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Are You Failing to Plan for Growth in Your Law Firm?

  • October 18, 2023

As a successful legal professional, be it a Senior Partner, Managing Partner, or on the Board, you are a primary driver of success for your law firm, determining its growth. Ultimately, you are pivotal in creating your firm’s story and building a pathway to its goals. Hopefully, you are experiencing current success and business is doing well – but don’t fall into the trap of overlooking areas where you could improve. It’s easy to become complacent, and before you know it, you will start to slip backwards. So how can you ensure you don’t fail to grow? In the current climate with market forces, as they are, you must strive to remain successful – and the key to that lies in planning. 

Sometimes it’s natural to overlook areas where you could make improvements if the firm is experiencing overall success. It’s easy to miss opportunities to progress. Alternatively, you may feel that your business is suffering due to market forces out of your control and you’re unable to take a step forward in the current climate.

However, there are always ways to improve and move forward – and that involves taking a step back, first of all, to review your law firm holistically; its customers, systems, processes, and people to reassess your goals and ensure you are making the most of your business. 

Talk To Your Clients:

It doesn’t matter how qualified your employees are or what specialist services you provide if you don’t focus on customer service first. Customers define your firm, so your priority is to ensure you understand their needs (and indeed challenges).

You can do this by conducting surveys and research – both quantitative and qualitative –  to gain valuable insight. Just ensure that your surveys facilitate honest feedback, or you’re wasting your time, and theirs. Having a spotlight on your customers’ thoughts about your service will allow you to leverage the elements that you’re already doing well, as well as focus on any hot spots where you need to reflect and make improvements. It’s essential to take the extra step to make your customers feel valued and unique, so make sure you talk to them and listen to (and address) any problems they have. That way, you will inspire loyalty – and loyal consumers won’t just come back to you – they will recommend their friends and colleagues to you too.  

Come Out Of The Bubble: 

In a volatile market – where the economy is impacting all facets of running a business,  one of the quickest ways for a firm to stunt its growth and cripple its potential is to conduct business blindly. By that, we mean lacking awareness of what your clients’ needs are, how they have changed over time, and how your competitors have responded to such needs to stay ahead of the curve. It can be tempting to get wrapped up in the business-as-usual of today, respond to immediate needs, and push anything deemed important but not urgent – however this can have disastrous consequences for your firm. Opportunities to capitalise on market changes, strike deals with highly after clients or scale business operations can pass you by if you fail to pay attention to how your competitors are conducting their business in the market. Coming out of your ‘bubble’ to look at other firms in your practice area and/or region can really impact how you trade competitively. As the saying goes, ‘no man is an island’ and if you’re looking to increase market share, you need to fully understand where and with whom that market is buying from.

This makes the presence of a regularly updated and detailed target persona an absolute must in your business strategy as it will ensure you have a Unique Selling Point that is consistent. A target persona consists of who your clients are, where their interests lie, what pain points they have, what they want from your services, and much more. Having this level of insight into your target market enables you to not only address their problems at the right time, but it also allows you to make your marketing and specifically your branding effective by communicating your USP at every touchpoint of the buyer cycle. This helps to create a strong brand that utilises both its position and performance in the marketplace to develop a reputation for being an excellent firm to do business with. 

Lack of an EVP: 

Going back to red flag number one, a firm’s culture, people strategy, and EVP (Employee Value Proposition) live or dies by its values as that forms the foundation for its competence in attracting, retaining, and developing top legal talent. As legal professionals are now becoming increasingly demanding in their search for the ideal employer, one of the biggest mistakes any firm can make in today’s market is failing to consider the priorities and preferences of its employees or jobseekers they are looking to attract. Without such a foundation, it is incredibly easy for a firm to slip into reactive mode and allow external factors such as economic pressures, market changes, and consequently, business performance to dictate how it treats its employees.  

And even though you will hopefully have ironed out your values as a business at this point, it does not guarantee immunity from making such blunders. The key to a strong EVP is the ability to create and sustain a positive, productive workforce, and that is only made possible through a regular, honest, and thorough review of your people strategy, to ensure your firm culture and environment remain the focus of it, and not the business goals – no matter the external or internal situation at hand.

According to Brett Minchington, who coined the phrase Employee Value Proposition in the first place, this comes down to largely five elements:

  • Fair pay

  • Personal development and growth

  • Meaningful work, making a contribution

  • Good reputation

  • Working with friendly colleagues

Your work environment should have employees feeling valued, respected, and motivated and should regularly facilitate open communication, effective collaboration, and a healthy work-life balance. We have seen a big shift in the market in recent years towards flexibility, hybrid working, and employee satisfaction so ensure that your EVP focuses on these areas while remaining aligned with your goals for business growth. 

Consider Your Leadership Contingent – Are They Suitable For That Role? 

The last few years have been challenging for the legal sector. Dealing with the fallout of the pandemic, increased workload, and the impact of overworking on employees’ well-being means that many firms also now need to uplevel their leadership skills alongside recruiting new lawyers into their teams to lead their firm moving forward.

In turbulent times, everyone looks to great leaders for guidance. Leadership resonates throughout a business, and the quality of your leadership can be the difference between your firm’s ultimate success or failure.

A successful law firm requires leadership that is transparent, emotionally intelligent, resilient, empathetic, focused, and inspiring.

If you believe your leadership could develop in some of these areas further, take steps now. Training in personal development and upskilling where needed will enable you to lead from the front. Failure to invest in leadership will result in good ideas coming to nothing, so start at the top. 

Invest In Building A Top Team 

A high-performing team is what any employer would want. A high-performing team of solicitors that is efficient, drives profits and gets results is no doubt the utopia that business leaders strive for, which requires excellent leadership, support in their development, and constant engagement (even before any recruits join the firm).

