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With a Return to Offices Approaching, Now is a Great Time for Attorneys to Interview
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Though it certainly had its challenges, the last fifteen months of remote work has had many positive effects for both employees and employers. Remote working leads to increased flexibility, autonomy, and cost-savings, which had led many industries to adopt remote workforces even before the coronavirus pandemic. Now that legal employers have (by necessity) caught up to the pace of the remote working evolution, I’ve been advising attorneys to embrace what might be the most significant advantage for them in the remote paradigm: the newfound ease with which they can explore the legal hiring market.

Remote Working Has Made Law Firm and In-House Interviewing Incredibly Easy

One common deterrent to exploring new career opportunities for any busy attorney has always been the time-consuming process of interviewing. Before the legal industry went remote, interviewing meant finding excuses to sneak out of the office for a couple of hours in the middle of the day, finding somewhere inconspicuous to change into a suit, and finding time for a roundtrip travel across town. And yet, despite all the planning and best of intentions, both the candidate and the attorneys on the interview panel remained vulnerable to an unexpected email or phone call that would immediately pull them away to an urgent matter in need of attention, causing some or all of the interview to be rescheduled and costing the candidate even more time out of the office. Of course, this interview process becomes even more time consuming if the candidate is not interviewing locally but looking to relocate to a new city, necessitating considerably more time off and travel.

With interviews being conducted remotely, candidates get the chance to “meet” potential employers and evaluate opportunities from the comfort of their own home. That suit can remain in the closet, as most remote interviews don’t call for business formal attire, and even if they do, changing a few minutes before logging into Zoom with your closet nearby is hardly a burden. When working remotely, both candidates and their interviewers have more flexible time on their calendars for interviews. If any interviewer is unexpectedly called away, another attorney can be only a few clicks away from joining the Zoom to fill the absence, or the interview can be easily rescheduled to another time. And when interviewees aren’t physically visiting the prospective employer’s office, there’s no need to stuff all the required interviews into a single visit, so remote interview panels can easily be broken up over several days.

Besides providing for a remarkably easy process, remote interviewing can also give candidates a glimpse into prospective legal employers’ “remote readiness.” Remote interview processes comprised of several rounds of interviews with attorneys of various seniorities allow candidates to assess the technological adeptness of the organization and its employees—critical insight into how well the employer can be expected to accommodate the future of the remote workforce.

This Summer, Attorneys Are Getting the Best of Both Worlds

Earlier on in the pandemic, I worked with many attorneys who were hesitant to interview and start a new job without having had the opportunity to meet anyone face-to-face. Now, with attorneys moving closer to returning to the office more frequently, candidates have the best of both worlds. Candidates can enjoy the convenience and brevity of remote interviews to assess their interest level in the position while, in most cases, having the opportunity to meet folks in person before deciding to accept an offer. And since we’re only a couple of months away from most law firms fully reopening their offices, a candidate who accepts an offer over the summer would likely be able to join their new coworkers in the offices when starting, or very soon after.

Another unintended “perk” of the remote world presents itself once a candidate has completed their process and accepted an offer. The stress of giving notice to your current employer has been eased, substantially, with these conversations now largely taking place over the phone. At first blush, it might seem tricky to navigate such a sensitive situation remotely, but the strange truth is that most of my candidates found it much easier in the end. Giving notice remotely can be much less daunting than doing so in person, and a good legal recruiter can provide you with tried-and-true steps for departing in the most respectable and professional way possible, even if that breakup does not take place in person.

To Move or Not to Move? That Is Not the Question

Some attorneys are reluctant to explore the legal hiring market until they’ve answered “yes” to the question of whether they are ready to move on from their current employer. But the right question to ask is, “Do I have all the information I need to objectively evaluate my current position and compare it against other potential paths in the market?” Lawyers too often view certainty as a prerequisite for beginning to explore potential new career opportunities. I speak with many law firm attorneys that feel that it would be a waste of time to interview until they are certain they (1) want to leave their current firm; (2) have a certain type of in-house role or law firm practice in mind to move to; (3) are certain they will accept an offer if extended; and (4) are certain about their professional and economic expectations for the new platform. But how can an attorney achieve this level of certainty about other career paths without having substantive, insightful conversations with potential employers?

Uncertainty is a perfectly fine, and expected place to start from when kicking off some career development due diligence. I’ve worked with many candidates over the years that chose not to take offers extended to them after an interview process, but I’ve never had a candidate regret investigating the opportunity, educating themselves about their market value, and gaining a better appreciation for how their current role compares to other options. Not to mention, the practice of interviewing in and of itself is invaluable.

In the current legal hiring market, with more legal talent demand than supply, every attorney has something to be gained by exploring what doors are open to them and how their long-term career path may benefit from a transition. The ability to gain that insight and experience from the comfort of your own home? That’s a convenience no attorney should be passing up.

Erin Wandy is a Managing Director at Empire Search Partners in New York. To learn more about Empire Search’s law firm and in-house legal recruiting, visit our Recruiting Services page.