How to Craft a Law Firm Talent Strategy with Donatella Verrico, HR Chief at Lowenstein Sandler

Topics: Diversity, Law Firms, Leadership, Q&A Interviews, Talent Development, Women’s Leadership Interviews & White Papers


The Legal Executive Institute is launching a new platform focused on Talent, which will include content relating to legal learning and education, emerging skills for legal professionals, professional development, and diversity and inclusion.

As part of the platform launch, we sat down with several leaders in AmLaw 200 firms to discuss their approaches to talent.  We are excited to share with you our first interview in this series, as we spoke with Donatella Verrico, Chief Human Resources Officer at Lowenstein Sandler, a national law firm with offices in New York, Palo Alto, New Jersey, Utah and Washington, D.C.

Legal Executive Institute: How would you describe your talent strategy and how it aligns with your firm’s business strategy?

Donatella Verrico: When considering talent for our firm, we often consider applicants who may not necessarily fit a mold. We try to find candidates who fit the firm’s culture and have values that align closely with ours.

Once they join our firm, we invest in them, through training, development, mentorship, and sponsorship, in a very customized way, so that if there is a specific experience or knowledge gap, we can get them there. This not only helps us to identify the right candidate for our firm, this strategy helps employees feel a connection to the firm while feeling invested in. Doing so has a positive impact on retention, which in turn helps us to provide our clients with a consistent level of client service and expertise, two factors critical to our business strategy and success.

Donatella Verrico, Chief Human Resources Officer at Lowenstein Sandler

We also recognize that clients are asking law firms to consider more efficiency around services. We are in a better position to do so when we don’t recruit to fit a traditional mold. By identifying nontraditional talent, with diverse backgrounds and skill sets, we are in a better position to create alternative staffing models to accommodate the clients’ efficiency needs and the desires of many practicing attorneys who would prefer non-partnership track positions.

Legal Executive Institute: What does a talent strategy entail?

Donatella Verrico: Talent strategies take time to build and need to be tweaked based on the changing needs of the clients and the industry. Defining a talent strategy can only happen when you take a look at who you are as a company or firm, where you want to be, and then decide on the type of talent that fits your needs. Once you can articulate what you need talent to be in your organization, you can tie in the appropriate recruiting strategies, as well as the training and development components, to identify and harbor the right talent.

The most successful talent strategy is one that identifies and supports a culture of inclusiveness, where employees feel at home and a part of a community they can be proud of.

Legal Executive Institute: What does the day-to-day execution of the talent strategy look like in the context of the talent life cycle?

Donatella Verrico: It requires assessing all talent-related decisions against the overall strategy. In that way, all decisions — whether in recruiting, hiring, training, or development — are focused on the same goals. But we must always be prepared to deviate from that strategy where it makes sense.

Legal Executive Institute: What are the biggest challenges in the execution of the strategy?

Donatella Verrico: Time. Recruiting, hiring, training and development all take time. With the competing demands of workloads and client expectations, it is often difficult to ask managers and leaders to give these processes some time, in order to get it right.

Legal Executive Institute: How does it impact succession planning?

Donatella Verrico: A strong talent strategy will have a positive impact on succession planning. Once you identify what talent success looks like, and can provide ways to further develop it, succession will happen organically within the organization.