Blog/Podcast: Want to Attract (and Keep) the Best Attorneys? Follow These 5 Rules
Attorneys are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate, so how do we fix this massive problem? Brooke Loesby, founder of Law Life Coach, has a few ideas. She’s a licensed attorney who works with firms on the critical issues of hiring and retention, and she shared five of her best practices on the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast.
- Don’t Push Away the Best Candidates
The hiring climate is hot right now, but many firms are making mistakes that drive away top candidates. First, firms are often too slow to act on qualified applicants, which causes them to lose out to competitors. Firms should be clear about the qualities they want in a hire, so when they see it they can make a fast decision. Second, firms need to know the market and make sure their offer is competitive. The best candidates know their worth and won’t settle for subpar pay and benefits. Lastly, firms tend to rely too much on online job boards. Focused recruitment and hiring is a better way to get candidates that will fit well within the firm culture.
Of course, all this takes time, which is why the hiring process is the perfect opportunity to rely on a professional. Lawyers should be spending their time lawyering, so it’s a smarter and more cost-efficient use of time to rely on the HR department or an outside consultant to do much of the heavy lifting. A neutral third party can also be helpful in making a final decision, since attorneys may not be entirely sure of the qualities they want in a hire.
- Above All, Keep Valuable Attorneys Happy
So you’ve found the right candidate and they’ve accepted your offer. Now, how do you get them to stick around? Most importantly, firms need to pay attorneys enough to live. If that means raising your billing rate to attract the right talent, then so be it. Firms also need to offer robust benefit packages, which are particularly important to millennials. Candidates will notice if you’re looking out for their long-term interests with comprehensive health insurance and a 401k plan.
Other perks might be smaller but have a big impact. A $50 per month cell phone stipend or a gym membership costs very little for the firm, but it tells attorneys that you value their well-being. Profit-sharing plans and individual marketing budgets are win-wins because they add to the bottom line while showing attorneys you trust them. They also encourage associates to get on board with business development early in their careers and take an active role in the firm’s success.
- Focus on the Three Things Employees Value Most
Brooke mentions Daniel Pink’s book “Drive,” which outlines the three qualities that are most valuable to employees. She explains what these qualities look like at law firms:
1. Autonomy: Everyone has their own inner drive, and autonomy is the freedom and control to pursue that drive. In one sense, this means giving attorneys the trust to manage their own cases. If you allow associates to work at the highest level of their skill set, it increases their satisfaction and the firm’s overall performance. In terms of benefits, autonomy might look like eliminating a formal vacation policy and allowing attorneys to determine when and how often they take time off.
2. Mastery: We never stop learning and mastery means continuing to perfect your craft over your lifetime. Firms can make the mistake of pigeonholing attorneys into the roles they’re good at, but mastery asks firms to consider how attorneys can continue to grow and perform better. Mastery also means having clear benchmarks to measure growth. Associates want to see their progression and make sure they’re on track to achieve partnership.
3. Purpose: Unfortunately, many firms don’t think about this, but it’s a critical piece in recruitment. Purpose is what gets us out of bed in the morning and makes our work meaningful. Although everyone has their own purpose, firms can promote a purposeful culture by showing associates the bigger picture and explaining the importance of their piece in the puzzle. When firms don’t do this, they can run into retention issues when attorneys move to other firms where they feel their motivations are valued.
- Cut Out Firm Inefficiencies
Law firms should consistently try to root out inefficiencies, but one often-overlooked inefficiency is not providing comprehensive feedback. Addressing challenges and areas of improvement from the outset can save a significant amount of time in the long run. For example, an attorney may redline a motion and send it back to an associate, but without walking the associate through the thought process behind the corrections, those same errors may happen again. Both the attorney and the associate will save time by investing in these teaching moments.
Another common inefficiency is being slow to adapt to new technology. Paper calendaring is an extreme example, but many attorneys are still unable to work from home because their firm has no remote access. Technology affects every part of the practice. For example, an out-of-date website may not create day-to-day inefficiencies, but it hurts the firm in the long run as top candidates don’t want to be associated with old-fashioned firms (which is the image an old website creates). These are significant problems, but they can be fixed if firm leaders are open to trying new technology and workflows.
- Make Personality Part of Your Diversity Plan
When we think about diversity, we often think about the “check boxes,” like sex or race. These things are important for building a diverse and versatile team, but firms also need to think about complementary personalities. We tend to hire people who think and work like us, but carbon copying yourself isn’t the smartest move in terms of growing the firm. You need to ensure that you have different skill sets within the firm, so all your bases are covered in every situation.
One way to promote diversity in personality is through personality testing. DISC and Meyers-Briggs are two popular options. These tests help attorneys understand their own work styles, and they show the firm where they have strengths and where they have weak spots that may need to be addressed.