Developing a high-performing team that works collaboratively will enable your law firm to achieve its goals, both short and long-term. It will create a positive mindset and ethos of encouragement and positivity that will allow your firm to excel and grow, keeping you ahead of the pack in the competitive legal marketplace and making your law firm attractive to further top talent.

As part of this, professional development should play a significant role in ensuring your team keeps ahead of trends. Training and development of both hard and soft skills will not only instill a sense of pride in specialist knowledge and ability but also make employees feel valued by the firm. This, in turn, will lead to better staff retention saving you the costs of hiring and onboarding new employees. Additionally, happy staff are more productive, so you will see positive developments in the bottom line. In a working environment where individuals are part of a capable team, the quality of an individual’s sense of purpose in understanding big goals is enhanced. They feel ‘included’ in decisions, and their ideas and concerns are listened to and acted on. 

Keep On Top Of (And Ahead) Of Tech  

The legal sector is growing at a rapid pace. If you’re standing still in terms of digital ability, then you might as well be going backwards. Using digital strategies to grow your law firm allows you to reach a much larger number of potential clients than ever before. As well as building your client base, if you regularly post industry articles online, you will develop a reputation as being an authority in your specialist areas – attracting both top talent to want to work for you as well as establishing you as a credible law firm in the eyes of competitors. Your website should also reflect your forward-thinking by embracing new technology. Refining your online platform will make it more responsive, and maximizing your SEO will enable you to reach more viewers online, as well as offer you the opportunity to connect and network with others – crucial in moving forward. Additionally, a social media strategy will enable you to reach more clients, develop relationships and strengthen existing ones, gain insight into competitors, and demonstrate your industry knowledge. 

Plan For Headcount Growth Early 

As firms consider their strategy and business objectives, whether that’s on a quarterly basis as a checkpoint, or a typical 1-, 3- and 5-year plan, any kind of compound growth inevitably goes hand in hand with the need to increase headcount and upskill where required.

Firms may have their own Hiring Managers whose remit is to attract new talent to the firm, or this may fall to HR or even practising Solicitors and Partners in some cases. Either way, reaching out to a specialist legal recruiter as those strategic discussions are taking place will undoubtedly pay dividends in the long run to get a true birds-eye view of the market, your competitors, the movement of talent (and scarcity which may impact your plans) – invaluable insight that you can readily tap in to.

Ultimately, a strategic plan is the tool that will enable you to move forward and grow your legal firm. Using your knowledge of what has worked well previously, you can build a pathway to achieve your ultimate goals, avoiding strategies that have failed in the past. A good plan will move you from where you are now to where you want to be. Including milestones, and achievements will keep you focused on the end goals and provide you and your team with motivation along the way. Make your strategic plan achievable (but aspirational) and timely – and don’t be afraid to amend it as you progress if your law firm’s requirements change.  

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Your Legal Employee is Leaving – Should You Make a Counteroffer?

  • June 9, 2023

Whether the news of your soon-to-be ex-employee leaving represents a big blow for your firm or a possible weight off your management team’s shoulders, the reality of employee turnover is and has always been an unavoidable part of business, come rain or come shine. But like all inevitabilities, how it is prepared for and dealt with determines what it brings for a company, and this rings true for any firm looking to thrive in a market filled with unpredictability. 

So, if you’ve just had your talented and likeable Senior Conveyancing Solicitor come and tell you they are leaving to go and work for a competitor, how do you react? Do you panic and wrack your brain for a way to make them reconsider their decision? Or do you perhaps treat the issue as something to avoid losing time and resources over, and wish them the best of luck as they depart for pastures new? 

 Do you make keeping them a priority, and should you even try? 

 If that individual is a big asset to the firm – reliable, motivated, hard to replace (or expensive), and now planning a move to one of your biggest competitors (and perhaps with a time-sensitive caseload on their plate) you will be tempted to offer them the moon to stay. Additionally, the true cost of losing an employee can be prohibitive – hiring fees, recruiting time, onboarding and training – not to mention the nose-dive in morale for other employees who see a valued and talented colleague walking out the door. 

 But a word of warning. A counteroffer may not be the solution it initially appears, as all angles of the situation need to be looked at before going down that route.  

Why Employees Leave 

What you should be wary of when looking to convince the employee to reconsider their decision, is going into the conversation with a financial incentive in mind as your bargaining chip. Research states that 50% – 80% of employees that accept counteroffers end up leaving their employer within 6 months due to the same issues that led to their initial decision. The fact is that it’s rarely a salary issue that sees employees leave to take up another job offer, so the chances that an offer of increased salary will keep them at your firm are slimmer than you might think.  

Rather than an issue of compensation, the following are the biggest reasons employees typically begin embarking on a search for pastures new: 

Lack Of Career Progression

If an employee feels they have climbed as far up the career ladder as they can with your law firm, they are going to start casting their net elsewhere to discover better opportunities. A survey last year conducted by Go1 discovered that 60% of employees that were found to consider leaving their job in 6-12 months’ time, cited a lack of career prospects as their main driver. When a promotion has long been deserved but is not forthcoming, employees will begin to look for it elsewhere.  

The same can be said for job satisfaction from a more micro perspective. When an employee’s work doesn’t provide the necessary stimulation for growth or progress that it should, it leads to the dangerous drops in work ethic that the resulting boredom brings. Perhaps your Conveyancing Solicitor has been dealing with the same clients doing similar work for several years and yearns for a new challenge. Or your Portal Fee Earner has been hoping for promotion to Team Leader for some time but hasn’t been successful. If an employee doesn’t feel stretched or challenged in their job, they become disinterested and disengaged. Then disinterest quickly transforms into boredom, and this eventually manifests in a search for something else to extend their capabilities. 

