The Evolving Legal Executive Search Market: The Value-Added Retained Search Model

The legal industry is experiencing a notable transformation in its executive search practices. Organizations increasingly recognize the significance of adopting a retained search model for hiring top-tier legal executives. This article explores the growing trend towards retained search models in the legal executive search market, highlighting the benefits and market statistics that support this shift.

Recognizing Executive-Level Importance: 
Legal roles are pivotal within organizations. They bear considerable responsibility and crucial importance, necessitating an exhaustive search approach. Legal executives strategize, provide legal guidance, navigate complex legal issues, and ensure adherence to laws and regulations. Their decisions carry extensive implications, including financial, reputational, and legal consequences for their organizations.

Recognizing the significance of these roles, many organizations emphasize that legal hires should be treated at the executive search level. Just as hiring a CEO requires a rigorous and thorough search process, legal hires deserve the same level of attention and commitment. The responsibilities and impact of legal professionals are comparable to those of top-level executives, making it essential to engage in a search process that is commensurate with their importance.

Adopting a retained search for legal positions demonstrates an organization's dedication to procuring top-tier legal talent. It signifies the recognition that the expertise, experience, and leadership skills needed for these roles are vital for organizational success. Notably, 86% of the most qualified candidates are already employed and not actively job hunting. Retained searches empower organizations to cast a wider net, reaching out to passive candidates who may not actively explore new opportunities but possess the qualities and qualifications the role demands.

Additionally, the retained search model offers an element of enhanced confidentiality and discretion vital for executive-level searches. It ensures that the search process is conducted discreetly, minimizing the risk of internal disturbances or leaks. This is particularly crucial for filling sensitive legal positions, which involve handling confidential information or dealing with legal matters that could influence the organization's competitive standing.

Market Trend: Partnership through Retained Search:
The shift towards a retained search model for legal positions represents a broader market trend that reflects organizations' increasing commitment to finding the right legal executives. This trend signifies a strategic and proactive approach to talent acquisition, emphasizing the importance of securing top-notch legal leadership.

Utilizing a retained search model for legal executive positions illustrates that organizations are prepared to invest the necessary time, resources, and expertise to find the perfect fit. It signifies a partnership to comprehensive and meticulous candidate evaluation, ensuring that the selected candidate possesses the required legal expertise, leadership qualities, and cultural fit that aligns with the organization's values and objectives.

Opting for a retained search model for legal hires underscores an organization's recognition of the specialized nature of these roles and the unique skill set they demand. It underlines the understanding that legal executives must have a profound comprehension of legal intricacies, industry regulations, and business goals. By leveraging a retained search approach, organizations can tap into the extensive networks and industry knowledge of search firms, thereby increasing the odds of identifying and securing candidates with the necessary qualifications and experiences.

Retention and Success Rates:
By leveraging the expertise and resources offered by the retained search model, organizations can optimize their legal leadership teams and foster long-term success. It moves beyond merely providing a "body," by focusing on delivering a comprehensive consulting component that critically assesses the organization's needs.

Retained searches have demonstrated higher retention and success rates for legal executives than contingency or internal hiring processes. These statistics exhibit the effectiveness of the retained search model:

  1. Retention Rates: 94% of HR professionals report that employing retained search models has positively impacted their hiring processes. Research suggests that legal executives hired through retained searches are more likely to stay successful in their positions than those hired through other methods.
  2. Breakdown at the Management Level: 98% of retained searches are successfully filled. Retained searches have proven effective at identifying and securing legal executives at various organizational management levels. Occasionally, a search may pause as effective consultation helps an organization realize a need to re-evaluate the role, thereby saving the organization money and ensuring the best fit.

As demonstrated, retained searches consistently deliver higher retention and success rates for legal executives compared to other recruitment methods.

Opportunity for Cost Savings and Extended Guarantees:
It's a common misconception that retained searches are more expensive, while, in fact, they often come at a comparable fee and with substantial added value. This value includes comprehensive consulting, a thorough evaluation of your organization's needs, and extended guarantees, all designed to maximize your return on investment. Beyond cost savings, retained searches offer extended guarantee periods significantly longer than those generally offered in contingency searches, providing additional assurance to organizations.

Let's explore how these factors can lead to both immediate and long-term cost benefits for your organization:

  1. Minimizing Costs of Hiring: On average, companies face losses of around $20,000 with every suboptimal hire. Retained searches are designed to minimize this risk by ensuring that the selected candidate is the right fit. This reduces the costs related to repeated searches and onboarding of new hires.
  2. Savings on Training: Bringing in the right legal executive through a retained search can lead to substantial savings on training costs. Studies show that morale within an organization can decline by as much as 32% due to a bad hire. Executives with the necessary skills and experience can contribute immediately, requiring fewer resources for extensive training.
  3. Efficient Onboarding: Internally, it typically takes companies an average of 36 working days to hire talent. With a retained search, the onboarding process becomes more efficient, allowing organizations to integrate the ideal legal executive into their roles promptly.
  4. Reduced Dependence on Outside Counsel: Hiring a proficient legal executive through a retained search is not just cost-effective but also reduces an organization's dependence on outside counsel. In-house legal teams offer continuous support and guidance, and if planned carefully, can result in strategic usage and decreased reliance on external legal services. As part of our consulting value, we assist organizations in optimizing the value of the right candidate, further reducing the need for outside counsel. While most organizations may still require external legal services for specialized matters, strategic hiring can effectively minimize this dependence.

At Life After Law, we're confident in our ability to identify the right candidate for your organization. That's why we offer extended guarantee periods, often up to a year, to provide you with added protection against unexpected situations. Our commitment is to ensure you retain the right legal executive in your team.

The legal executive search market is decidedly veering towards the retained search model. Organizations increasingly recognize the executive-level importance of these hires and the commitment they require, resulting in a growing endorsement of retained searches to secure top-tier legal talent. With cost-saving opportunities, improved retention rates, and successful placements, the retained search model provides a strategic approach to legal executive hiring. Thus, if organizations invest either way, why not obtain more value for the same cost?

Contact Life After Law 

Contact Life After Law today to make retained search a cornerstone of your legal recruitment strategy and take the next step towards an efficient, cost-effective, and value-added hiring process.