Attracting talented attorneys and staff and retaining them is the most difficult and crucial part of growing a law firm. Our associates are regularly contacted by recruiters, competitors, and ads urging them to leave their jobs.
According to a recent survey of 1200 millennial lawyers a whopping 75% are either open to leaving or actively looking to leave. The respondent’s less likely to leave were those who identified as “highly loyal.”
Many do not want to go out on their own but wonder if they are being fairly compensated. Many are not getting the mentorship and growth opportunities they would like and may be questioning the benefits of remaining in your law firm.
What can you do? You don’t want to be in a bidding war or pay more than you can afford. You may also be disappointed with the productivity of your associates. Many law firm owners prescribe to the theory that everyone is replaceable, and while that is true, high turnover hurts your organization. It hurts clients, it hurts your existing team, and it hurts your bottom line.
HOW TO CREATE A TEAM THAT IS “HIGHLY LOYAL”
Creating a team that is highly loyal does not happen by accident. If you are looking to grow your firm, investing in your team is simply crucial and that means offering them much more than just a competitive salary.
Employees want benefits, like healthcare and retirement, yet few small firms offer them. Employees want mentorship, yet few firms set aside time regularly and systematically to mentor all the members of your team. Employees want a flexible work schedule that provides accountability but freedom to work around their lives and work preferences.
They also crave real relationships with their boss and coworkers. Intimate relationships are in short supply these days and making sure that each individual is connected to other members of your team will help keep them connected to the firm, even when you make an unpopular decision like implementing new software or changing the payroll schedule.
They also want training and career advancement opportunities. They want the connections that come from being in a firm and they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.
CREATING A CULTURE OF CONNECTEDNESS
Everyone is busy and our lives are largely ruled by the billable hour. Finding the time and energy to create this culture isn’t easy and every culture must be unique to the firm. Your flavor will be unique, but there are a few principles and structured meetings that can help create “highly loyal” employees.
No. 1: Have a weekly staff meeting for leadership to communicate the behind the scene projects and plans for the firm. Employees ALWAYS want more communication about your vision and plans and specifically where they fit in.
No. 2: Find ways to build appreciation and collaboration into the meetings by creating committees assigned to important projects for the firm. This could be a fun committee that recognizes birthdays and happy hour, or a committee to review the document templates for accuracy under all the new rules. Consider setting and communicating revenue goals and a group bonus system. There is no better way to encourage teamwork than a system where everyone wins together or loses together.
No. 3: Have an individual meeting with each person at least once a month for 30 mins. This is primarily for you to listen and build rapport. You will also know if someone is unhappy or looking to go elsewhere. You want to know this in advance! Sometimes, you can make a simply tweak that can make a huge difference in their world. For instance, one of my employees didn’t have after school care two days a week so we developed a schedule for her to start early and end early those days. Her productivity went up and I, as the owner, helped to create a “highly loyal” employee by caring about her and solving her problem.
No. 4: Ask for their ideas on what’s working and not working in the firm. They have insights you may not know about.
No. 5: If you are starting from scratch a great kickoff is a law firm retreat. If your firm is in bad shape culturally, consider bringing in a facilitator. Otherwise, you can DIY. Make your retreat off site and make sure you build in a lot of time to listen to input. Billie Tarascio