Plugging the brain drain: retaining talent in your law firm

Tuesday 20 September, 2022

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In 2022, 93% of law firms are planning not to reduce their staff numbers[1]. What’s more, 85% intend to increase their head count[2].

Amid the ongoing Great Resignation, and with the sheer demand for legal talent, holding on to a team and retaining new staff is going to be essential for comfortable operation, let alone growth.

Every firm has to grapple with the question of what legal talent wants and expects, how they can offer that, and whether they can afford to. Here’s how to retain legal talent in 2022, without overpromising or overstretching.

Offer shorter hours, better pay, and more flexibility

The legacy of the pandemic for a lot of sectors is that workers want to keep at least some element of remote working. It follows from that flexibility of location that many also expect flexibility in working hours.

86% of ‘stand-out’ lawyers want to work differently from how they did before the pandemic[3]. Specifically, they want to be able to work remotely at least two days per week, and half of them want to choose their hours, rather than fit them into a strictly defined working day. They also want their working week to be 10% shorter, and only 34% of them are prepared to take a pay cut in exchange for that. In fact, firms are expecting they’ll have to increase pay by 5% to stay competitive[4]

The first question is affordability — can a firm sustainably offer more money for less work?

Fortunately, the answer is ‘yes’, and we explain how in our latest guide. Read that here.

Create a culture that people don’t want to leave

Pay and perks are important influences in the decision of whether to stay at a firm, but culture is more fundamental.

According to the IBA[5]:

  • 68% of young solicitors are concerned about their future work-life balance
  • 43% are concerned about a lack of growth opportunities

If someone loves their environment, enjoys working with their colleagues, and feels valued, trusted and challenged, then that means a happier and more loyal team member who won’t look elsewhere for fulfilment.  Here’s how to create that environment …

Have frank and open conversations

If you wait until an exit interview to ask how someone feels about your firm, it’s too late by definition. You’ll find out then what you could and should have known, and could have fixed if you’d asked before losing a team member.

It’s not comfortable to ask or answer the questions ‘What would make you leave this firm?’ or ‘What do you dislike about working here?’ but they’re the kinds of questions that create trust and help you prevent attrition.

Support active collaboration

Assuming you’ve hired collegial team members, all you need to provide to maintain strong collaboration is practical support. Once that collaborative culture is embedded, you have the benefit of more efficient work, but also a more closely bonded team.

A support system frees time and energy for discussion, review, and consultation, by reducing the demands of administrative tasks. That strengthens collaboration, whatever the working arrangements, but it’s especially useful when teams are working at a distance, so they can have the reassurance of automatic task designation and clear workflows.

For example, Insight Legal’s case management software includes client onboarding, task lists with prompts and reminders, correspondence templates, contact management, and document storage, which eliminate a lot of administrative burdens and allow more space for collaboration.

Dedicate more time to onboarding and development

Again, a hybrid workplace seems to be a basic expectation, but it also means that face-to-face contact can be less frequent and predictable, and the onboarding process for new staff can become detached and impersonal.

The same goes for the pastoral and developmental aspects of running a firm. Mentoring young careers and monitoring team members’ wellbeing is much harder when you don’t share a physical space so often.

A nurturing style of leadership is highly effective at inspiring loyalty, but in the modern workplace it requires more strategy, planning, and time, whereas before hybrid working it could be more spontaneous and ad hoc and still succeed. It’s another case in which practice managers and partners will need to save time elsewhere to offer teams the attention they need.

Insight Legal, for example, will process and present practice management information, so that when it comes to strategic decision-making, partners don’t have to spend time building a picture of the firm’s trajectory — they simply have it in front of them. By passing that kind of bureaucratic burden on to software, partners and managers can use the saved time to dedicate more attention to people-based leadership.

The foundations for your retention strategy

Over 1000 law firms are streamlining their operations with Insight Legal, and freeing their fee-earners from the inefficiencies of red tape.

Don’t let other firms tempt your talent away. Book a 30-minute demo, and you’ll see how to release your time for better use, so you can dedicate those extra hours to building a work culture that your partners, associates, and staff wouldn’t dream of leaving.