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Anthonia KehindeJun-09 20223 min read

Winning the talent, acquisition, and retention battle

What must law firms do to counter the gloomy recruitment outlook? On a recent Law Firm Ambition panel, Georgina Whitmore, Head of Talent at SPG, Anne Harnetty, David Ramsay and Richard Allen shared their views.


What is going on in the legal sector?

Today’s recruitment market is the most extraordinary we’ve seen in 40 years. Globally, hybrid and remote working have changed workplace cultures and practices. These changes are particularly striking in the legal sector. Post-pandemic, there has been a sharp increase in the number of trainees, associates and partners rethinking and changing careers. Over the past 12 months attrition rates at the top 100 law firms have increased by 37%. And contrary to what many law firms may believe, attrition at this scale is not a problem that can be solved by merely implementing working from home.


Where are the leavers going?

The steady exodus of lawyers moving from private practice to in-house roles has raised a deep worry for law firms. Between 2019 and 2021, London based firms lost 44% more associates than they hired. Competition on a geographic scale is also deepening the challenges facing the market. Poaching of senior staff by regional firms offering remote working is now a real problem. Loyalty to one firm has completely dissipated, with 34% of staff happy to leave their role with no new job to go to. Law firms will need to act decisively to roll out meaningful support packages and incentives designed to attract and retain the best talent.


Is a pay rise always the answer?

Higher salaries do little to slow the rate of attrition in the long term. Law firms can't continue to simply throw money at people and expect them to stay; it is unsustainable and often leaves staff in a painful predicament, knowing that with more pay comes greater expectation. Law firms need to do the leg work. Until there is more clarity on why people are leaving and what they actually want, the quest to retain talent will continue to fail. Staff care more about their needs being met than having a transactional relationship. When staff leave, it compromises morale, disrupts culture, damages reputation and upsets clients who do not want the constant churn and change.


So, what do people value most?

The key words are value and culture. Aggressive company cultures and unrealistic expectations run counter to new age working practices. Firms need to actively promote positive culture and set boundaries around expectations, days in the office, responsiveness and demonstrate that they actually care about their people. It is about embedding culture beyond words and peripheral action. To retain their edge, law firms need to have a strong value position which is aspirational, authentic and original. Staff want to feel valued; they need to see potential for growth. At Shieldpay, we think about how to create structures of reward beyond pay and promotion. We invest in expanding resources, structures and processes to support a positive employee experience. We use OKRs to connect everyone to the vision of the company. In a similar way, law firms must see the current market conditions as a unique opportunity to use ideas in new ways.


How are law firms redefining their recruitment strategy?

According to LinkedIn there were only 1.6 applicants per role for jobs at the top 100 UK law firms. Over 1,000 of those jobs listed had no applicants. Simply put, law firms need to improve their tool kits to win the race for talent:


1. Reimagine Incentives:

In this day and age, we must think beyond salary increase. Implementing offers such as job sharing, career sabbaticals, in-built creche facilities, and enhanced paternity leave, could make all the difference.

2. Seek Talent: 

Firms need to look beyond their usual talent pool for candidates. Does your law firm always require a 2:1 equivalent? Does everyone need to have a law degree? Could these conditions be met with enhanced training and development?


3. Create Desire:

HR should collaborate with marketing to create adverts that are interesting and compelling. Every advert must tell the firm’s story and really spell out what they can offer candidates.


4. Build Trust:

Middle management has never been so important. Leaders in these roles provide a vital emotional bridge - particularly as staff work less from the office - and they are going to have to do more and care more about building trust in their teams.


5. Conduct great interviews:

If candidates have a great experience, that is great PR.


Shieldpay is a market leader in providing digital payment solutions across the legal, financial and professional services industries. Get in touch to find out more. 


Anthonia Kehinde

Content Lead at Shieldpay