Is it becoming more difficult to keep good lawyers? Employee retention was ranked within the top three HR challenges for law firms this year. However, there are a number of steps your firm can take to safeguard against losing quality legal staff.
The ALPMA Australasian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey 2014 revealed that about 80 per cent of law firms will be in the market for new lawyers in the coming year. With the legal sector offering a growing number of jobs and a marked shift in private-practice lawyers moving into in-house positions, firms are predicted to lose quality staff. Pay freezes, increased competition and poor recruitment policies are just some of the reasons for these undesirable figures.
Here are five things you can do to help maintain the loyalty of your best employees and improve employee retention.
1. Adapt recruitment techniques
Your lawyers may be good at what they do, but are they the best fit for the firm? In a recruitment market that favours employers, it seems strange that firms should find it difficult to recruit good people. However, opportunities may be missed if firms take a rigid approach when reviewing applicants for future employment.
Allow time to interview a wider range of candidates. Someone who may not look as impressive on paper might be a better cultural fit for the firm. For more advice on legal recruitment have a look at How to Hire Your Next Superstar: A Recruitment Checklist.
2. Better financial incentives
Wages form a significant portion of a firm’s overhead costs. This year’s ALPMA Salary Survey indicated salaries are flat lining, and the number of firms offering pay rises above CPI has dropped over the past two years.
Introducing bonuses of 10 to 50 per cent can offer a means of differentiation for your firm. There has also been a recent increase in the use of one-off “sign-on” bonuses, which may be just as effective in retaining staff.
3. Understand what motivates staff
It is vital to recognise that monetary gain is not the only force driving employees. Effective law firm leadership includes getting to know your staff and building a quality working environment that meets their specific needs, especially when times are tough.
Try to offer your support staff more opportunities to interact with clientele. This will help employees feel more valued as part of the team. Making use of technology designed to improve tedious systems, for example legal practice management software for billing budgets, may also help motivate staff on a day-to-day basis.
4. Work–life balance
Firms are endeavoring to do more with existing or fewer resources. However, this forces staff to work longer hours and increases their already demanding workload. Consider offering flexible work arrangements, such as childcare support for staff members with infants to encourage long-term loyalty and maintain good work life balance.
5. Clear career progression
It can be a tough path to the top. Develop the framework for a career-development program that gives employees clarity as to how their work fits into the ‘bigger picture’ and what they need to do to progress. Staff should be given various opportunities to review their personal development over time.
While employee retention is becoming increasingly difficult, there are many preventive strategies available to legal and other professional firms for increasing the chances of acquiring and maintaining loyal employees.