Analysis of increased investment in junior/graduate hiring within the legal sector

November 25, 2020

In Germany, the dual education system that combines subsidized classes at vocational institutions with on-the-job apprenticeship training has proven to be very successful. High school students in Germany can apply to firms for temporary paid positions; once accepted, they split their time between work and mastering a curriculum that has been specifically designed with the input of employers to meet industry demands. Successful candidates are regularly offered full-time employment upon completion, by employers who have invested heavily in their professional development. But what else do companies do to attract further candidates with desired skillsets who are at present unknown to their business?

Companies have invested in creating new positions such as Future Talent Program Manager or Young Talent Acquisition, and the professional services sector is following this trend. Law Firms, in particular, have been focusing on junior profiles, most notably for the hiring of junior Lawyers:  Ashurst, Clifford Chance and Linklaters, among others, have all launched early careers programs. I had the chance to speak with Maria Ahler, HR Expert – Recruitment & Employer Branding at Fieldfisher, a company who is conducting just such a hiring initiative. 

Maria is responsible for recruiting new lawyers, trainees (Referendare) and students. Each year, 15 students attend their Summer School and come to their office for 3-4 weeks. Created 2,5 years ago, this program offers training and practical insight into the work with clients, while coaching for the first law exams. An additional benefit for Fieldfisher is that this format provides them with the opportunity to advertise and promote their expertise and brand to the future legal talents, who they hope will remember them when they look for their first full-time job.

Given that junior positions represent the most significant part of their overall hiring in Germany, it is easy to understand why the company seeks to offer qualitative training. For their offices in Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich, they hired around 25 trainees (Referendare) and 17 associates last year. Even though the numbers have decreased this year due to COVID-19  they are set to launch a new program early next year for trainees. They expect to further enhance their ability to tap into junior candidate pools for when it comes time to hire a new raft of associates. This would be a similar program to the summer school, but with more advanced content, suitable for young legal trainees. 

For Maria, it is important to know young professionals personally. This is definitely a long-term process, and offering training to young talent is an investment for the future. Fieldfisher tries to be present online as much as possible via their career website, which they are currently in the process of reviewing, to make it more reflective of who they are. The key is to give a good impression to young talents and to strengthen their brand. The HR team also works with several universities and student organizations to develop their presence among this specific audience.

One student from the summer school will start as a trainee in the coming weeks. The core objective is to hire more students who attended these internal trainings since the percentage of hiring from this student pool is still quite low, and they mainly recruit these roles externally. 

To conclude, whilst the key challenge respecting the hiring young professionals is not specific to law firms, they are among firms who are adapting their strategy the most to enhance their ability within this hiring focus. At Frazer Jones, we observe this in every sector we are covering for HR positions.  Some companies struggle to meet the candidates’ expectations or to simply have a strong enough Employer Brand to be visible among young people. Now more than ever, candidates entering the hiring market place significant importance on the employer’s reputation and track record. 

At Frazer Jones, we too have taken action – the need for junior professionals in the field of HR is increasing – this is why we have created our HR Talent Program. The program provides a networking platform for young HR professionals in Germany and to accompany them in their career journey. Eventually, one of the core goals is to connect them to our clients seeking such profiles.  Please get in touch if you are curious to get more information about this initiative.

What has your company been doing to attract and retain young talent, and what challenges are you facing?  I would be very keen to hear your thoughts on this topic, please feel free to get in touch with me