Poor Management 

People don’t quit their jobs; they quit their bosses, and this remains the case today for law firms. Poor management practice can do a lot of damage, – killing employee morale and impacting engagement levels – and consequently make the work environment a barrier to, rather than a catalyst for employee success. A workplace that doesn’t encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking or is inflexible with its staff is not going to facilitate success on an individual or collective level, and this is especially the case with legal professionals today, with whom working with an employer that shares and lives out similar values to theirs is now much more of an expectation than a luxury.  

Employees need to feel valued and respected. They need to look forward to coming to work and enjoying their job. Having these aspects of the work culture in place enables them their drive not only their own career progress but that of the firm too. 

Opportunity To Join A High-Profile Law Firm 

Blinded by the dazzle of the prestige that comes with working for a top law firm, an employee might feel the urge to leave just to be part of a highly-reputable business. While it’s hard to argue with this one, they (and you) should be warned of the possible pitfalls. Does the firm have a good reputation? Does it have a high staff turnover? Both parties should weigh the pros and cons involved.  

Better Work Life Balance 

Some things money just can’t buy, and this is one of them. Even in a period where flexibility and healthy work-life balance is high on the priority list of legal professionals, burnout remains common among many today. The nature of the work life involved in the legal profession – as well as the prevalent workaholic culture that pressures many into sacrificing their own well-being for their firm’s success – inevitably drives many employees to look towards leaving a position to try to claw back some time for themselves and their family.  

Asking The Right Questions

The best way to approach the conversation is by asking a few questions to get a good indication of why your employee is considering leaving. Keeping them general to begin with is best, as not everyone will be willing to discuss their reasons for leaving a job.  

A simple “What’s go you thinking of leaving’’ followed by a question asking whether they’d like to discuss it is a good way to get the conversation started. Asking questions can help you understand the underlying issues that have gotten your employee to the point of seriously considering leaving. Ideally, discussing these concerns can help you identify problems that you have the ability to address and  retaining your employee. 

And, even if they remain unconvinced, you will at the very least have learned  from their experience and can make improvements for future employees. Regardless, by addressing the issue and doing your best to find a resolution, you have ensured that you’ve done everything you can to take appropriate action.  

Making Your Counteroffer 

If you intend to make a counteroffer, start by asking your employee the following questions:  

  1. Do they enjoy working at your law firm 
  2. Can they envision a future there? 

 If the answer to both questions is yes it is worth considering a counteroffer. Begin by offering non-financial incentives to encourage them to stay, as we’ve already that these are unlikely to solve the issues at hand. Instead, consider the following alternatives:

  • Foster a workplace culture that embraces diversity and inclusion. 
  • Explore flexible working hours, including options such as flexitime for employees experiencing stress or other options, such as working from home. Employers who are more open to alternative working arrangements tend to be more respected by their teams and see better levels of staff retention. 
  • Assign them a role that plays to their strengths. Is there an opportunity to move the employee into a position that better suits their skillset and ability? Is there a project/case they could lead on which would challenge them? 
  • Provide mentoring opportunities – a great mentor can provide invaluable insight, support and guidance to an employee who is struggling with their career. 
  • Address management issues promptly, as there’s no excuse for poor behaviour in the workplace at any level. Bullying, harassment or just downright rude bosses or staff need to be dealt with ruthlessly. 
  • Consider hiring additional staff to alleviate workload pressures. If workload overwhelm is the issue, then a temporary or permanent staff addition can reduce pressure on current employees, and lead to an increase in productivity, as well as fewer absences due to stress. 
  • Establish a clear progression pathway. Everyone wants to feel they can achieve their career ambitions through their work and see tangible progress.  
  • Develop an employee development plan that shows a clear training, development and progression route for each employee. This will give individuals something to aim for and ensure they are more likely to stay and grow with your law firm. Remember that taking tangible actions is crucial for the success of your counteroffer.  

Potential Pitfalls To Be Mindful Of 

Even more important to consider than the pros of a counteroffer are the potential drawbacks involved. The following should be considered before proceeding:  

  • Could offering a salary increase create imbalance across the team?  
  • Will other team members pressure for a salary rise when word gets out – and if so, can you manage expectations? 
  • Will you get a reputation in the market for overpaying that could lead to unsuitable candidates clamouring to join your law firm for the wrong reasons? 
  • Can you even afford an increased financial offer in the first place? 
  • Is there a real chance of the employee taking your offer for granted? Could they continue performing at previous levels or become complacent, even arrogant, because they got their way?

Moving Forward

Whatever the outcome, you may want to consider ways to improve staff retention going forward; improving firm culture, opening lines of communication to provide transparency and most importantly, valuing your employees. Using conversations around why an employee wants to leave can be a strategic opportunity to reflect and make improvements internally. 

As a Manager of Business Leader in the Firm, you should always be on alert for the signs that key individuals may be a ‘flight-risk’. In today’s changing legal landscape, issues like disengagement, burnout, and even “quiet quitting” are becoming increasingly common. But if you can recognise these signs ahead of time, there are still things you can do to re-ignite your staff’s passion for your firm and prevent them from seeking other employment options…hopefully long before the conversation around resignation and counteroffers is even on the table. 

Moving On?

If despite reasonable negotiation, the employee still intends to leave, it is best to agree to part ways amicably and wish them well. Remember, life is about change. If it’s time for them to move on, let them resign gracefully. Don’t be tempted to behave childishly – that will only get the rest of your team thinking about starting their own covert job hunt. 

Instead, consider celebrating their contribution with a kind Thank You gesture. That’s the best way to build trust and successfully manage your legal team. 

