A recent article in the National Law Journal had a seasoned law firm marketer asked how to retain associates when the market is so hot.
Stefanie M. Marrone, a legal marketer who has worked with law firms for over 20 years was writing about the difficulties law firms are having hanging onto law firm associates in a market that is booming and the competition for legal talent has continued to build.
Her suggestion is to create a law firm environment where associates won’t want to leave – treat them well and have their backs – and she outlined some of the ways to do that in order to ensure your law firm’s culture and recruitment situation remains manageable.
One of the keys is to also be clear about the expectations for lawyers in terms of the hours they work, their compensation and so forth.
It is best to set clear expectations rather than being ambiguous or confused about what to expect of your lawyers. People want to know the rules, the black-and-white situation surrounding their work with you.
13 Key Rules
- Extend remote work options equitably
- Ask what can make them more comfortable in this ‘new normal’
- Train managers to lead hybrid teams
- Reevaluate and reconfigure physical workspaces
- Support employee well-being and mental health ( all year long, not just during mental health awareness month)
- Invest in training and development so they can see a future at your organization
- Encourage lateral moves within your organization
- Support employees who show signs of burnout
- Promote your people
- Provide challenging work
- Offer above-market compensation, benefits and time off
- Boost morale by providing rewards to say thank you
- Offer more autonomy/authority and ownership
Ensuring that there are both career and educational opportunities for staff is another key ingredient so that legal talent has the opportunity to continue to develop within your law firm. If an employee leaves for advancement, which is usually the case, then there is always the opportunity to either return or to make an important referral to the firm.
The exit interview is important in this case and so too is the ability to ensure that those lawyers who are seeking new opportunities may also be able to learn new skills and experiences within your own firm. It is natural for anyone with skill and ambition to seek new opportunities and a good law firm management culture will do everything possible to provide opportunities for advancement and new work.
The need for a law firm to ensure that the ability to maintain the best people and the best culture remains a key imperative for law firms in the current market.
Be clear about expectations related to hours, face time and how it ties to compensation and promotion. Many firms have a “black box” around how they pay their attorneys, not just partners. If you are a production focused firm then clearly state what the requirements are for minimum hours and what constitutes enough hours to hit bonus levels. If your firm is more ambiguous and you take into consideration non-billable work then create a framework that will spell it out clearly. The younger generation wants to know the rules. They want it in “black and white,” to quote one associate committee member I worked with at a firm.