The Best Law Firm Benefits for Hiring and Retention

Your law firm’s COVID-19 office policies should reflect this important reality: unpredictability is now the norm. Whether your firm is functioning remotely, bringing employees back to the office or employing a hybrid model, you’ll want to establish a clear set of guidelines to help your team thrive in the office ecosystem of the future.

As inflation — and interest rates — continue their meteoric rise amid a job-seeker’s market, new-hire pay, current employee raises and other law firm benefits are a hot topic. While a great salary will always be the No. 1 job benefit, it’s not the only reason for legal professionals to take or keep a role.

Smokeball’s upcoming Law + The Great Resignation survey found law firms are increasingly supporting whole-person efforts, particularly mental health and work-life balance. Here’s what firms looking to hire or retain great employees need to know about law firm benefits that go beyond pay.

A look at in-demand benefits

While 80% of firms told Smokeball candidates are leaving their current jobs in search of a higher salary, new hires are requesting or negotiating for much more than just money. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, new hires are likely to negotiate for traditional law firm benefits such as healthcare (63%), more PTO (28%) and increased 401(k)/retirement savings contributions (22%).

But candidates also appreciate the flexibility of nontraditional workplace models, and actively seek them on their list of benefits. More than one-third (34%) of candidates told our surveyed firms they’re leaving their current role in search of a hybrid model, and 38% request or negotiate hybrid work as part of their hiring requirements.

First-choice applicants demand more

In a tight labor market, first-choice applicants are tougher to bring on board — just 29% of firms say they’re able to hire their top pick for a role every time they make an offer. These candidates also are more interested in a job fit that goes beyond pay. Just 34% of firms who hire their first choice say candidates request or negotiate a higher salary, versus 59% of lower-tier candidates. But 48% of first-choice hires (48%) request or negotiate a hybrid work schedule, compared to 35% of lower-tier candidates.

How firms reduce turnover

To prevent attorneys and staff from joining those seeking a new role, 48% of law firms have turned to a tried-and-true tactic: increasing salaries. However, since 2020, firms also have experimented with a number of new law firm benefits to keep employees from moving on to new jobs. Nearly two-thirds (62%) worked to improve work-life balance, and 21% increased employees’ vacation days.

Another new tactic: 33% of law firms have increased their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. And, in response to a higher demand for remote work, 25% of law firms have moved to a permanent hybrid model incorporating in-office and at-home workdays.

At your own firm: Decide what you can offer

Before meeting with possible candidates, it’s important to determine what benefits you can offer each candidate. This goes beyond what you budget for salary and may include factoring in additional health insurance coverage or increased contributions to 401(k)/retirement accounts.

Evaluate your staffing needs and work processes to see if and how you could accommodate requests for hybrid work schedules, increased PTO and changes to your partner track. A full review of your existing benefits, coupled with a look at additional benefits, will help you create a benefits package that appeals to new hires.

Don’t overlook your current team when revisiting your law firm’s benefits package. While most businesses reevaluate their insurance offerings annually, ask attorneys and staff which benefits THEY would benefit from. Our survey respondents who offer a hybrid model were most likely to say their team expects to work from home 1-2 days a week (38%), followed by 2-3 days a week (31%). Work within your own firm to determine the right mix.

Reviewing the effectiveness of nontraditional benefits

While expanding your law firm’s benefits package to include nontraditional benefits such as remote work may land your law firm a new hire, it’s important to review how these benefits pay off in the long term. This means looking at performance levels and productivity over time, using Smokeball’s automatic time tracking and firm insights. Smokeball legal practice management software captures every minute spent in our software, creating a real-time record of individual productivity and profitability. You may learn that attorneys and staff are doing just fine while working from home — or that specific individuals need more training or support.

Following the pandemic, competition for law firm candidates is booming. Crafting a benefits package that includes not only a competitive salary, but also traditional and nontraditional benefits, could make the difference in landing a qualified hire.

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