Managing an enterprise such as a law firm is a demanding commission. Managing it to achieve growth and profitability objectives is an even greater challenge. Among the priorities of running a successful law firm are attracting and retaining top legal talent.
The risks are real: The Thomson Reuters Institute’s 2022 Report on the State of the Legal Market says some firms face more than 25% associate turnover. Rather than losing one-half of their associates over five years (the largely accepted pre-pandemic metric), these firms now risk losing 125% of their associates in that same time frame. In a people-as-product business model such as a law firm, finding and keeping capable attorneys helps you stay profitable, efficient, and competitive. Has your firm addressed the needs of your legal professionals to maintain a healthy, stable workforce? A review of key questions can help assess your firm’s attraction/retention outlook.
What kind of culture have we established?
Culture is a catch-all term for work environments. But, a thoughtful, strategic commitment to defining and creating a culture conducive to healthy employees is critical. What are the values your firm embraces? Are billable hours and profits (whether implicitly or explicitly) prioritized in your firm?
In a 2021 culture survey done by legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA), 61% of respondents say they left a firm with a substantially different culture than their current one. Their factors in choosing to make a lateral move included a firm’s profit-mindedness and high-performance expectations.
What kind of technology does my firm have access to?
Can technology really make or break a talent attraction/retention program? Quite simply, yes. According to a Gartner article on legal trends, legal departments are expected to increase their spending on legal technology threefold by 2025. Attorneys who have utilized advanced technology in law school expect the same from the law firms they join. But technology provides more than just a cool factor. Implementing AI-based technology, such as Westlaw Precision, can cut legal research time in half, freeing their time and mindshare for other duties or personal lives.
Combating lawyer turnover rates by creating a successful workplace environment is a recent white paper that reveals emerging employee priorities and strategies to elevate your workplace environment to meet and exceed these needs.
Are there mentorship/growth opportunities available to my team?
Many law firm leaders will credit important mentors in their lives for helping them on their career journeys. And while a mentor relationship can seem very personal, it’s not the same as finding a friend to counsel you. A formal mentoring program can democratize the power of a mentor relationship and bring the most value to the mentee, the mentor, and ultimately, the firm. Sometimes, having more than one mentor is key.
“Law firms that select one partner to be ‘the mentoring partner’ for many associates miss the point because strong mentor relationships must be one-on-one,” writes Kate Reder Sheikh with MLA. “Every young associate in Big Law should have one mentor in his/her department and another on a totally different team. The mentor who does the same work is able to usher the associate through the practice, answer substantive legal questions and be mindful of what’s going on for that associate regarding staffing matters. The mentor who sits somewhere else in the firm is a safe person to vent to, an outside problem-solver and a coach more generally on life at the firm.”
Does my team have a proper work-life balance?
It didn’t take a pandemic to help us realize that work-life balance in a law firm is precarious. Giving your people time to unplug, unwind and recharge not only keeps them happy but allows them to come back to work with renewed vigor. According to Thomson Reuters/Georgetown Law, only 9% of attorneys cited compensation as what they liked most about their firm. “Among those who said they were more likely to stay at their current firms, the people and culture at their current firm, along with work-life balance were cited as the top reasons.”
It’s all about flexibility. Mental health days, hybrid work environments, and adequate technical and personnel support make it easier for lawyers to build their work into their lives, rather than having it take over.
Is your firm doing all it can to attract and retain top talent? These questions are just the beginning. To dive deeper, download the white paper, Combating lawyer turnover rates by creating a successful workplace environment.