It’s an unprecedented time for recruitment, for both legal grads and for law firms. Many internships have been shortened, postponed, or even canceled. Recruitment fairs are on hold.
But bright law school and undergrad applicants still need work, and firms still need Generation Z’s top talent.
The COVID-19 crisis has reshaped expectations of how we work, and the legal industry is no exception. Young legal hires want to know that their employers can support them in an uncertain future in which remote work will be the norm.
Here’s how to attract, engage, and retain young legal talent, even from a distance.
Create a Culture of Impact
Generation Z cares deeply about issues like social and economic inequality, and this age group fears climate change more than anyone else. Gen Z-ers want opportunities to support the causes they care most about, especially in their place of work. According to one study, a vast 94 percent of Gen Z believe businesses should address social and environmental causes.
Regardless of the nature of your firm’s work, cases and clients aren’t the only way a firm can demonstrate its commitment to purpose. To appeal to mission-driven young legal candidates, find ways to give younger employees opportunities to contribute to the causes they’re passionate about.
Here are several ideas for creating a sense of purpose at your law firm:
- Offer non-profit volunteering opportunities.
- Help employees create impact committees, such as a sustainability taskforce.
- If your firm has an existing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, encourage younger employees to get involved.
Showing your firm’s commitment to causes won’t just draw in more young applicants – it will make new hires feel more engaged and enthusiastic about their role in your firm.
Offer Career Development Opportunities
In such an unstable job market, many young employees are turning to skill-building and personal development while many firms have paused hiring.
A robust career development program will make you especially attractive to applicants who might not have considered a role at your firm under normal circumstances. Here are three educational and training resources firms can provide that are high-impact and remote-friendly:
- Soft skill development, such as client management.
- Virtual technical workshops, such as legal technology seminars.
- Leadership or presentation training.
A strong professional development program at your law firm shouldn’t just be a temporary offering to compensate for COVID-19 instability. Consider it a legal recruitment and retention strategy for the long term: a Robert Half Legal survey found that 25 percent of respondents considered leadership or advancement opportunities a top reason to take a job with another law firm.
Plus, employees will develop skill sets that directly improve their performance at your firm. It’s a win-win.
Build a Program that Provides Regular Opportunities for Recognition
In the highly demanding world of law, burnout is real. It’s common for young talent to feel that their hard work and long hours go unappreciated, leading them to set their sights on other firms or other industries. That will remain especially true in this period of indefinite remote work, during which new remote hires might feel isolated from their coworkers and managers.
Employee recognition is crucial to long-term retention. If your firm doesn’t have one already, create a recognition plan for employee development and milestones, or shift your existing system to online communications.
Establish a rhythm for your younger employees’ managers to have virtual check-ins and provide feedback. If you don’t offer a specialized career development program, manager one-on-ones are an excellent avenue for mentoring younger employees.
To ensure your new talent feels appreciated for a job well done, consider adding an employee rewards system that aligns with Gen Z’s focus on impact. An overwhelming 89 percent of Gen Z’ers would rather buy from a company supporting social and environmental issues over one that does not.
When a new hire hits a client milestone, surprise them with a meaningful gift that also does good. That might be a clothing item made from 100 percent recycled materials or a food basket from a company that provides gainful employment to an underserved population.
Instead of a gift reward, your firm might also consider making a donation on your employee’s behalf to the organization of their choice. Then, share the donation publicly with the rest of your firm so that your employee’s charitable contribution is recognized, and so that more members of your firm can engage in impact initiatives.
Recruitment and Retention Go Hand in Hand
The long-term effects of COVID-19 on legal recruitment remain unclear. For now, focus on what you can control. Build your firm’s impact opportunities, recognition culture, and career development programs to attract top young talent. Stay agile when developing your hiring and retention plans.
Your engagement strategies for current employees are what will make your firm stand out in a top candidate’s selection process. Emphasize these practices in the hiring process and you’ll find the candidates most excited to join your firm will also be the ones to stick around for years to come.