Managing a law firm is demanding. 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: a study conducted by the Thomson Reuters Institute earlier this year puts the ‘flight risk’ of associates at UK law firms as high as 37%, and 25% for partners. And according to the latest PwC Law Firms Survey, almost nine in ten (88%) of Top 100 UK firms are concerned that talent shortages of talent could stymie their ambitions in the next financial year.
In a people-as-product business model such as a law firm, finding and keeping capable lawyers 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 and happy employees is critical. What are the values your firm embraces? Are billable hours and profits (whether implicitly or explicitly) prioritised in your firm? How do you motivate and support your people?
Recent research by the UK Solicitors Regulation Authority found that a quarter of lawyers said their firm did not have a positive working culture. Firms need to weigh up an intricate balance of factors in ensuring they are seen as an attractive place to work by existing and prospective staff. For example, they will want to demonstrate that their profit-mindedness and high-performance expectations are combined with a commitment to helping people manage the pressures so that they can succeed and thrive.
What kind of technology does my firm have access to?
Can technology really make or break a talent recruitment/retention programme? Quite simply, yes. Lawyers who have used advanced technology in law school expect the same from the law firms they join. Not only does it demonstrate that these firms are forward-thinking places to work: there are tangible benefits. Implementing AI-based technology, such as Westlaw Edge can cut legal research time down significantly, freeing up their time and mental energy for other work or for their personal lives.
Practical Law is another legal tool that cuts out prep time for lawyers. This set of tools helps your team get up to speed on a new matter quickly and advise your clients with confidence.
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. Mentoring is more important than ever in the aftermath of COVID-19, as many lawyers’ ability to learn from, and interact with, colleagues was put on hold during lockdowns. 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 democratise 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.
Writing on Practical Law, Emma Sharpe and Claire Debney, Co-founders of MOSAIC (Mentoring Opportunities Amongst In-house Counsel) point out: “Navigating new, sometimes choppy waters is always easier when you have someone to bounce ideas around with and sometimes a guiding hand is needed not on what you are doing but on how you are doing it. Mentoring is not only a solution for when times are tough but also when things are going well and you want to ride that momentum by investing in yourself and your personal development.”
Does my team have a proper work-life balance?
It didn’t take a pandemic to make us realise that work-life balance in downtime to unwind and recharge not only keeps them happy but allows them to come back to work with renewed vigour.
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. As a leader, you should be making strides towards improving your organisational culture to meet today’s talent needs and expectations.