Why Do Your Lawyers Keep Leaving?
Lawyer retention is a huge issue, how can you address it?
Law firms are tired of paying recruitment fees, right? We hear you. But it’s not just the financial cost of replacing your lawyers through recruitment which is draining your resources. It’s the non-financial cost of on-boarding new lawyers, induction, training and development, which when calculated has a staggering detrimental impact on your firm’s culture, morale and bottom line.
It’s no surprise that law firms have been trying to mitigate these losses for some time, however, the issue remains.
Law firms are not accurately identifying the real causes behind staff retention problems.
We deal with our fair share of candidates who are changing legal firms, here are the most common causes cited.
They salary..but it’s not.
The truth is, it’s not actually the salary and very rarely is, if it were, pay increases would fix the problem, but it doesn’t.
If you’re in a position to see the wages growth over the past 24-months, you’ll notice the sharp increase, especially in the post admission 3 to 5-year bracket. That’s because law firms are trying to counter their retention problem by increasing salaries which in turn sets the new salary benchmark. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s eroding profit margins.
As a law firm, you can only charge so much for your legal services and there is already considerable downward market pressure leading to reduced costs for the supply of legal services due to an increasingly competitive legal market.
This means as a business you have nowhere to go, you have to either;
a) increase your market share by attracting new clients;
b) supply more legal services to your existing clients; or
c) reduce your cost of business
Throughout the course of business you would focus on all three, however, perhaps the easiest, to begin with, is option c.
The Real Reasons
1. Career development, training and mentoring opportunities – or lack thereof
The most cited reason for legal candidates choosing to leave their legal firm is due to the lack of structured and formal training programs. We can see that lawyers are on-boarded and generally given training at the beginning of their tenure but it then it becomes noticeably absent as time goes on.
The day to day grind creeps in, everyone gets busy and ongoing training and development initiatives mostly cease.
2. Problematic contact with senior lawyers and partners
The issue stems largely from the absence of effective mentoring programs. Junior and intermediate lawyers cite that they are not receiving enough one-on-one time with senior lawyers and partners. In some cases, lawyers don’t have the confidence or relationship with their direct line supervisors in order to feel comfortable enough to approach them with concerns in the fear that is projecting their skills and ability negatively.
Your senior associates and even partners need more leadership training! In private practice, there is a pretty clear career progression line as lawyers progress to senior associate level over time. In most cases, as lawyers advance they are given more responsibility to manage and develop junior lawyers. The issue is, leadership requires an entirely different skill set to that of a legal practitioner providing legal advice. Are your senior associates equipped with the skills to lead and develop junior lawyers?
3. You pay lip service to work/life balance, which in most cases does not exist.
Here’s the scenario. You’re desperate to attract quality legal candidates to your law firm, there’s a massive candidate shortage in certain levels of post admission experience and practice areas. You tell your candidates during the interview that the firm offers these great benefits which don’t exist or exist in a drastically different form. Your new lawyer starts and quickly realises that these benefits are not what they were made out to be and motivation drops. They realise this law firm is no better than the last one…they leave.
- Money is not the problem, increasing wages to stop your lawyers from leaving is not the solution. You’re simply increasing wages and your lawyers are leaving anyway, taking their salary expectations to the new firm. It’s causing wages growth which is not proportionate to the increase in your revenue.
- Implement structured training and development programs – this seems like a simple task, but it’s not. It requires significant time and investment to implement and upkeep. However, investing in this area will deliver so many benefits to your law firm. In addition to any new skills developed, you’ll develop stronger and more effective professional relationships between your junior and senior lawyers. In addition to legal skills training, implement business development, professional branding, networking and leadership training workshops.
- Implement mentoring programs! Ensure every junior lawyer receives access to a senior mentor that can offer them the advice and support they need. But recognise that most senior lawyers don’t have the skills to be an effective mentor and will need training in this area.
Are you ready to solve your retention problems?
Here’s where you start. Foster an environment that promotes work/life balance, encourage it. Implement the training and development programs that your lawyers so desperately want. Your ultimate goal – reduce your recruitment budget and increase your training and development budget. Implement so many training and development initiatives that you attract quality legal candidates because of them, watch your recruitment expenses drop!