Blog/Podcast: 6 Things Great Law Firm Partners Do to Retain Associates
Close to half of associates leave their first firm after just three years – according to the National Association for Law Placement Foundation. Lawyer turnover is at an all-time high, especially among newer associates.
Courtney Puritsky has the rare distinction of remaining at one law firm for her entire legal career. She joined Grodsky & Olecki in 2007 and became a partner in 2017, so she’s seen the firm from all vantage points. Given her unique perspective, she joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast to talk about what Grodsky & Olecki has done to earn her loyalty, and what law firms can do to retain their best and brightest.
- Create a sense of camaraderie. Courtney has faced difficult cases and clients, but she says the constant in her career has been the ability to work through those issues with a group of supportive, trusting coworkers. The close relationships she’s built have kept her there for more than a decade. Although this atmosphere is easier to create at a small firm like Grodsky & Olecki, large firms can mimic this idea by using a team method of working together. Big firms can also infuse this idea into their culture by emphasizing the fact that one lawyer’s success is everyone’s success.
- Allow associates to gain experience. Many young lawyers leave Big Law for boutiques because they want more experience across all aspects of a case. Associates want (and need, in order to advance their careers) the opportunity to take cases from the initial client meeting all the way to trial. Again, this may be easier to accomplish at a small firm, but there is no reason why big firms can’t do the same and include associates in every step of the matter. In fact, with so many attorneys to learn from, associates at large firms may have an advantage. All they need is the green light from partners.
- Create a good work/life balance. Lawyers will quickly burn out at firms that don’t accommodate their personal lives or promote their well-being. Practicing law is already stressful enough—firms don’t need to put additional pressure on attorneys with inflexible rules and an overly hectic environment. One way to give lawyers a break is by allowing them to work remotely. Technology allows for this and as long as work is getting done, it doesn’t really matter where it happens. Having a work-from-home policy is especially helpful and appealing for young lawyers who may be starting families.
- Encourage associates to find their voice. Communication is essential in a professional relationship, but it can fall by the wayside between young lawyers and partners. Courtney remembers being an associate just out of school and struggling to follow her gut. Like many other young lawyers, she constantly worried if her ideas were worthwhile, and she didn’t like to ask questions. Partners have a responsibility to help ease this lack of confidence and create an environment where associates feel comfortable raising their voices. Having an open-door policy makes associates (and really, everyone at the firm) feel welcome to offer ideas and ask questions.
- Teach associates to have a customer service mindset. Especially in today’s competitive landscape, a high level of customer service is critical for law firms. The best lawyers are responsive to their clients and offer realistic timeframes. However, associates just out of law school don’t always have this customer service mindset instilled in them. For the health of the firm and for associates’ long-term success, partners need to explain to young lawyers that, ultimately, they are in the service business. Make it clear to associates that they are expected not only to provide top-notch legal services, but also to do it with client satisfaction in mind.
- Encourage networking. What sets rainmakers apart from others? Networking. An associate who can bring in business will instantly become more valuable and attractive as a partner. Help young lawyers advance their careers by teaching them how to build their network. Perhaps even more important, teach them that business development isn’t scary. Many lawyers, young and established alike, shy away from networking because they don’t want to feel like they’re selling themselves. Demonstrate that networking just means learning about clients’ needs and seeing how you can assist them with their problems.