Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Monday, January 21, 2013

What is the Cheapest Way to Expand a Law Firm?

We have been asked a question today by a 2 partner practice in Central London - what, in our opinion is the cheapest and most effective way to expand a law firm?

The firm started by asking us how they get to take on a solicitor who would be prepared to join a firm and work on a profit share basis. Could they recruit a former sole practitioner who maybe had had enough, and does that type of candidate exist? They have the space, they have the capacity to recruit more staff and would like to expand the firm.

We advised them that yes, these types of candidate exist. A law firm cannot expect to immediately fill
this type of vacancy - in fact we do not work them unless firms join us as members (details on our website at

Law firms can see that solicitors are prepared to work on a commission only basis, a fee split or a profit share - you can see large full page ads in the back of the Law Society Gazette to get an idea of this. Similarly a good number of the solicitors at the larger firms offering this type of arrangement are registered candidates with Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and looking for salaried work, so this probably gives you an idea of how successful these arrrangements are for some solicitors.

Secondly solicitors with following tend to be a little more fickle about loyalty. After all if they have moved once, they may be prepared to move again if they suddenly dont like you. Your relationship with this type of solicitor will be very different from the conventional employee/employer working practice. The firm then emailed back to ask about what else they could do to take on extra staff, expand and plan for succession and the future.

The partner complained that taking on paralegals tends to be a short term option. I answered that it depends whether you take on a paralegal with a view to training them up and have a longer term view for partnership, or whether you take on a paralegal with a view to working them to extract as much as you can out of them...

I see partners all over the country complaining about a lack of commitment from staff and then offering them peanuts and working them to the bone. Similarly I meet lots of candidates who have been with one or two firms since they set out in law and these are the types you want to recruit - saves money time and effort but does need commitment from you as a partner.

The firm also asked about recruiting a solicitor who had been practising as a sole practitioner - I advised that in my experience sole practitioners closing down firms tend to fall into two categories -

1) old (no insult to older people intended!) and wanting to slow down or
2) failed and damaged goods - whether with restrictions on from the LSC or generally depressed about the whole thing!

Neither fit in very well at all with a firm wanting to expand and expect enthusiasm and hard work from a new employee. Sole practitioners exist and we have introduced them before but decent ones are rare - after all if you were successful why wouldn’t you just take on a few staff yourself and cease to be a sole practitioner?

Best recruitment I have ever been involved in overall in terms of longevity is 1-3 year PQE solicitors who are then treated well by the firm they join and remain in the same practice. This is the point of my article - there is no such thing as a cheap way to expand a law firm - you have to speculate to accumulate after all.

Jonathan Fagan is a Senior Legal Recruitment Consultant (and non-practising solicitor) with Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment - Online Legal Recruitment for Solicitors, Legal Executives, Fee Earners, Support Staff, Managers and Paralegals. Visit our Website to search or download our Vacancy Database or view our Candidate Database online.
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