How Law Firms Can Recruit and Retain Talent

Law firms are only as strong as the people they’re made of—but as many small and mid-sized firms know, it takes years to train someone to reach their full earning potential. And if partners do all the legal work instead, the result can be high legal bills, which clients don’t like.

Below we break down a few pointers for recruiting and retaining talent that can help support a strong future for your firm.

Know why your firm

Any time you’re looking to hire someone, you should be able to say why they’d want to work for you. What sets your law firm apart from the competition?

Is it your supportive atmosphere? A friendly and tight-knit work environment? A genuinely diverse team? Higher salaries than the competition? True mentorship? A uniquely mission-driven approach to law?

Talk with your staff and consider your branding. What makes you different? Once you can put that difference into words, you’ll be in a better position to communicate to prospective new lawyers why they should want to work with you.

Don’t hesitate with strong candidates

If you find a candidate you’re enthusiastic about, don’t hesitate to move forward with them. Sometimes firms will want to review many candidates to have a true selection of the applicants. Although that may be a regular—and ideal—strategy in other job markets, when competition is steep for bringing on up-and-coming talent, the hesitation can hurt you more than help you.

If you wait to sign a candidate who’s a great fit, they may not be there when you’re ready to move forward.

Have a plan for counteroffers

In the past, it was less common for a lawyer to accept a counteroffer and stay on with their old law firm. Today, however, is a different story.

Counteroffers, and sometimes a promotion, seem to be increasingly effective at convincing young talent to stay on—even if it’s probably not a good idea. In a way, a counteroffer is a vouch for your chosen candidate’s abilities.

We suggest having a plan in place for any candidates to which you make an offer. For example, figure out the top salary you’d be willing to pay ahead of time. This way, if there is a counteroffer, you’ve had a chance to think through everything in a less rushed environment.

Use workflows and reduce busywork

Say you’ve gotten your chosen candidate. How do you keep them?

It’s a good idea to have workflows in place at any time, but that’s especially true if you’re bringing on someone new. Having strong workflows in place helps reduce confusion around who should be doing what and when. It also gives fewer opportunities for potentially harmful communication failures early on.

Likewise, your new candidate doesn’t want to suddenly be stuck with a bunch of busywork. So use your practice management system’s automation features to create more time in their schedule for the billable work they want to do.

This can include time-savers such as:

  • Single-platform billing and accounting to reduce data entry
  • Automated works-in-progress (WIPs) and low retainer balance monitoring
  • Automated document generation
  • Bulk invoice generation
  • Batch billing

Recognize the value of work-life balance

Finally, to keep talent with your law firm, you need to offer some level of work-life balance. This is increasingly a priority for young, up-and-coming lawyers, and it should be for you, too. While it may seem like the more you cram into a day, the more you get done, there is a point of diminishing returns.

And ultimately, your firm will get more value out of a young lawyer who sticks around and works a reasonable schedule than a new hire who moves on after a couple of years because they’re overworked. Then you’re back to square one.

Moving toward a work-life balance may require some shifting of culture or how you were taught the legal world works, but it is within your control. Another consideration in the work-life formula is that many younger lawyers prefer some level of location flexibility in their work. A hybrid work policy may be an effective way of sustaining their enthusiasm.

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