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

Click here to speak to one of our experienced Legal specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

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Do You Need To Review Your Performance Review Process?

  • June 8, 2023

The employee performance review has received a lot of criticism in recent years. Traditional employee appraisal processes have been causing headaches for both managers and employees, yet most employees believe performance reviews are ineffective at driving performance. 

There’s still a place for the annual performance review. But success-driven organisations know it must be part of a bigger performance conversation strategy. 

Regardless of whether you’re conducting an annual appraisal, a quarterly review, or a monthly performance check-in, performance conversations can be challenging if a consistent review process isn’t followed. 

A goal for all business managers is to create a positive experience that motivates employees and consequently drives high performance. 

Before we dive into the tactical side of performance reviews, it’s important to understand what it is and why it is important. This will give you the foundation you need to start using them more effectively in your firm. 

What is a Performance Review?

A performance review is a two-way, individualised conversation between managers and employees about performance impact, development, and growth; related to the objectives set for an individual. It is a critical component of an organisation’s overall performance management strategy. 

Traditionally, performance reviews have occurred once a year and have focused on evaluating past performance. 

But reviews are now changing. 

Modern performance reviews work well when they happen monthly, where logistically possible, and focus on driving and improving future performance through motivational and developmental feedback. 

The classic performance review has taken a lot of flak over the past several years. Yet, the reality is, performance conversations are a crucial part of effective employee engagement and retention strategies, especially in the current economic climate. 

How Performance Reviews Improve Individual, Team, and Firm Success

Why are performance conversations important? Because they have a big impact on the success of your employees, teams, and firm. 

Discussing performance isn’t always easy. It’s tough for managers to give feedback and even harder for employees to receive it. How employers handle these conversations plays a huge role in an employee’s engagement and overall experience. 

Performance conversations will often make or break trust. An open, honest, and regular dialogue helps build trust among employees, managers, and your legal teams.  

Ongoing performance conversations can boost employee success by: 

  • Helping employees identify their needs, goals, and challenges. 
  • Informing line managers on challenges, obstacles, and decisions before they impact performance. 
  • Opening opportunities to discuss feedback, celebrate recognition and reinforce alignment. 

Performance conversations help managers evaluate team performance by giving them a clear picture of that of their team members. They’ll know where the team is strong and where the team needs help or development. 

If employees aren’t aligned and on a clear path to success, organisations will have difficulty achieving important goals and objectives. Performance conversations allow managers to connect employees to the bigger mission, vision, and goal of their law firm. 

They also give managers and leaders the data to make important decisions about compensation, promotions, development, role changes, exits, etc. 

Knowing all the benefits a performance review can bring, what are the key elements that make up a successful review?  

The Vital Elements of Performance Reviews

Performance reviews give employees and managers a chance to discuss how they meet their objectives and do better together. 

Delivered well, they can engage and motivate employees to maximise their efforts. Delivered poorly, they can send employees down a disengagement spiral—and even decrease performance. How do you choose the right performance appraisal method? Below are a few elements to consider.  

Frequency Is Critical

Our experience as a specialist legal recruiter for over 23 years in the industry has shown that successful law firms, and those highly coveted by legal candidates, ensure performance conversations happen more frequently. They also make them more engaging too. 

Managers and employees equally contribute to the discussion, and employees are as invested in the preparation. 

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for all performance discussions, every conversation should promote trust by reducing anxiety while creating clarity for all concerned. 

Performance conversations like these aren’t only about performance; they can also address: 

  • Career growth, development, and training 
  • Business objectives versus time 
  • Changes or key messages from senior leadership 
  • Recognition 
  • Peer feedback 
  • Customer feedback

Make Them Future Focused

Old-school style performance reviews would often look at the past, what happened versus what didn’t, mistakes made, values not aligned, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, something that happened months ago could have been continually repeated because it wasn’t addressed at the time.  

Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t exactly motivating for an employee who hasn’t been given an opportunity to change because they weren’t given feedback at the time. 

However, employees do have the power to change what happens in the future—and this is where the bulk of your performance conversations should focus. It’s good to reflect on the past, but managers and employees should also spend time looking forward.  

Make Them Transparent & Objective

Performance reviews can be anxiety-inducing for any of us. One of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to bring employees into the process early and involve them in the preparation and planning.  

Managers should work with each employee to create a clear, shared, and collaborative agenda with main discussion points. Both parties should know exactly what to expect. And if you have implemented the suggestions about frequency, there really should not be any surprises. 

Reviews have no excuse not to be objective. Today we have a huge volume of data to use alongside our ability to base our assessment on behavioural observation versus our judgment about what we think we saw or heard. Managers can come prepared with data from various sources such as recent recognition, 360-degree feedback, talent review ratings, one-on-one notes, goal progress, observational coaching, feedback, and more. 

Every statement made should be fueled by data or observation—not by a  manager’s personal opinion. 

To recap, here are some key differences between traditional performance reviews and modern performance reviews.  

Traditional Performance Reviews

These tend to be a six-month or annual affair. It is generally one-sided, with a line manager informing the employee what they did wrong and right, focusing on developmental feedback. 

This is usually subjective with a grading that either does or does not result in a salary increase.  

Modern Performance Reviews

Everything a traditional review isn’t. They happen every month or quarter at least and involve two-way conversations and focus on the future.  

They review recent performance and involve coaching to impact the employee’s development and growth. The conversation is always based on data and facts. The conversation is then followed up the next month too.  

Preparing To Run A Performance Review

There is nothing worse than being unprepared at work. Even though our knowledge and experience can get us through most situations, somehow, that never seems to work when interacting with another human being.  

What makes it even more critical to prepare in advance is the impact your lack of planning has on your employee. Always approach any performance conversation with thoughtful preparation and lots of data and examples.  

