High-quality job candidates are at a premium as employee turnover has hit record levels. Unfortunately, legal is no exception.
Like many workplaces, turnover at small law firms has increased during the Great Resignation. Smokeball’s recent Law + The Great Resignation survey found that while 75% of firms reported less than 10% turnover in 2019, just over 51% reported the same in 2021. Meanwhile, the share of firms reporting 10% to 25% turnover increased from 17% to 33%.
Due to their smaller size, these firms naturally have fewer open roles and fewer candidates apply. But nearly half (48%) of firms reported at least somewhat struggling in 2020/21 due to resignations or an inability to hire — and 35% still struggle. Nearly three-quarters of firms (71%) also say they were unable to hire their top candidate every time they made an offer.
How can small firms that are struggling to hire attract more high-quality job candidates to their roles?
Provide attractive employee benefits
While salaries are undoubtedly important, they’re not the be-all and end-all — high-quality job candidates make sure to also consider the overall benefits package that they will receive when joining a new firm. Nearly half (48%) of respondents to Smokeball’s survey who hire their top candidate every time say they increase salaries less than 10% to fill an open role, versus 21% of those who don’t always hire their top candidate.
Consider offering the benefits below — and compare your offerings to your industry peers.
Offer a healthy vacation allowance
Burnout is a very real concern for lawyers — more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents to Smokeball’s survey reported personally experiencing burnout. Offer a healthy — or even unlimited — vacation allowance, and incentivize your team to take days off. You can set a minimum number of days off, and some firms have even gone one step further, paying employees to use their vacation days.
Provide physical and mental health initiatives
Balance is about more than spending a couple of weeks each year lounging around on the beach. By providing physical and mental health initiatives, such as subsidized gym memberships, yoga classes or employee counseling, your firm can set itself apart from your ‘always-on’ competitors.
Move to a permanent hybrid model
Hybrid working has quickly risen in popularity since the onset of the pandemic. In 2019, 70% – 90% of law firms used traditional office space. Today, 77% of attorneys want to continue with hybrid working models. One-quarter of firms in Smokeball’s study moved to a hybrid model to increase employee retention. And 48% of firms who hire their top candidates every time say new hires have requested or negotiated this benefit since 2020, versus 35% of those who don’t hire their top candidate.
Opportunities for development and contribution
A recent report from Georgetown Law and Thomson Reuters found having clear opportunities for career growth is more important than compensation when determining whether employees will stay at their current firm.
Employees aren’t leaving their jobs for fun — they’re doing so to pursue better opportunities. By clearly laying out your firm’s development opportunities and outlining how new hires can progress throughout the organization, you will attract and retain high-quality job candidates with ease.
What top firms are doing right
While the Great Resignation affects firms across all sectors and sizes, some appear to be coping better than others, hiring their top candidates each time.
So, what sets them apart from the rest? What can other firms learn from their approach to hiring?
Nearly three-quarters (70%) of firms that hire their top candidates use job sites, while an additional 64% use referrals and 30% opt to partner with recruitment agencies. Top firms hire quickly, with just 19% taking more than two months to fill a role — compared to 37% of firms that don’t hire their top candidate every time.
Interestingly, there also appears to be a strong correlation between the work-life balance that firms offer and their chances of hiring their top candidate. More than half (55%) of firms that hire their top candidates report that new hires are joining their firm for better balance, while this figure is only 35% for those that don’t usually hire their top candidates.
Perhaps this is because they’re more likely to hire candidates from larger and perhaps more stressful firms, with 34% stating they’re hiring increasingly from large firms (versus 16% who don’t hire their top candidate).
Remember: every firm is different
We hope you’ve found our insights useful. However, it’s important to remember that each firm is different, offering its own progression opportunities, benefits packages and work-life balance.
Fine-tune your hiring efforts based on what has already worked in the past, asking your most recent hires why they chose your firm instead of the others they applied to. Soon enough, you’ll settle on a strategy that works for your firm.