improving law firm retention
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Hiring and Retention

Top Three Talent Investments Firms Need to Make for a Successful 2023

By Wendy Merrill

Tomorrow’s firm leaders want more than hefty bonuses. To improve your recruitment and retention of top lawyers, be prepared to make these three investments.

Talent management in 2023 will be about meeting your people where they are.

Unless your firm is equipped to engage new hires with a formal onboarding process and a rock-solid professional development and training program — including a supervisor and mentor, a clearly defined expectations document, and regularly scheduled check-ins regarding their career path — then you are not ready for 2023.

New Hires Want to Know What Lies Ahead

Long gone are the days of the sink-or-swim “training” approach for baby lawyers. Just because it worked for the more seasoned attorneys in the office does not mean it will yield the same results now. Today’s newer crop of lawyers requires a structured skills development road map accompanied by a timeline and metrics. Otherwise, they will struggle with their self-confidence — they will fail to achieve executive presence and gravitas or to protect themselves from a perfect storm of anxiety.

As we approach the end of 2022, the tide of the war for legal talent is changing.

The economic downturn is causing a ripple effect in larger firms, and they are now shrinking their lawyer ranks to adjust to a decrease in work. This means firms previously unable to attract or retain enough talent will be able to avail themselves of a slightly bigger pool.

Experience tells us that compensation, while important, is not everything. Tomorrow’s firm leaders want more — and their firms must be prepared to deliver.

Three Most Important Talent Investments

The best way your firm can make sure that 2023 is a banner year for the recruitment, development and retention of your best talent is to anticipate the needs and concerns of all attorneys.

Your firm should be able to address these three essential questions for any new hire:

  1. “How will I grow?”
  2. “Who will have my back and support my efforts?”
  3. “Where is the firm going and what will my role be in its success?”

“How Will I Grow?”

Investment 1: Professional Development and Training

Establishing and managing a formal professional development program for all employees is one of the best investments a law firm can make. Providing training, coaching and support in business development, leadership development, basic management skills, and the business of law is not only an effective insurance policy against turnover, but it will also give your firm a competitive edge.

“Who Has My Back and Will Support My Efforts?”

Investment 2: Structure

People thrive in an environment with the appropriate structure, and lawyers are no different.

Law firms that are either flat or siloed in terms of their structure provide fertile ground for discontent.

Just as equity partners and an executive committee should embrace clearly defined roles, there should be other supervisory opportunities throughout the organization. This may be in the form of a practice group director or manager, a partner who is directly responsible for an associate or associates, or an administrative manager.

Organizational charts, if thoughtfully created, can play a vital role in supporting both the success of team members and the firm as a whole.

“Where Is the Firm Going and What Is My Role in Its Success?”

Investment 3: Vision

Your firm may have the best people and most loyal clients, but unless every employee is 100% on board with the firm’s vision, mission and values, the risk of losing key talent increases. To realize their full potential, each person — from the managing partner to the receptionist — must understand and be motivated by the collective goals and direction of the firm. And it’s not enough for the firm to define and communicate the vision; that vision must also hold individual meaning for those charged with its execution.

No doubt 2023 will be an interesting year for the legal profession. Firms able to quickly adapt to meet the needs of a quickly evolving hiring environment will not only weather any impending storm, but they also will become the bellwethers of the profession.

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Wendy Merrill Wendy Merrill

Wendy Merrill is Director of Strategic Consulting for Affinity, focusing on helping law firms position themselves for sustainable success in a rapidly changing environment. Before joining Affinity, Wendy served as an Executive Vice President at DRI, the largest bar association for civil defense attorneys. Since 2012, she has worked with thousands of professionals around the world providing strategic planning, professional development programs, leadership development training, marketing strategy, and business development expertise. She is also a published author, internationally known speaker and facilitator, and growth strategy coach. An avid horsewoman, Wendy enjoys cooking and Italian travel as well.

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