Making Time & Setting Expectations

You have a lot of responsibilities on your plate as a manager in a law firm and conducting performance reviews with each team member can be time-consuming. But the payoff is worth the investment, and it’s critical that you carve out appropriate time for each member of your team. 

If you forgo important performance conversations, you risk missing out on new opportunities for promising employees, and the negative actions of under-performers will go unchanged. 

You begin setting expectations the moment your invite arrives in their inbox. Hot tip: Don’t just send a calendar invite out of the blue; a personal email works so much better. 

Schedule the meeting at least one week out, or ideally at the end of your last review. You want to give yourself adequate time to look into an employee’s recent performance.  

Make it clear what will be covered in the meeting; a clear agenda works well. Employees should have a complete understanding of what will be discussed, one of the many benefits of conducting reviews regularly. 

These topics should be a part of any performance conversation:  

Current performance: Both parties should enter data on how the employee performs against the objectives originally set at the start of the year. Have your employee consider current barriers and if there’s anything you can do to help them. 

Make sure you get an update on why they are failing or achieving their objectives so far. 

The original performance objectives were set in good faith between the two of you, and they play a big part in determining whether the employee is succeeding or failing.

Career goals: Employee performance is usually fueled by their view of the future. Motivated employees continually push themselves and seek additional responsibilities and the potential of their next promotion. Get employees to consider where they want their legal career to go and how those motivations impact their performance.  

If there are performance issues, make sure your employee understands that it’s about developmental feedback and a plan to move forward. 

When employees aren’t achieving goals or objectives, these meetings can help determine why and how to help an employee improve.  

Start on the right foot by aligning expectations for the meeting itself.  

An employee should know their role in preparing for the meeting. They should review the agenda, add topics they’d like to cover, and know where and when the meeting will occur. 

Second, employees should know what to bring to the meeting and what information might be referenced or pulled into the discussion from the manager’s side. 

Finally, employees should have a clear idea of their responsibilities after the meeting and how their manager plans to help them succeed. 

Above all, managers and employees should have a shared understanding of what good performance looks like.  

When necessary, managers should clarify each employee’s role and how the firm perceives their contributions. By aligning expectations with your firm’s established performance criteria, your employees won’t feel misguided or alarmed when their review begins.  

Select Your Setting

Depending on the culture in your firm, there may be a standard procedure or way of conducting reviews. If in doubt, a private setting is best. It demonstrates to your employee how important they are and the level of respect you have for them. 

Catch-up chats are fine in communal areas; performance reviews are different.  

How long should the review be? That is up to you, and remember it is key to make your staff member feel important. Managers in a fast-paced work environment are often stretched for time, but this is one area to allow more time. An hour is a time frame to consider. 

If it is physically possible, choose a training room or conference facility away from your own office. Neutral ground, no matter what you are discussing, is always best so that all parties can have at least a few minutes of processing what has been said before they return to their desk. 

For example, suppose you are meeting with specific developmental feedback, and creating an improvement plan. In that case, you’ll want to choose somewhere private, so your team member can focus on the plan and less on what others might overhear.  

The Power of Questions

As a manager, it is your role to lead the review and ask questions to reveal what is related to the objectives. 

One of the easiest ways to do this is to list performance objectives and related questions. 

Brainstorm a list of open questions that encourage more than a yes or no answer. These generally start with who, what, where, why, how, and when. 

Always build rapport and put your employee at ease. Though you might feel awkward carrying out a review, remember your team member is feeling that too. 

Here are a few examples of questions you could use. 

  • What results from last month are you most proud of? 
  • How did you achieve X, Y, or Z? 
  • What disappointed you about your performance? 
  • What will you stop, start, and continue next months? 
  • Tell me more about what happened with A, B, or C? 
  • What roadblocks are in your way? 
  • What impact has your performance had on the firm? 
  • How can I support you as your manager? 

Using questions like this will give you more information and data to add to what you already have. Performance conversations should be two-way, so make sure you’re facilitating a discussion and actually listening.  

Remember to take notes so you have a record of how the discussion proceeds. As human beings, we have an innate desire to be heard. Asking questions, listening, and taking notes demonstrates this to your team member. 

Listening to your employees helps you learn and understand rather than simply giving someone equal air time. Ask follow-up questions to help you dig deeper and paint a fuller picture. 

Now is the time to focus on feedback, both developmental and motivational.  

The Gift of Feedback

I know some people think there is irony in this phrase, yet the truth is, how can we improve unless we are given feedback on how we perform and how to get better? 

Successful business owners employ a coach to improve their performance. The good news is that you can become a performance coach for your team. 

Mastering the art of giving feedback is one of the single most important things you can do as a manager.  

Feedback comes in two forms. Motivational feedback is when you’re congratulating or praising a team member for something they’ve achieved or done well. Developmental feedback is where you highlight a performance issue or behaviour that requires development to improve. 

Of course, the key lies in balancing the two types of feedback and how they are delivered. 

Many managers focus on developmental feedback only, which the team interprets as only noticing ‘the bad things.’  

Sometimes the manager does this because they appreciate developmental feedback. They think that others prefer this style too – or more commonly, they had managers who didn’t give motivational input, so they’re not accustomed to its benefits.  

On the other end of the scale, some managers praise a lot but don’t offer enough feedback for development. They don’t know how to give good developmental feedback, and so avoid giving it. Many managers haven’t been sufficiently trained in giving feedback or have had poor role models in their past managers. As such, no one knows where they’re going wrong or how their performance could improve. 

It isn’t helpful to give vague or ambiguous feedback to your team members, whether it’s positive (motivational) or negative (developmental).  

