Top 6 Ways to Retain and Hire Legal Talent

As in-house counsel, you likely spend a significant amount of time focused on your company's legal issues and challenges. Of course, this is an essential part of your job. However, as you mitigate risks for the company, you mustn’t overlook one crucial part of your department—your talent.

Top 6 Ways to Retain and Hire Legal Talent
Written by
Insights Team

The State of Legal Talent

Retaining legal talent has always been important. It has become even more so lately as the pool of in-house counsel candidates shrinks and many professionals age out of the workforce. Recent studies show that only 4% of licensed attorneys are under 30. In 1980, 26% of attorneys were under the age of 35.

The average age of general counsel today is 45. Before the pandemic, that meant in-house counsel teams were facing a shortage of options for qualified candidates in the near future as fewer people graduate from law school and more counselors age out of the workforce.

In today’s post-pandemic world, employers across industries are facing the great resignation as employees recognize the need for a more stable work-life balance. Legal firms are no exception. The trouble for legal firms is that the people driving the great resignation are precisely the people they’re trying to hire – professionals in their late 20s – 40s.

It’s essential to recognize that the pandemic isn’t the sole driver of attrition among legal teams. For example, one study published in 2020 found that legal firms lost 15 associates for every 20 they hired. However, it’s also essential to acknowledge that today’s employees have different expectations than just a few years ago.

So, legal teams that want to recruit and retain top talent need to pay attention to what their hires are looking for when it comes to career opportunities and work-life balance.

6 Ways to Train and Retain Top Legal Talent

Legal teams that are aware of the upcoming challenges of finding and keeping talented employees will be ahead of the curve. Here are six things you can do to ensure the most gifted workers end up on your in-house legal team.

1. Pay them what they’re worth

With so many people leaving the workforce, employers are finding that they have to offer higher salary amounts and bonuses to retain talent. So, if you want to get the best talent, you need to be ready to pay at least as much as your competitors.

Keep in mind that there’s more to compensation than salary and benefits. You should also consider the following;

  • Equity
  • Spot bonus
  • 401K match
  • Annual bonus
  • Signing bonus
  • Retention bonus
  • Relocation packages
  • Deferred compensation plans
  • Transportation reimbursement

Talk to your HR team to find out what options are available so you can build an attractive compensation package for new hires. You should also consider giving bonuses or raises to your existing employees, especially if you are experiencing attrition at higher levels than usual.

2. But recognize that it’s not always about money

A recent survey of in-house counsel employees found that salary was the least important aspect of their job. So, while you will need to be competitive to attract top talent, you don’t need to go overboard. You also need to do more than just pay a good salary if you expect employees to stick around for the long term.

Lawyers who are only focused on money aren’t typically working on in-house legal teams. Your employees know they could make more money working for a law firm. They want to work on your team for other reasons, such as having more flexibility, enjoying a better work-life balance, or making a more significant impact on the business.

Work-life balance is increasingly important after the pandemic. Many lawyers were able to work from home. They enjoyed saving time commuting to work, avoiding unnecessary chit-chat with co-workers, and staying focused on their tasks instead of getting interrupted every 10 minutes.

If it’s feasible, consider offering a flexible work environment. You might not be able to operate entirely remotely. However, having an option for people to Zoom into certain meetings or take off during the day to attend their kids’ school events can help your employees enjoy a better work-life balance that makes your firm more attractive than anyone else.

3. Create a fantastic work environment

We spend more time with our co-workers than with our families, so that time better be somewhat enjoyable if you want to retain talented employees.

Today’s workers recognize the value of a positive work environment. They want to work with non-toxic co-workers who value their opinions and give them the autonomy to make decisions and lead projects. Globally, most because they don’t feel appreciated, not because they demand more pay.

Part of appreciating your employees includes not overworking them. An estimated 20 percent of lawyers are highly exhausted after the pandemic and looking to leave their current position. Many of these lawyers will end up leaving the profession altogether.

4. Invest in software that simplifies their life

Among the reasons people opt to work for in-house counsel instead of a law firm is the promise of flexibility. Employees can work from home just as efficiently as in the office when they use contract collaboration software.

Stop expecting your teams to use outdated software like Word for redlines. Invest in software that will save them time and improve their accuracy and productivity. As a nice bonus, you’ll save money and get more from each employee.

5. Create career paths for everyone

Every employee you bring onto your team should have a clear career path. This can be easier said than done if you have a small in-house team. However, knowing there are opportunities to advance and develop professionally can help talented employees stick around.

Help employees reach their full potential by giving them training opportunities and access to mentors within and outside of your organization. Avoid the temptation to assign individuals to support specific business units. While this may be more efficient in the short term, it gets your team stuck in a rut, which can cause them to look elsewhere for employment when they start getting bored.

6. Train them!

You know how important it is to train new hires, but don’t forget about the benefits of upskilling existing team members. Contract collaboration software can help your team stay on top of training. With automatic updates, everyone will have access to the most up-to-date training materials.

In addition, DocJuris accelerates training by producing classic RAG reports, providing deviation guidance, and making exception tables on every new contract. This speeds up the amount of time it takes for a new employee to be ready to redline contracts, which improves the overall efficiency of your entire team.

Stay Competitive and Get The Most Out of Your Talent

Finally, make sure you always recognize and reward your talented employees, even for the little things. We all like to be appreciated and know that our hard work is noticed. It costs you nothing to say “thank you,” but it can make a world of difference to how valued your employees feel.

Encouraging a flexible work schedule, finding supportive mentors, and creating a thorough training program can keep someone staying on your team instead of scoping out a competitor. At the same time, investing in software that makes your employees’ lives easier can have huge benefits.

Clunky processes can adversely affect your employee’s mental health and be detrimental to speeding up new employee training. Say goodbye to outdated software and hello to the future with DocJuris. Schedule a demo to see how it can benefit your in-house legal team.

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