Recruitment, ESG and Sustainability – Co-Dependent?

Written by Chris Cayley



We all need to play our part in the transition to net zero and a sustainable future, but what’s that got to do with recruitment?

In The Lawyer last week there was an editorial about the growing challenge for firms to recruit the people they need to meet their strategic ambitions and simply to deliver their service. The war for talent is a phrase which has swirled around the profession and in fact every people driven business for years; it’s the ferocity of the battle which has ebbed and flowed.

We’re in a period where the battle is well and truly on and as fierce as ever.

As referenced in the article, the sheer number of vacancies in the legal sector has recently soared and the demand for talent is strong. There is a significant gap between that demand and the available talent, which has many causes structural and otherwise. In the world of legal recruitment, we found in 2021, and now into this still relatively new year, that people have options, the upward pressure on salaries is well documented and employers are fighting to retain their best people. The aggressive counteroffer is back.

Recruitment and retention are recognised by Managing Partners as major challenges and/or risks. The Lawyer’s editorial pointed out the need for firms to look carefully at the advertising they’re putting out into the market. I have to agree and think we are moving into a period where employer branding and messaging need to be sharper and more focussed than ever. Firms used to invest heavily in their employer brands in the legal press, but with the disappearance of print advertising all of that is now on-line, including social media. The message, reputation and culture of a firm has to be presented to the market in an entirely different way. It’s no less crucial as many firms are finding out if they get no applications to their advertisements!

There are many things that can be done as part of a recruitment strategy. I know I would say this but building strong relationships with your recruitment advisors remains one of the best routes to the market and the available talent. A good recruitment consultant is your ambassador in a challenging recruitment market, an important advisor and intermediary in touch with what’s going on for people as they explore their options, navigate the return to work and consider their careers after the challenging two years of the pandemic.

Building a profile in the market which attracts people is also crucially important and it’s clear that where businesses stand on sustainability and climate change is becoming a very significant factor. Climate Change, ESG and what firms and companies are doing (or not doing) to help presents risks and opportunities. In people driven businesses, the biggest risk and greatest opportunity is often the recruitment and retention of talent.

For several years now we’ve been conscious that applicants notice when companies have strong ESG and sustainability credentials; candidates are doing their research and they mention it when they apply. Often, they tell us it encouraged them to apply, and they start off the process already feeling positive.

Where a business stands on the challenge of tackling climate change, sustainability and ESG issues will continue to be crucial for the companies to which law firms provide services. Likewise for law firms, being strong on these issues will be essential to maintaining and enhancing their reputation and brand and their ability to attract the best people.

It also has the very significant benefit of being the right thing to do! 

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