Yes, it can be helpful to tell someone they are doing a great job, yet it’s far more beneficial to let your team member know exactly what performance traits you have seen that has contributed and want to see them continue to use. 

As a generalisation, it’s easier for individuals to receive motivational feedback compared to developmental. However, suppose you invest time nurturing your relationships with each team member and stocking up their emotional bank account with sufficient motivational feedback. In that case, it is then easier for them to handle the developmental side. 

Too often, managers focus on what an employee can improve first and consider praise as a second thought. While this can be quickly rectified if you see someone every day, it’s not always the case if some of your teams are now working remotely. 

Research from the CIPD suggests that anything from five to six pieces of motivational feedback to one developmental is the right balance. This will vary by individual, and there is no better person than a manager to know which team members need more praise than others. 

As the review ends before developing a follow-up process, let’s discuss a topic that is often pushed aside, the conversation around compensation and benefits.  

The Compensation Conversation

We are currently in a volatile hiring market, which is highlighting discrepancies in salaries and compensation in some law firms. 

Interestingly, a recruiting MD colleague in an aligned sector shared with me how a candidate he was working with was made a counteroffer from her current employers when she submitted her resignation.  

They offered to increase her salary by 35%, and, with one of their star performers about to leave, they were also willing to consider remote working – something they had refused a year earlier.  

The employee took up the offer from a new employer as her trust in her current company had been ruined. 

This isn’t a one-off occurrence. 

If compensation conversations are not commonplace in your organisation, maybe they should be. 

If a high-performing employee asks for a pay rise or additional benefits, be prepared. No matter who’s making the request, your star performer or an average one, you’re likely to feel taken aback or annoyed at being put in this position. 

Don’t react with the common platitudes I am sure all of us has heard; “not my decision”, “if it were up to me, of course, I would give you an increase.” 

Depending on the size of your organisation, you may have flex; however, take stock as you plan your next steps. 

Be curious and use the time-tested strategy and phrase, “Tell me more.” Then listen and take notes.  

Ask open questions to uncover as much information as possible, depending on the individual’s explanation and reasons why you can then make a case or not for their request. 

Ensure your employee feels heard and agree when you will get back to them. Though you might have been ‘miffed’ at their request, remember it won’t have been easy for them to raise the issue in the first place. 

As a first step to handling the situation professionally, are you paying the ‘going rate’ for the role and responsibility? If you are unsure, ask your current legal recruiting partner, who will know the answer. 

If you are underpaying, then be prepared for the consequences in the current market, which will be losing a good employee with knowledge and experience of your firm and how you operate. Legal professionals are on the move more than ever before, and for the sake of a small pay increase, in the bigger scheme of things, is it worth losing a valuable employee? 

The conversations have happened, so what next? 

Post Review Follow Up

One of the common errors in managing effective performance reviews is the lack of follow-up. A great conversation happens, and then no follow-up communication occurs, and the impact gets lost. 

Your employees need support to achieve the next steps you have agreed to together. Ideally, put a development plan in place with milestones, timelines, and actions. 

Plan in the diary your next meetings and agree on what all parties will do between meetings. 

Follow this process, and you will have a comprehensive and fair process that will benefit your employee, team, and firm.  

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

Click here to speak to one of our experienced Legal specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

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The 4-Day Work Week: The Future of Work or A Work in Progress?

The concept of having a shorter workweek isn’t a new one by any means. Industries have long since recognised the benefits it can provide for employees and their business, with the (then-revolutionary) idea of a 5-day work week first being introduced in 1926 by American businessman Henry Ford (as well as the two-day weekend) during a time when, in the midst of the industrial revolution, it was the norm for those in Britain to work 6 long days.

With a 5-day work week in place, employers recognised its massive success in increasing employee wellbeing & productivity, and addressing concerns like absenteeism. The shorter workweek then, as we know, went on to become a part of everyday working life for people worldwide.

But since then, despite much talk of this trend bringing another transformation of the structure of the current working week, it has remained unchanged for over a century.

Until recently, that is.

On Trial – The 4-day Week

The idea of a 4-day, or 32-hour work week had begun to garner mainstream attention in the last few years, with six countries (Canada, Australia, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand and the US), already experimenting with it over the past year. In June 2022 we saw the introduction of the first UK 4-day workweek trial, (piloted by organisations 4-Day Week Global and Autonomy) in which 61 companies and 2,900 workers participated, which sought to achieve the same results as the current working week structure and find a better common ground between employers and employees.

And with the results of the trial having been published in February 2023, we now have a glimpse into how it could work across a variety of sectors in what has been heralded by and large as a resounding success.

One of the biggest selling points of the 4-day week notion to employers is the increase in productivity that workers experience. Contrary to how counterintuitive it can appear at first, research from a study conducted by the University of Auckland has shown that a shorter workweek can give rise to greater levels of productivity from employees compared to a standard 5-day workweek. The study involved a New Zealand company, Perpetual Guardian, which trialled a four-day workweek for two months and during the trial, employees reported feeling less stressed and more focused, which led to an increase in their productivity levels.

Similarly, in the pilot, many employees reported improved work-life balance, reduced stress levels, and better overall well-being, with 60% of workers finding it easier to combine their work with caring responsibilities and 62% better able to juggle work with their social life. And it’s showing very encouraging signs business-wise as well, as key metrics show that companies’ revenue, by and large, hadn’t changed over the trial period, but instead showed a healthy increase (35% on average) compared to data from similar reports in previous years. The number of resignations in participating companies also saw a significant decline (57%), highlighting the true value of the benefits that the 4-day workweek structure provided to employees.

