Despite double-digit salary growth in the legal industry, many firms are grappling with serious staffing concerns. According to the 2021 Law Firm Business Leaders Report from Thomson Reuters, more than one-half of firms (51%) now view acquiring and retaining talent as a high risk to future profitability.
As they work to manage these staffing challenges, it has become increasingly clear that there’s a lot more for law firms to consider than salary. If you expect to win the talent war, there are several key things that current and prospective associates and business management staff alike look for in an employer.
Here are three keys to attracting and retaining top talent for your firm:
1. Flexibility and giving people more personal control over their working arrangements
For decades, law firms seemed to resist the idea of letting their teams work from home, believing that most of the work they did could only be done in person. But, when everyone got sent home at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, those teams proved that they could do nearly everything from home that they could at the office—provided that they had access to the right technology.
Some of the savviest firms have invested in cloud-based solutions that provided seamless connectivity to internal systems and minimal disruption to regular business operations.
Having shown that they can succeed in a remote environment has created an expectation among employees that this kind of flexibility will become permanent. Whether for work-life balance, wellness, or simple flexibility in working hours, the idea of in-office work is only one option among many that top-performing team members want from their firms.
2. Providing growth and development opportunities early and often
Legal professionals who are just beginning their careers are anxious to use what they learned in school as well as experience what it’s like to work in the real world.
While it’s great to have new bodies to research case precedent, that kind of work has the potential to lead to burnout sooner than later. Especially if they don’t have the best technology to complete their research. Not only does it take them longer to complete their assignments, but it can also make them feel like the firm does not value them.
By providing the most current technology, they can get more work done in less time. And they can learn more about the law in the process.
But there are other ways you can make new team members’ earliest days with the firm more engaging. Such as:
- Adding them to the team that is handling the matter: They can see how planning meetings work and get firsthand input on what the rest of the team needs from them. And, perhaps more importantly, they will feel more of a sense of ownership of the matter.
- Setting up a mentoring program: New associates and business management employees want to feel like they’re a part of something special. They want to be a part of the team from the start rather than feeling like they have to “earn” their way in. If your law firm doesn’t already have one, setting up a mentoring program can provide the connection and support new team members need.
- Building formalized development programs: In addition to mentoring, new team members like to know what career paths are available to them at the firm. Setting up development plans allows them to visualize where they are likely to be in two, five, or 10 years. Being able to see their futures with the firm can help to reduce turnover and encourage people to stay with the firm longer if they like what they see.
3. Creating a sense of meaning and purpose in their work
The people entering the workforce today share a commitment to making a difference in the world. In addition to giving their time to their favorite organizations, they want their time spent on the job to mean something as well.
Consider where your firm naturally makes the biggest impact on the world – your purpose. Articulate that as part of your recruitment process. Make sure you’re regularly showcasing work that aligns with your purpose, so existing staff is reminded that what they do matters.
Learn about what excites them on an individual level and steer them toward work for clients where there is a common interest. Let new team members use the firm’s technology and resources for pro bono activities. Encourage them when they want to pursue a matter that might be a bit outside the firm’s regular scope. Let them be passionate. And embrace their passion.
Understanding the generational differences in prospective hires
These keys are especially important considering the number of millennials and zoomers—as Gen Z has come to be known—dominating the workforce. The oldest millennials are already approaching 40, and the oldest zoomers are approaching their mid-20s.
While some of the earliest millennials remember not having cell phones and high-speed internet, they readily embraced the technology once it became available. Zoomers, on the other hand, have never known a time when they didn’t have immediate access to the latest technology.
Using cutting-edge technology is second nature to both of these generations, and it has become a near-prerequisite for them as they consider where they want to work. With most new associates being zoomers and millennials beginning to take on leadership positions at their firms, the demand for and focus on state-of-the-art technology will only continue to increase.
Legal tech is the foundation
In many ways, the battle for top talent has become as fierce as the battle for clients’ business. You need to create a culture that is attractive to millennials and zoomers in order to give your firm any chance of winning it.
While aligning with their personal values is going to be key, the argument could be made that having the most up-to-date legal tech is tables stakes. By taking the time now to evaluate your firm’s current legal tech stack, you set yourself up to be a stronger competitor as candidates evaluate your opportunity against others.
Not only that, you’ll also gain all the business benefits that come with using technology that allows the firm to operate at maximum efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
Learn more about legal talent trends
As we move into 2022, talent is one of the top concerns among law firms. Join Thomson Reuters webcast, “Stop the Great Resignation: Strategies for Reducing Law Firm Turnover,” to learn more about the forces that are driving change in the legal talent market and how best to react to them. Register here.