A law firm is as good as its lawyers. The ability for a team to not only recruit the very best, but also to retain top talent, is more critical than most realize. After a new lawyer is hired, the cost of training, recovering from accidents, and lost business resulting from new employee errors is tremendous. No legal employer wants to invest time and resources into training a lawyer for someone else.
From my experience, there are three important things to keep in mind to ensure you are doing everything you can to retain your best lawyers:
Treat Your Employees Right
Even with the abundance of legal talent and hordes of law students scrambling for jobs, it is important to prioritize treating your associates and team members right. They make up the pieces of the team. This obviously implicates salary and compensation and advancement. Most new lawyers don’t mind putting in the time and effort so long as they feel that they are getting something out of it.
Keep in mind of course, that not all “compensation” is financial. Connect with your employees. Let them know when you observe good performance, invite them to contribute ideas, and get to know them as individuals to get a sense of their personal needs. Although they are employed by you, you should make a consistent effort impress upon them why they should stay with you, drive for success, and not put their efforts elsewhere.
Take the time to assess their contributions and compensate them accordingly (whether financially, through other incentives, or by promotion). It is critical that they feel valued and that their contributions and sacrifices are validated.
Pay Attention to Little Things
New lawyers—particularly from the millennial generation—are intolerant of what they perceive to be a toxic work environment (they don’t see grinding it out as “paying your dues,” they see it as abuse). A way to mitigate this is to talk to your lawyers like they matter. Respond to them as if responding to a partner rather than chewing out a new associate. Pay attention to unique or sensitive situations (family or other personal needs, for example).
Hire the Right Attorney
At the end of the day, you need members on your team who you can trust with your clients. Hire the right attorney with the goal to retain them in mind, and keep in mind the following:
Hire Great “Ambassadors”
Every hire is an ambassador for your team, regardless of their role. Each hire should be able to serve as a mascot. Attracting talent that shares this quality is key to cultivating a passionate team that can keep everyone—including clients—happy.
Hire Great Team Players
A great firm is composed of a well-functioning team of attorneys (or legal staff). It is important for you to determine whether a potential hire will get along with your current team, play well with other members, and pitch in even if the task at hand is not in their job description. Every firm has its own culture and vision, and candidates should have their personal values aligned with the firm’s. A proper fit can propel your team forward, whereas an improper fit may cause problems in the future.
Hire Motivated Candidates
A candidate should be motivated by more than just a paycheck. They should have a genuine interest in the position and of the firm, and be willing to be accountable and take pride in their work product. Inherently motivated attorneys are easier to engage to become high performers. High performers model behavior to other employees and team members to reach higher.
See more about the qualities to look for when hiring.
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