Young lawyers are a significant investment for a law firm. From the hiring process to training, the goal should be to attract and retain lawyers for the long term. If an associate is brought on and ends up leaving, law firms have to start all over and reinvest in hiring another, which can cost the industry roughly $1 billion annually.
What does it take to attract and retain lawyers and law students? With the spike in law school enrollment, law firms need to prepare for a competitive job market and a pool of talent that expects a positive company culture, flexible work options, tracks for growth, mentorship, and innovative technology.
The Importance of Attracting and Retaining Talent in a Changing Legal Industry
Law firms need to focus on attracting and retaining talent and getting new lawyers current on the firm’s processes and practice areas to provide excellent service to clients as a way to stand out.
Clients may be reluctant to pay for services from junior or new associates and prefer knowing they have years of legal experience and knowledge behind their case. These clients are looking for firms that demonstrate legal expertise, business acumen, and project management skills.
Of course, allowing only senior associates and partners to provide legal services can cause firms to rack up high client bills that can price them out of the market. Young lawyers with training can offset these costs and provide high-value services to clients, directly contributing to the firm’s revenue.
Cultivate a Positive Culture
Young lawyers are looking for firms that have a culture of support and mentoring. When they choose a law firm to sign on to, they want to know that they’ll have professional development and growth opportunities to turn the job into an investment into their future career.
Law firms can attract this type of lawyer by creating a positive, engaging culture that’s up to date on current trends and innovations in the industry and focused on supporting the goals of associates.
Because of this, one of the most important moves a firm can make is adopting technology and innovating their practice. As digital natives, young lawyers are learning how to use legal technology and practice management software to support remote work, automate tasks and track time efficiently. If a firm is sticking to old-school methods, it’s not likely to bring in the best and brightest.
It’s also important for firms to offer space for collaboration and socialization with coworkers. An employee lounge, virtual hangouts, or other suitable spaces allow for relationship building. Young lawyers also want inclusive work environments and mentors that offer feedback and honest, two-way communication about goals and progress – a goal that can be served better with neutral, relaxed settings.
Focus on Impact with the Practice of Law
The young lawyers of today have lived through a lot of strife, and they’re hungrier than ever to make a difference in the world using the practice of law. In fact, this may be more important than status or money.
Law firms looking to attract this type of talent need to offer meaningful, impactful pro bono work and a dedication to justice, not just client billing. A desire to improve the community and give back, whether through pro bono work, donations, or volunteer programs, is likely to resonate with these new lawyers.
Foster Continued Support and Mentorship
Law firms can be competitive environments with an “everyone out for themselves” attitude, but the next generation of lawyers aren’t drawn to this environment. Being the new hotshot lawyer isn’t important – instead, these young associates are looking for support, mentoring, and training that will help them further their careers.
Firms that want to capture this talent need to include a variety of opportunities to show their investment in new recruits, such as coaching services, professional development, career planning, CLE training options, and stress management workshops. These programs can ensure the young lawyers feel like part of the team and have an interest in giving back to the firm that invested in them.
In addition, a firm that invests in its talent is gaining valuable team members for the future. Professional development services help lawyers define their goals and take concrete steps toward achieving them, which can pay off for the firm that brought them there.
Promote Work-Life Balance
Young lawyers, like other young professionals in other industries, are increasingly interested in work-life balance and flexibility in the workplace. Instead of working long hours and being married to the job, young lawyers are looking for firms that allow them interests and obligations outside of the office.
Despite anyone’s best efforts, personal lives can impact professional lives (and vice versa). Firms that give associates space and time to manage their personal lives get more efficient and productive lawyers in return and team members who are loyal to their workplace.
Remote and hybrid work also goes along with this. Fresh graduates are looking for flexibility in work locations and hours, whether through a remote or hybrid model, to support work-life balance. In return, young lawyers are able to find creative approaches to the work, rather than a focus on long hours that can be billed.
Support Different Career Paths
Progressive law firms offer different paths and timing to get to a partnership. This accounts for the personal lives of associates and how that may impact their careers, such as milestones like parenthood or marriage. Instead of putting lawyers on the fast track to success, these firms are giving associates the freedom to decide when the time is right.
If being a partner isn’t the goal for a young associate, law firms can offer alternative career paths that keep them in the industry. These may include professional development coaching, business management for the firm, human resources, or legal technology leadership. Firms should also allow flexibility for lawyers to explore different practice areas to gain new skills and ensure their choice is the best fit.
Attract and Retain Lawyers and Promising Law Students
Attracting young lawyers and law students can be difficult, but law firms can invest in professional development, upgrade legal technology, and shift the business model to support better work-life balance, a supportive company culture, and a focus on creating impact through law.