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You Don't Have to Be BigLaw to Hire Top Talent

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

When it comes to recruiting new attorneys, it can be hard for small practices and boutique firms to compete with for top talent -- but it's not impossible. After all, there's a reason you don't work for a major firm. Because those jobs are awful. Instead of being another overpaid drone working ten hours every day on a brief no one will see, you decided to set out for something different.

What drew you to your practice can also draw others. A committed small firm, focused on what sets it apart from the crowd, can still compete with bigger employers and bring in the talent it needs to advance.

Expertise and Experience Can Trump Salary

Believe or not, not all smart, promising lawyers are driven by salary alone. So, if you can't offer $160,000 to someone straight out of law school or dole out BigLaw salaries on talented laterals, don't think you're out of the running. Small and boutique firms can compete for attorneys by offering more substantive, worthwhile experiences.

Young lawyers can be won over with promises of working directly with clients or on important issues from the get-go. Unlike a big firm, you don't need to make your associates wait a year before sitting in on their first deposition. Similarly, for laterals, the ability to direct cases or practice with greater independence can be a major draw.

If you're an expert in a field or a niche firm, you've got even more going for you. Promising talent will often want to work with leaders in the field, take on innovative work, and quickly develop experience in in-demand areas.

Top Talent Doesn't Just Come From Top Law Schools

Don't be afraid to look outside the highest-ranked schools for the best talent. The top graduates at a second tier school are often smarter and more motivated than lower ranking J.D.s from more prestigious alma maters. Yet, a lot of the big firms won't bother considering such candidates. Good! Let them get passed over by BigLaw so that you can benefit. Recruiting the best students from mid-level, local, and regional law schools can be a great way to find talented new attorneys.

In July, we wrote about a small New York firm that refused to hire Ivy League grads. According to Adam Leitman Bailey, who runs a New York real estate firm, those lawyers don't have the guts and tenacity to make it in his firm. Of course, Bailey's hiring ban is silly and a bit unnecessary (he admits he doesn't get many Ivy League applicants), but it's a good reminder that you don't need to have a Harvard pedigree in order to become a top-notch lawyer.

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