In many ways, “The Great Resignation” could be called “The Great Reflection.” It is most definitely a candidates’ market – and they want not only more money but more flexibility, happiness and work-life balance.

Companies are losing talent and having trouble replacing their people as other companies swoop in and offer them more incentives.

The remedy to the talent issue that companies are facing seems straightforward: reduce employee attrition by making your firm a more attractive place to stay.

Is it really that hard for law firms to retain and recruit talent today?

Legal intelligence company Leopard Solutions has some eye-opening findings in its recently published 2021 State of the Legal Industry Report, which you can download for free:

  • During 2021, 14,000 laterals made moves – a number significantly surpassing 2019 and 2020 (which was a weird year of course due to the pandemic)
  • Leopard Solutions tracked nearly 12,000 job listings during 2021, the highest number its ever seen
  • Leopard’s research shows that the overall percentage of ethnically diverse attorneys at firms remains virtually unchanged over the last two years. The percent of diverse attorneys in top 200 firms remains seemingly frozen at 17%.
  • Since 2012 it now takes laterals 61% longer to make partner. For entry-level hires who stay with their original firms, the time to make partner increased by a staggering 136%. Broken down a different way – this is a staggering 3100+ days! It makes more sense to leave than it does to stay at your original firm if this is true – so much for being a “home-grown” lawyer these days.

It takes significantly longer to recruit someone than it does for them to give notice and depart. The solution, then, is to immediately bolster retention while ramping up your recruiting efforts

Firms then must continue to elevate the employee experience. (Also – not just for lawyers, but also for administrative professionals too, who are leaving as well because they are tired of being treated differently than lawyers).

The Great Resignation is the result of a shift in the mindset of what people want from their employers. They want to work for firms that align with their values and offer growth opportunities.

In addition, to effectively recruit and retain law firm talent today, law firms need to think beyond financial incentives and:

  • Continue to offer flexible work environments and remote arrangements
  • Expand your talent pool by thinking more creatively about how you source candidates
  • Provide growth opportunities such as leadership roles, educational opportunities and thinking beyond the flat law firm model
  • Support professional development in unique ways
  • Create sustained, real change and continue to innovate
  • And perhaps most importantly, show that you really care about your people and invest in them every day.

A Harvard Business Review article suggests retention measures that can have the greatest impact include:

  • Incentivizing loyalty – (which is the idea of paying people enough to take the issue of money off the table) with the added benefit of re-leveling compensation is that it gives you an opportunity to detect and correct pay inequities for people of color and women, including mothers of young children
  • Provide opportunities to grow – Forward-thinking organizations have been doing retention interviews for the past months — asking their best employee what it would take for them to stay and acting on it. Show current employees that you value them even more than potential new hires by providing them with new opportunities to grow and advance.
  • Elevate your purpose – Prove to employees that there’s more to your organization than the bottom line. And don’t just talk purpose; use it to shape what you do and how you do it.
  • Prioritize culture and connection – Make time to connect and build relationships with — and among — your people. Not only will this solidify their relationship with your organization, but HBR research during the pandemic indicates that social connection also has a significant positive impact on productivity.
  • Invest in taking care of your employees and their families – Provide mental health resources, acknowledge the personal sacrifices everyone has made during the pandemic, help parents with small children by providing or subsidizing day care, and give more paid time off.

Also, listening to what your people want and need, and then acting on their feedback is so important today. Fostering two-way communication will help companies of all kinds keep their employees. To that end, consider sending out frequent surveys, hold town hall Q&A sessions with firm leaders and meaningful one-to-one meetings.

And finally, put your people first – every single day. This is something that Dennis Garcia, an in-house counsel at Microsoft said on a Leopard webinar on diversity in law firms.

We have a tremendous opportunity right now to reflect on our employee value propositions.

Being intentional in designing an employee experience that is focused on a people-first culture will be a key differentiator today.

Law firms – and employers of all kinds – an develop engagement through trust, safety, flexibility, inclusion, diversity and well-being.

If you don’t have a recruiting marketing strategy, now is the time to create one. Here’s a framework you can use.