Help Your Firm Recruit Third-Act Attorneys

May 30, 2022

With competition for talent showing no sign of letting up, your firm may be struggling to find enough candidates for open positions. It’s time to consider an obvious and significant untapped talent pool: third-act attorneys.

Also known as “returning attorneys,” Law360 describes third-act attorneys as those “who have taken a career hiatus” and are ready to return to the legal profession. Unsurprisingly, most of the attorneys in this category are women who have temporarily paused careers to raise children or care for a sick relative. Hiring committees have historical viewed resume gaps as a red flag, making it especially difficult for these professionals to advance beyond a preliminary round of candidates. Firms who are working to make their policies and procedures more equitable and inclusive have an opportunity to take a second look. 

So how can you communicate your firm’s interest in and support for third-act attorneys? Here are three ways to signal welcome and support for those returning to legal careers:


  1. Launch a recruiting initiative specifically targeting third-act lawyers. Take a cue from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, which runs the Returners program. It’s a structured path that includes mentorship, training and development resources for attorneys who have been out of the legal profession for a couple of years. It’s an opportunity for lawyers to reacclimate themselves as they return to a legal career. It also gives the firm more candidates to choose from, which may boost its diversity and inclusion efforts.
  2. Audit your website and social media platforms for signs of ageism. Make sure the images you’re using — whether stock files or actual headshots of your firm’s attorneys and staff — reflect people with different levels of life experience. If you encounter colleagues who are reluctant to update their headshots, encourage them to keep it real. Accurate portrayals of who works at your firm can go a long way toward inclusive recruiting efforts.  
  3. Feature stories of your firm’s third-act attorneys. Highlight lawyers already at your firm who had gaps in their resumes. They’re likely to be ideal ambassadors for your firm and may be willing to share their experiences via video interviews, podcasts or blog posts that you can feature on social channels. They’re also more likely to know former colleagues with similar experiences and may be strong referral resources for those interested in returning to the legal profession.

Third-act attorneys may be reluctant to put themselves out there if they’re concerned about gaps in their resumes. By showing your firm supports those re-entering the profession, you can help attract and retain talent who are ready to contribute at a high level.