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How to attract and retain legal talent

This quote from Gregory Fryer, partner at Verrill Dana, is self-evident for most law firms:

Recruiting, hiring, and training new attorneys can take up to five years. Midsize to large law firms can spend from $200,000 to $400,000 to qualify a new associate1 to realize their full earning potential.

Many firms, however, never see a return on the cost, time, and human capital necessary to train associates. An associate may be lured away to a competing firm, go solo, or find an alternative career route.

Acquiring and retaining legal talent is imperative in today's legal market

According to Peer Monitor data and Thomson Reuters' 2019 Report on the State of the Legal Market, demand for legal services has been flat for more than seven years. Getting new associates up to speed quickly with the firm's practice areas and giving them the tools necessary to add value to clients and the firm is critical to differentiate the firm in a stagnant market.

Clients hire law firms for legal expertise and look to firms for good business sense, project and process management, and experience. Firms must accomplish client work with experienced lawyers because clients are reluctant to pay for junior or new associates' time for what they may perceive as training.

Relying mostly on partners and senior associates to provide legal services can lead to high client bills that require deep discounts and write-offs to maintain lines of business. Trained associates, however, can reduce high costs and increase the value delivered to clients, improve attorney realization rates, and make direct contributions to the firm's profitability. Skilled associates also free up senior lawyers to manage the firm and bring in new business.

A comprehensive associate training program is necessary to attract top legal talent but it's not enough. To attract the next generation of attorneys, firms offer associates better benefits (salary and perks) and lower billable hour goals. With the promise of a more positive work-life balance, firms can attract talented associates and focus on managing that aptitude with the right tools.

Training combined with legal solutions and tools

Efficient firms establish training programs to fast-track new associates to a level of competency that mirrors the work of partners and senior associates. At the same time, investing in technology gives new associates tools to quickly build expertise and realize their billable rate.

For example, Thomson Reuters Practical Law helps firms dramatically reduce the learning curve,  and bring associates quickly up to speed. New associates can use the practice material within Practical Law to provide immediate value to clients while releasing more senior attorneys from some of the burden of professional development.

Trained associates: a mark of distinction

By investing in employee development, firms can attract top talent to their ranks and keep it there. That vision includes professional tools that quickly and efficiently allow associates to provide value to clients. Extended over time, that investment also provides a competitive edge among legal service providers in the ever-changing legal industry.



1 Paula Monopoli & Susan McCarty, Law and Leadership: Integrating leadership studies into the law school curriculum, 2016

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