The most persuasive statistic of all when considering the longevity and permanency of such a working arrangement is that 92% of companies (56) that participated decided to continue with the model, (with 18 of them making it permanent). It certainly seems to offer a new perspective for employers and employees to find common ground when attempting to strike that delicate balance between increasing productivity & sales whilst also creating a more supportive work environment.

Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, Dr. David Frayne, attested to its effectiveness:

“We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into a realistic policy, with multiple benefits. We think there is a lot here that ought to motivate other companies and industries to give it a try”.

What Still Remains Unanswered?

But which questions do the results still not answer? And what are the implications for the working world at large should this become a new reality?

Perhaps the first thing that springs to mind when looking at all the positive discourse regarding the results of the trial is, “can it deliver on the promise it’s showing”? While it’s certainly no pipedream to believe it can, considering the trial’s outstanding results, it does highlight a need for a touch of pragmatism when assessing the 4-day workweek’s feasibility and in particular for sectors where it has proven difficult to implement or has just not been successful when doing so.

Take customer-facing businesses for example.

Unlike other professional services that often involve project-type work (which gives employees a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to deadlines), companies in this line of work must have a certain number of staff on-site to take care of the more hands-on aspects of the role and ensure a smooth running of the business.

Naturally, there are bound to be scheduling challenges that arise because of this when implementing the model as customer needs must still be managed effectively, and the business must ensure that communication between teams and with customers is maintained at all times, meaning the idea of a three-day weekend every week for some companies is just not feasible. Certain sectors such as education, healthcare or public transport may argue that this is just not feasible at all.

And even if staffing and logistics issues could be overcome within these sectors, not all can guarantee a productivity increase (and money on the bottom line) to make up for the reduced hours of a 32-hour workweek particularly as such businesses or public services will have to take on extra staff to cover any shortfalls, meaning extra costs overall.

One such company that ran into several of these practical issues when implementing it across their business is Engineering and Industrial supplies company Allcap. Despite reducing the frequency of their staff’s three-day weekend to once every fortnight (due to the nature of their business), they found adapting to the 4-day workweek model difficult, particularly with the increase in daily workload. Employees found it difficult to benefit from the extra day of rest that they had available, as their new week structure now meant that they had gone from ‘’10 normal working days to 9 intense ones’’, making them exhausted by the end of their week. Added to this was the difficulty in finding enough staff to cover for the absences of employees on their free day when holidays, sickness and caring responsibilities were all factored in. Ultimately, and with two months of the trial still planned in, Allcap was forced to abandon across its main trade sites.

Mass Rollout Or Mass Walkout?

As seen from numerous other examples in the trial results, it is certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach and not all businesses can afford the wiggle room needed to adapt to it, which raises valid concerns about its applicability on a larger scale.

Its scalability isn’t the only question mark about it either, as there is the concern of how sustainable it can be over longer periods of time than just the 6 months, considering the unknown long-term impact of a 4-day workweek’s intense work pattern on the physical and mental well-being of employees.

Could the exact reasons for pushing ahead with the pilot around staff wellbeing lead to a worsened state in the long run? It does very much depend on the sector, the type of work being conducted, and the expectations of the customer base – and on that basis it is harder to see how this could be rolled out en masse irrespective of these nuances.

So what next for the trial? And where does all this leave us with regard to the current state of affairs?

Post pandemic, it is clear that there is a growing focus on greater flexibility from employees who are more mindful of when, where, and how they work. In turn, there has been much narrative from businesses around hybrid, flexi, remote-working and analysis of these changes on the impact on business performance and productivity.

Undoubtedly, there has already been a seismic shift in working patterns as numerous companies move to more flexible means of working, but is a further shift to a shorter week on top of this a step too far – at the moment at least?

“Even as the value of the pound goes up and down, the value of people’s time doesn’t.”

Summed up nicely by the above quote from Programme Manager Alex Soojung-Kim Pang at 4-Day Week Global, perhaps the biggest litmus test for the 4-day model, and currently its biggest barrier to a much-anticipated systematic change, is how well it can fare in not just the current economic climate, but an ever-changing one.

With vacancies harder to fill, and potentially more staff on the books (for some sectors) to accommodate a 4-day workweek, it simply isn’t an option at the moment for some, and whether it can still be as viable and as practical in unfavourable conditions remains to be seen.

One thing is for sure, change won’t happen overnight.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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EVP, CSR & ESG: The Acronyms Impacting Your Talent Attraction & Retention

In a skills-short market, businesses across all sectors are looking more closely at their strategies for attracting and retaining their talent. And whilst a focus on employer branding has been a part of business DNA for a number of years (prevalent in the early 1990s and usually straddling both the marketing and HR functions), the last decade has seen a new phrase coined that takes the concept a step further.

The Employer Value Proposition (EVP) has become somewhat of a buzzword more recently – especially as businesses operate in an increasingly competitive and borderless world that is economically volatile.

Pioneer of employer branding research, Brett Minchington defined an EVP in 2005 as “a set of associations and offerings provided by  an organisation in return for the skills, capabilities, and experiences an employee brings to the organisation.”

In simple terms, it is the way that businesses differentiate themselves in their particular market allowing them to not only attract and recruit ‘right fit’ new employees but also impact the engagement and retention of existing staff members.

 

Why Your EVP Could Be Your MVP

While there seems to be more jargon and acronyms than ever – what is clear is that it is more important than ever for law firms to communicate the compelling reasons why future hires should choose to work with/ for them.

In the past, many businesses assumed the key to a successful EVP was simply offering their team the best salary and benefits. However, teams today are looking for more than just financial value in their careers.

As attitudes to the workplace have changed, so have priorities as legal professionals now have more opportunities than ever to consider where, how, and when they work.

