Business Essentials: Lawyers make the case for relocating to Lincoln

Andrew & Co can't compete with London firms on salaries but it needs to recruit high-calibre solicitors
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The Independent Online

Lincolnshire boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country and low unemployment rates. Its residents spend an average of just 17 minutes commuting to work. The county has areas of outstanding natural beauty, historic towns and seaside resorts attracting thousands of visitors every year.

But Andrew & Co, a law firm based in Lincoln, cannot attract high-calibre solicitors with the relevant corporate experience from outside the area.

Peter Bateson, Andrew & Co's practice director, wants to know how to persuade people to relocate and reap the benefits of life in the county. "Lincolnshire is one of the more remote counties in the UK, and I think that's what puts a lot of people off moving here," he admits. "But Lincoln is a vibrant city. There's a lot of building activity and there's a huge university with about 6,000 students."

A further barrier to recruitment for firms in the county is that salaries are inevitably lower than in the capital. "If someone is earning £50, £60 or £70k in London, they don't contemplate coming here to earn nearer £40k," says Mr Bateson, whose firm deals with both business and personal clients. "But the property prices are probably a quarter or a third of what they'd be paying in London." The average house price in Lincoln is just £148,515.

Mr Bateson also finds himself struggling against the perception that firms such as Andrew & Co don't offer enough challenges. "Nothing could be further from the truth. The commercial property team here enjoys a wide range of work."

The firm's experienced professionals see an entire job from start to finish, he adds. "In larger law firms, you tend to work on just a section of conveyancing or other property issues and you don't get responsibility for the whole project.

"One of the firm's partners relocated from London, where she used to work on mergers and acquisitions, often all night. She now finds she is exposed to more interesting projects and gets to meet her clients in person rather than working in the back room," Mr Bateson says. "We're fortunate to have attracted her, but she moved here because she was in a relationship with someone who works for the RAF and got posted to the area. Frustratingly, that seems to be why most people come here. Consequently, we're faced with the perpetual challenge of getting new recruits to wrench themselves away from other cities."

Andrew & Co has tried sending mailshots to local job agencies. "We're also members of LawNet, an informal network of law firms, so if someone from another firm knows of someone moving to this area, they get in touch with us."

Mr Bateson has stopped short of headhunting largely because of the expense involved. "That would be a last resort," he says.

www.andrew-solicitors.co.uk

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Rebecca Clake, Organisation and Resourcing Adviser, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

"Mr Bateson should post information on his website from employees who have relocated, and include quotes in recruitment advertising. He should allow interested candidates to speak to employees who have relocated.

"Relocating changes lives, as well as jobs, so it is important to consider the needs of the employees and their families. Focus on making the relocation process less stressful, for example offering job searches for the candidate's partner, a list of local schools and housing information.

"Pre-move visits are a good way for new employees and their families to see the new location and meet those who work there. And once the move is made, invest a little time to help people find local services such as doctors and dentists."

Helen Cracknell, Project Manager, Business Link

"Mr Bateson should try taking a marketing-led approach to recruitment problems. He needs to think about who he wants to attract and what may appeal to them, such as better quality of life or diversity of work. He should then consider advertising in the trade press or developing a pro-active public relations campaign highlighting the benefits of working outside London.

"Other options could be starting a networking club or seminars to engage solicitors from across the country. The firm may benefit, too, from looking at how local firms in different sectors recruit."

Lindsay Brydson, Regional Manager, East Midlands, The Law Society

"Mr Bateson is thinking along the right lines in identifying what makes his firm attractive to lawyers looking to escape the rat race. Now he needs to get these points across. Raising his firm's profile might help - for example, getting it into big directories such as Legal 500. He should register with job agencies outside the area - I'd start with London and Nottingham.

"Think about the total package the firm is offering. Clearly mapped promotional paths, bonus arrangements, relocation packages and flexible working arrangements all add value to a role.

"Don't dismiss using headhunters. Fees are payable only if a candidate is successful, and if the right person is found the cost is soon recouped. Finally, looking to the longer term, Mr Bateson could try to strengthen ties with Lincoln University."

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