You don’t have to be a solicitor to be a legal recruiter - but it helps!
Interview with Hayley Rose, Harvey John’s Associate Director, Legal
You don’t have to be an expert on a sector to recruit into it. The basic principles of sourcing jobs and finding candidates are mostly transferable, but to offer an exceptional service you need to go that bit further.
Having knowledge of an industry is very useful. Having worked in the industry is even better!
Hayley Rose, the Legal Associate Director at Harvey John, is also a qualified solicitor with many years experience working as a Commercial Litigator. Her direct experience means she has a deep understanding of her niche but, for her, technical knowledge is not the most important advantage. It is the ability to have a genuine empathy with the candidates.
“I love being able to support a candidate through the process, understanding what they do and how they want to progress,” says Hayley. “I know exactly how hard they have worked and what they have been through to qualify as a solicitor.
"I know exactly how hard the candidates have worked and what they have been through to qualify as a solicitor."
“It certainly helps knowing how legal firms work and what they are looking for in candidates. It is important to fully understand a role and the challenges the role presents. I feel like I can have a deeper understanding with both clients and candidates, and empathy with candidates particularly.”
Hayley has no doubts about the most rewarding aspect of switching from law to legal recruitment: “What I love about this role is the positive impact you can make when someone secures a new role. It's life changing for them. There's nothing better than placing someone at a law firm and then watching them then progress.
“I get a great deal of pleasure working with junior lawyers, particularly the ones that are just about to qualify and are at the point when they will decide on their chosen path of specialism. This is a pivotal point of their career, and I get satisfaction from being able to guide and support them through the process.
Equally, at the other end of spectrum, I love working with partners who are looking to move to a new law firm! It is incredibly rewarding watching what they add to their new firm, both in terms of their expertise and from a financial perspective. I placed a salaried partner at a firm, who the Managing Partner described as a ‘thoroughbred’. and has since gone on to back up this accolade by becoming an equity partner and the firm’s highest biller.
“I can look back at people who I placed at senior associate level, who are now partners. It's helping people achieve their career ambition. I’m like a proud mum looking on from the sidelines.”
"It's helping people achieve their career ambition. I’m like a proud mum looking on from the sidelines."
It is telling that Hayley mentions her maternal instincts, as it was having children that changed the course of her own career. She had carved out a successful career in Commercial Dispute Resolution at PDT solicitors, but when she discovered she was going to have twins, she decided that family life would take priority.
The decision was based partly on the prohibitive cost of childcare, which so often penalises women who wish to resume their career.
Hayley recalls, “When Jack and Tilly arrived I had to decide whether I wanted to juggle work and looking after my children. The cost of putting both into nursery was just crazy - it was more than our mortgage at that point.
“I thought about returning part-time but the dilemma was whether I could work three days a week and still retain the key clients? In my job it wasn’t just managing clients’ deadlines, there were also court deadlines. I thought that getting back to Brighton for 6pm before the nursery closes wasn’t always going to be possible.
“I was always torn about going back anyway. When I was young I worked as an au pair in America. The mother was a top partner at a law firm and the father was a professor at Harvard. They were so busy they hardly saw their children during the week. I felt for the kids missing out on their parents, but it was also harsh on the parents because they were missing out on so much, especially in those early years when they develop so quickly. I was keen to enjoy my time with my children. It’s hard to get the balance right with work and children.
“My experience means that I have a greater understanding when a candidates looks for flexibility in a role. Now, many candidates are looking for that part time or flexible working, and it’s not just mums. Legal firms recognise this shift and have become far more flexible / agile. I have also noticed the firms are placing more emphasis on creating teams rather than working as individuals.”
By the time Jack and Tilly started school, Harvey John had an established legal recruitment team. A new career beckoned. “I was new to recruitment,” says Hayley, “but it was an opportunity to use my experience in the legal profession. I certainly wouldn’t have joined the accountancy or tax teams!”
Hayley’s lack of recruitment experience was more than compensated by two attributes she picked up in her legal career.
Firstly, she wasn’t scared of hard work! She combined working for asb law as a paralegal with weekend LPC study at Guildford College Law School.
It is the lawyer in me! I need to be armed with all the information about the role, about the firm and about the team.
Secondly, she brought to the recruitment role the obsession of being prepared. “It is the lawyer in me!” says Hayley. “I need to be armed with all the information about the role, about the firm and about the team, so then I am able to share my research with the candidate.
“I invest a lot of time in each candidate to make sure that they're happy and get them through the entire process as smoothly as possible. No one really likes interviews, so I try to ensure they are less stressful by being fully prepared.”
To achieve this, Hayley spends time getting to know her candidates: “When we take on a candidate, I like to meet up for coffee. It's always best to meet face to face. I like to get a feel for what their current role is about, what they specialise in and what they do, and then talk through what is missing from their current role. I want to know their ambitions and desires for the future and what they're actually seeking, whether it be more support, mentoring or an opportunity for progression.
“I am there to offer advice and guidance through the process, and act as a sounding board. In other words, I build a relationship. Hopefully I can place them in their dream role, but I am there even if they don’t get through the interview.
“The candidate benefits from the hard work we put in, but we benefit as well. When I help secure them a new role, I usually get referral business from their friends or colleagues. Referrals are very important in this industry.”
The same relationship building applies to the clients as well. “I prefer to work with fewer clients because then I can really drill deep, get to know them and ensure they get my full attention. I have built strong relationships with some of the best and leading law firms in the region.
I regularly work on in-house roles too, which are fun and really interesting, especially when getting to grips with the intricacies of their business – I have concluded if I were ever to go back into law – in-house would be for me! Wearing both a commercial and legal hat suits my approach.
“My approach is the same as with the candidates. I love helping and supporting clients and being there for them.”
Hayley’s success in legal recruitment isn’t rocket science, yet too many recruiters forget the power of genuine human interaction. If you genuinely care for the candidates and you make the extra effort to build strong relationships with employers, then the rest will follow. You don’t need to be a qualified solicitor to learn that!