This is applicable to magic circle and boutique firms alike.
This isn’t to say that web-based recruitment will make redundant the role played by traditional recruiters or head-hunters but certainly the market share that recruiters command is reducing hand in hand with the generational shift towards online searches and web based technology involved in all aspects of people’s lives.
Have the habits of job hunters changed?
The simple answer to that is yes. According to a Nielsen report, Australian users average the most time globally on social networking sites a month at 7 hours and 19 minutes. Nielsen also reports that Social Media Networks and Blogs consume nearly 25 per cent of people’s time online. Lawyers are one of the groups that have started to use sites such as Twitter and Linkedin to promote themselves and access job market information. We are starting to see people taking their career management into their own hands by using all resources available to them including online job sites. Our recent survey found that while a significant number still use recruiters, 81 per cent also look to online job sites. 65 per cent of survey respondents also said they would rather correspond directly with employers rather than recruiters.
You have developed Two Steps having directed legal recruiter EA International. How is this offering different?
They are very different models. When I sold EA earlier this year it was a traditional research driven head-hunter operating with mainly law firm clients.
Twosteps is entirely web based and is a recruiter free site, our client base started in the legal industry but is branching into accountancy, financial services and investment banking, and HR and support services. I am no longer a head-hunter and twosteps does not charge recruitment fees. Twosteps has offices in Sydney and London but provides a service to a global employer base, our clients range from global US and UK law firms to domestic one office boutiques in the regions. Our services will soon be able to be bought online without any real interface with our sales team, and for larger accounts they are entirely managed by our salesmen. Twosteps is first and foremost a job board but is fast becoming a technology company in the sense that our systems and software are constantly evolving as the demand for cloud recruitment takes off.
Are you putting legal recruitment agencies out of work?
We are offering a different service catering to the demands of law firms in today's world, it has become increasingly obvious that most employers, and not just law firms, are looking to save costs and streamline recruitment while retaining and investing in talent.
The business world has changed since the GFC and anyone associated with the legal and professional services industry will need to diversify to, adapt to and succeed in the current market. Traditional recruitment will always have a place but their marketplace has changed significantly. Law firms and corporations looking to recruit senior level staff will no doubt continue to employ the use of recruiters as more human feedback is necessary. However, in the 18-35 year old demographic, more and more can be achieved online and with business's own recruitment processes.
Cloud recruitment is here to stay and as even the most conservative business have realised they need to move with the market. A historic global recession together with advancement in social and digital media, generational changes and technology have changed the recruitment map for good.