Recruiting and retaining talent: how to attract the right people

Law firms are run by talented people who drive business forward. But without the right people around you, your firm might not reach its full potential. Priya Dhokia sets out the steps you can consider to attract – and retain – talent.

Over the past few years, we have seen people’s ideals, perspectives and priorities change considerably, with a greater focus on family life than ever.

Flexibility and work-life balance have become priorities over the ability to earn a certain level of income.

We now choose where we work based on a range of factors designed to help us achieve a better quality of life.

Many smaller firms have been set up by those who set out to do things differently.

Each leader will have their own vision but share the same ethos: it is about making the firm work for you.

Smaller firms allow fee earners the flexibility to manage their own time. This often results in providing clients with a more tailored and personalised service, with a focus on the client relationship.

As a partner in a small firm, I have greater autonomy and control over my diary, which enables me to accommodate individual client needs rather than adhering to a rigid structure. Clients feel looked after and appreciate the personal touch.

I have benefited from a better quality of life through flexible working hours which can fit around my lifestyle.

What are people looking for in a working environment?

When it comes to recruitment and retention, small firms must have a mechanism to create a working environment with all these elements.

Without communicating your approach to incoming and existing staff, you will encounter difficulties with attracting and retaining talent.

So, what steps can firm leaders take to make your working environment more appealing to current and future staff?

Have a clear vision

Create a clear vision for the firm. Your people want to know how they fit into the firm’s plans for the future. They want to feel valued for their work and contribute in the right way.

It is important that people understand what you expect from them and what you can offer in return. This will encourage you to think about your existing staff and whether you have the right people on board.

Only recruit or retain people who will support your vision. This is how you will ensure you get the best from your team and, ultimately, for your business.

Remember that the people who are not aligned with your direction of travel will leave.

Use the tools available to you

When recruiting, think of your firm’s website as your shop window for future employees.

Make sure you have a dedicated recruitment or careers page that conveys:

  • the culture of the firm
  • the pathways for career progression
  • the opportunities for staff to learn and develop

Use this space to advertise for roles available and set out the reasons why people would want to work for your firm.

Invest in your people

Investing in your people is the single most important thing that you can do.

Smaller firms are often good at providing hands-on day-to-day training, with more exposure to partners and senior lawyers.

People value these learning and development opportunities, whether internal or external.

Invest more by shaping careers through mentoring schemes.

Pair junior lawyers with senior associates or partners and task them with meeting once a month to discuss career development and progression. This will help provide encouragement whilst building a sense of loyalty and commitment to the firm.

These open discussions will quickly provide you with a better insight into the mindset of your team, so you can plan accordingly.

Have an active recruitment strategy

In smaller firms, we can find ourselves on the back foot when it comes to recruiting the right person for the job.

Recruitment is usually driven by an immediate need to fulfil a position, rather than proactively planning for the future.

Often, we do not have the capacity or resources to wait for the right person to come along.

But by investing in the career development of your people, you will have a better idea of those who are likely to stay and those likely to leave.

You can then proactively plan your recruitment strategies around this.

This is something which can also be easily applied to roles for trainees and/or paralegals, where you start the application and selection process in advance.

Other firms tend to recruit for these roles in advance and your firm should be no exception if you want to attract the best talent.

Engage your team in the little things

Ask your team about the types of social activities they would like to take part in to promote team building.

Perhaps you could even create a role for someone to volunteer as social secretary.

If your people can contribute their ideas, they will feel more invested in building the environment in which they wish to work.

Reward performance

Consider what benefits you can offer and whether you can structure a performance rewards system.

Your rewards scheme should not be solely based on performance linked to billing.

People should be rewarded for their other contributions to non-chargeable time, such as their time spent engaged in:

  • professional development
  • business development activities
  • raising the profile of the firm
  • generating work for other departments
  • mentoring
  • contributions towards the firm’s pro bono or charitable initiatives
Find out more

Attend our Future of Work Conference 2023, where our expert speakers will offer practical advice on how to get the right balance of talent to achieve success in the future.

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