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Recruiting for diversity

Recruiting for diversity

By Sharon Henderson


Legal recruiter Sharon Henderson reflects on expanding horizons in the local job market.

The team at Legal People are often searching for experienced candidates to suit clients’ culture and to round out their teams. Typically, we are asked by clients to recruit lawyers with at least two years post admission experience, across a range of areas of law, since they tend to hire their own graduates and first year lawyers.

The Melbourne legal profession is a multicultural community of diverse attributes. Over the last few years, a number of national firms have merged with larger international counterparts, providing career opportunities to lawyers on a global stage. In terms of diversity, across the legal profession, recruitment is often reflective of its client base and society in general. This organically creates a diverse workforce, particularly when you recruit for a skill set and assess candidates impartially.

New areas of law have emerged as a result of these mergers and local firms are becoming more active on the global stage, for example cyber law, international shipping law, aviation and transport law, international arbitration lawyers with construction experience, and even a hotel lawyer.

Also, changes in the last five plus years from within firms have indirectly or directly fostered diversity outcomes. These include offering flexibility, not just for carers but to attract well-rounded individuals. Some of our recent recruits work four days. They might lecture or volunteer on the other day or are working less than full time so they can continue their education.

However, not every employer can accommodate flexible working requests. It depends on the team and the client base. It needs to work for both the client and the employee to succeed.

HR professionals within law firms also seem more aware of the need to recruit candidates who are able to balance their career and their home lives. There is a big focus on reducing lawyer burn out and promoting positive mental health. We have also seen significant investment in structured employee assistance programs. This has been a talent attraction and retention strategy in this continuously “candidate tight” market.

As a professional recruiter, we always present to our clients the candidates with the appropriate skill set and experience regardless of their gender, age or cultural background. We have also recruited candidates with diverse backgrounds and experience from other countries and jurisdictions, for example South Africa, Asia and the US. Once they are qualified to practise in Australia, as long as they are a good cultural fit, there is an equal playing field for all types of experience. The rise of the global law firm has tended to provide more of these employment opportunities for those who want them.

As long as new employees work hard and prove themselves, they can go on to achieve anything. Our candidates often come back to us later in their careers as a hiring manager looking for their own staff.

We have also noticed that clients historically have found that they need to round out their hiring practices beyond just relying on referrals from their employees. Otherwise they just get candidates that reflect the personalities and socio-economic backgrounds of their existing workforce. Appointing a specialised recruiter helps with this process to ensure the candidate pool is reflective of the available talent within our diverse city and beyond.

As a lawyer, being bilingual can sometimes offer a competitive advantage. We receive requests from clients to recruit for specialised language skills such as Greek, Croatian, Vietnamese, Cantonese or Mandarin. These skills reflect some of the client base of the companies we recruit for such as boutique firms, small businesses, mid-tier and large national and international law firms. They may be CBD based, suburban or regional and across multiple areas of law including commercial, property, litigation and personal injury, to name a few.
If you are an experienced legal professional discover the Legal People Company Page on LinkedIn for insider legal industry news and career opportunities.

SHARON HENDERSON is a legal recruitment specialist and heads the Lawyer, Management and HR divisions of Legal People.

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