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The Legend of the Purple Unicorn! Or, the search for great legal candidates
As Christmas draws closer, I ponder on the legends of Christmas... the legend of Santa Claus coming down the chimney; the legend of Rudolph guiding his sleigh; the legend of the flying snowman - the list goes on.
It also gets me thinking about other legends and one in particular legend that has troubled me for the whole of 2016: The Legend of the Purple Unicorn.
For those that don't know, I am a specialist consultant at Michael Page Legal and I have the challenging task of recruiting lawyers across NSW, from junior level through to partners and general counsels. I was a lawyer myself in the UK and spent 10 years in the profession, so I’d like to think that put me in pretty good stead for the task at hand. However, even I couldn’t have foreseen the challenges of finding the Purple Unicorn!
So "WHAT is the Purple Unicorn", you ask?
For the past 12 months, I have visited numerous clients and been briefed on countless roles and almost every single time I am asked to find the exact same lawyer:-
- 2-4 year PQE level
- Distinctions or high credit averages from top universities - University of Sydney and UNSW preferred
- Top-tier firm background - summer clerkships and grad schemes preferred
- Ideally practising in corporate and commercial law, in particular
- Great communication skills and, let’s not forget, a 'superstar'; 'a real go-getter!'
Enter... THE PURPLE UNICORN!
So "WHY the Purple Unicorn", you ask?
For a variety of reasons growing a practice group in the current market is tough! Clients are becoming more stringent, budgets are becoming tighter, margins are becoming smaller and the competition is becoming greater.
Highly-established firms are being challenged by reduced fees, start-ups, SMEs and ex top-tier partners going it alone offering the same service but at a fraction of the cost. Technological advances are providing advice apps, online legal solutions, practice alternatives, an ability to outsource to international counterparts at reduced rates – the list is endless!
Therefore, if you are going to grow your practice group in this market, it is deemed to be much more affordable to do so at the junior to mid level; salaries are lower, hourly charge-out rates are less and so, presumably, clients are happier and profitability is higher? Essentially, why pay and charge the client for, say, an 8+ year PQE lawyer when you can squeeze the same task out of a two year ‘superstar’ for a fraction of the cost?
Further, with at least two years' experience, great academics, top-tier training and fantastic communication skills, one can be expected to come in and 'hit the ground running' but still be junior enough to be amenable to the firm's ways, adaptable to the new partners’ styles, have a willingness to learn and a fire to prove themselves to grow and progress.
So "WHERE is the Purple Unicorn", you ask?
As with Purple Unicorns, we are all out there looking for them but they are extremely difficult to find! These ideal candidates are not actively looking in the market; they are not applying for roles on job boards or submitting their CVs for an expression of interest. However, there’s no mistaking that they are still open to hearing about opportunities but instead they are waiting for us to reach out, make them feel special and present the opportunities to them.
The problem, however, is that even if and when you do manage to find, successfully reach out and sell the opportunity to them, the chances are that a handful of other firms or agencies have already done the same and the likelihood is they are already in a number of other processes being snapped up by the quickest and highest bidder.
Therefore, for the first time in a long time, it is now a candidate’s market! Suddenly, lawyers have options, negotiating tools, bargaining power, they are asking not what they can do for the firm, but instead what the firm can do for them and how can they set their firm apart from all of their competitors who are offering them the same dream?
So “HOW do we find the Purple Unicorn”, you ask?
Firstly, if you’re a partner, office manager, HR consultant or talent acquisition specialist at the end of your tether asking yourself “where are they; is it me; what am I doing wrong; am I missing something?”, please let me assure you that it’s not.
Finding the Purple Unicorn and selling them your firm’s opportunity over everyone else’s is an extremely tough and time-consuming task! However, fortunately for me and the rest of my team at Michael Page, this task is our full-time job and so we actually have the time and means available that you don’t to spend all hours of the day sourcing the Purple Unicorn for you.
Therefore, if you do need any assistance with finding your Purple Unicorn or simply justifying the challenges that you’re facing to your superiors, or are in need of any other market insight or salary guidance that could be of use, please do not hesitate to contact Michael Page Legal as we are here to help!
Alternatively, if by any chance you’re sat there reading this and thinking “Wait… I am that Purple Unicorn!” then please get in touch ASAP as I can assure you there’s no better time to be considering your next career move!
I can be contacted on 02 8292 2238 or by email at [email protected]
Finally, thank you for taking the time to read this. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and may 2017 be one filled with happiness, success and an abundance of Purple Unicorns!