With a more transparent work environment — from the interview to the partnership path — you can keep young talent engaged and reduce turnover.
The practice of law is not a profession known for its transparency. Once upon a time, aspiring law school grads would join firms, follow whatever protocols had been set for workflow, caseload and billable requirements, and look forward to the subjective and somewhat mysterious process of becoming a partner.
Those days are over.
Millennial and Gen Z lawyers want more from their firms. They want to feel engaged and important to the success of their firms. They want to understand why they bill out at $350 an hour, what a profitable client looks like, and how they can best position themselves to be invited to the partnership table.
Attorneys born after 1981 were raised in an age of constant communication. With the universal adoption of smartphones and the internet, these folks are accustomed to a constant flow of information at their fingertips. There’s not much they can’t discover from a search or social media, and they expect the same level of accessibility and openness from their employers. They want a detailed road map of their career spelled out for them on day one, and they are looking to their firms to anticipate their need for information without having to advocate for themselves.
This may sound like a Sisyphean task for a firm, but it’s really not. To create a more hospitable, nurturing environment for rising leaders and to reduce turnover, firms must be intentional, thoughtful and consistent about communication with and for their younger talent.
Here Are Four Ways to Reduce Turnover With Transparency
1. The Interview Process
When interviewing candidates, be prepared to define the firm’s mission for the interviewee. More specifically, paint a picture of the firm’s narrative — why the organization exists and how the work makes a difference to clients and the community. Once you’ve shared the story, help the candidates understand how they would be an impactful contributor to the firm’s success. Ask them to think about the type of lawyer they want to be and the experience they want their clients to have in working with them and the firm. A thoughtful conversation during an interview is the first step toward creating a transparent work environment.
This is a critical step in the retention process, yet it is often overlooked and undervalued in law firms. Newly hired lawyers are excited about their prospects for success. The interview process stoked their enthusiasm, and the firm needs to keep that excitement going by making the new hire feel welcome. Sharing how the sausage is made — firm financials, workflow management, billing expectations, marketing requirements, navigating the various dynamics within the firm — provides valuable opportunities to secure buy-in and stave off buyer’s remorse.
3. Supervision and Mentorship
The war for talent and the battle to reduce turnover has inspired many firms to embrace the concept of mentorship within their firms, which is significant progress. However, talking about a mentoring program and ensuring the success of such a program are two different things. To successfully implement a supportive and productive mentoring system, firms must address the following potential challenges:
- Lawyers are busy. Really busy.
The best-laid intentions … Your senior attorneys may want to support the next generation of lawyers, but their ability to commit time and energy is an obstacle that must be accounted for and worked around.
- Lawyers are not trained coaches or managers.
Law school does not teach management or leadership, and the skill set that makes for a great lawyer does not mirror that of an effective coach. Those who volunteer to be mentors must be provided with training and guidance so they can effectively manage their responsibilities and provide their younger counterparts with the support they need. The best mentors understand how to create a nurturing environment for their mentees, and this takes effort. Even the kindest and most generous of lawyers may struggle with this because it seems counterintuitive to the traditional competitive and high-stress atmosphere found in most firms. To be supportive, older attorneys must learn to shake off much of the toxic cultural ethos they faced on their climb up the ladder.
4. The Path to Partnership
Your firm may define its requirements for entry into partnership in a document found somewhere on the organization’s shared drive, but most associates with leadership aspirations need to be shepherded toward the specific path they must take to sit at the table. This path must expand beyond origination requirements and years of experience. The subjective part of the process is what concerns younger attorneys. Oftentimes, a rainmaker personality coupled with business sense with some gravitas and executive presence sprinkled in is the recipe for success. The ambiguity of the partnership path may serve those who are most senior at the table, but it is a distinct disadvantage for the generation that needs clarity to thrive.
There is nothing to be gained by obscuring the inner workings, politics or recipes for success within a firm.
The days of paying one’s dues and making endless sacrifices only to live with the hope of being invited to become an owner of a firm are a thing of the past. You must meet tomorrow’s most promising leaders where they are, and provide the information necessary to support their success.
About Affinity Consulting Group
Affinity Consulting Group helps law firms to position themselves for sustainable success through the assessment and enhancement of their people, processes, technology, and growth strategy. Our seasoned and innovative team of legal industry experts are committed to providing clients with the knowledge and tools to future-proof their firms.
Related Reading on Reducing Turnover:
- “Stick Around: 4 Ideas to Keep Associates From Leaving Your Law Firm” by Wendy Merrill
- “What Motivates Millenials? Ways Law Firms are Reducing Turnover” by Jamie Spannhake
- “Confronting Lawyer Turnover” by Link Christin
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