Vacancies offering fully remote or hybrid contracts means that staff are no longer restricted by geography when assessing new opportunities in the market, and with the net cast wider – so too are the opportunities (and indeed, competition).

Fundamentally you need to communicate all the specific and unique benefits an employee can expect to receive when they join your business. These should seek, where possible, to differentiate yourself from competitors operating in the same region and/or practice area; describing (and making tangible) what the business stands for – vision, culture, and working environment.

According to Gartner, a leader in people management, an EVP can massively strengthen your position in the hiring landscape and improves your chances of retaining talent, decreasing annual employee turnover by just under 70%, whilst increasing ‘new hire commitment’ by nearly 30%.

 

The War For Talent Is Over. Talent Won.

The quote above by PwC’s US Chairman, Tim Ryan in October last year continues to do the rounds as the UK’s drought of talent is still felt across many industries and professional sectors. As highlighted in a recent article on Maddyness, UK unemployment rates remain at a historic low of 3.75%, and with vacancies still at heady heights (compared to pre-pandemic levels), there remains a disconnect between demand and supply.

Furthermore, those businesses that were proactive in securing talent by offering inflated salaries may no longer have this option against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, and squeezed budgets.

And whilst this may on the surface start to level the playing field between small and medium-sized firms who couldn’t compete on price, the challenge around standing out on the things that matter very much remains.

Creating a stand-out working culture and work environment, and offering staff a holistic package of perks and rewards is only the first step, however. Finding innovative, bold, and creative ways to communicate this externally (and through internal channels) is key – and should go beyond one-dimensional lists on websites and job descriptions.

Attracting The New Generation Of Legal Employees

It is a well-publicised fact that Generation Z, the youngest generation to approach the working world, will soon surpass Millennials as the most populous generation on earth. By 2030, this group will make up 30% of the workforce, bringing new demands, expectations, and priorities for employers to consider.

Often raised by innovative millennials, Gen Z is the most diverse and educated age group in the professional world today. Born into a connected, digital, and empathetic world they spend approximately half of their waking hours interacting with technology. Shaped by an era of social feeds and internet culture, the slew of powerful social justice movements they’ve witnessed in recent years have given them a unique sensibility and a strong stance regarding ethical business practices and equity.

Generation Z undoubtedly has several valuable characteristics to bring to the legal landscape, yet their approach to the workplace may cause certain challenges for business leaders as they aren’t motivated or moved by the same things as their millennial parents (we looked at some of these recently in our detailed guide on Motivating Gen Z Employees).

What has been already noted, however, is that this demographic cohort (known colloquially as ‘zoomers’) is emerging as the ‘sustainability generation’ – impacted massively by global events like the Pandemic which, according to Forbes, didn’t start the sustainability revolution necessarily, but certainly put it into overdrive (with Gen Z in the driver’s seat).

Attracting and retaining this generation will therefore need to focus on green and eco-credentials, and general CSR initiatives as part of a wider employment proposal that is demonstrably ethical, moral, and has a societal purpose. 

 

CSR & ESG – as easy as ABC?

Employer value propositions are evolving, due to shifting business priorities, working patterns, and employee values as well as external factors like the economy and political landscape. A focus on well-being and wellness initiatives, work-life balance, diversity, and inclusion are continuing themes setting value propositions apart across the legal landscape, alongside programmes and statements centred around Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

But with a new acronym on the block for Law Firms to get their heads around – ESG… it’s no wonder there is some confusion around where businesses should place their focus amidst this ‘alphabet soup’ of initiatives.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a business approach designed around making a social impact and focus beyond profits. It is designed (or should be) to benefit society and the local community as well as the environment for the collective good – and in turn will also, by proxy, enhance the firm’s image, generate more business, and earn customer and employee loyalty.

It is generally split into 4 areas:

  1. Environmental
  2. Ethical
  3. Philanthropic
  4. Economic

All are aimed at providing benefits to both the general public as well as company shareholders and employees.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) isn’t quite the same – although according to a Harvard Law School study in 2021, both terms do appear interchangeable. Rather, this programme is more data driven, and increasingly  an act of corporate compliance; defined as ‘a set of standards measuring a business’s impact on society, the environment, and how transparent and accountable it is.’

In brief, the three areas or factors look at:

  • Environmental – a firm’s impact on the environment, such as carbon emissions, waste management, and resource usage.
  • Social – a firm’s impact on society, including issues such as labour practices, human rights, and engagement with the local community.
  • Governance – a firm’s management and oversight, such as board and management structure, executive compensation and remuneration, and shareholder rights.

ESG has become increasingly important for investors and businesses as stakeholders demand greater accountability and transparency on sustainability and ethical issues. The key difference therefore compared to CSR, is that it is viewed as the outcome (measured and reported on) of a firm’s sustainability, whilst CSR focuses on a firm’s voluntary actions to improve its impact.

An even simpler comparison by Akepa:

  • CSR: a general sustainability framework, mainly used by companies
  • ESG: a measurable sustainability assessment, popular with investors

 

In Conclusion

As a Partner, Senior, or Hiring professional within a law firm, getting your head around the many acronyms and initiatives is the first hurdle in understanding the evolving values that current (and prospective) employees have when it comes to their employer.

Understanding what these shifting ideologies are is critical when it comes to retaining, engaging, and attracting talent  – although it is equally as important not to pay lip service or view things like your EVP as a box-ticking exercise.

What is clear, is that embracing CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has become a necessity for law firms around the globe, not least because it remains high on the agenda of both Millennials and Gen Z employees who are ever critical of their employer’s ethical stance, reputation in the market, and values that they hope will mirror their own.

In a LinkedIn News article from earlier this year, it was reported that these demographic cohorts actively consider “conscious quitting” if the company doesn’t align with their values. It also highlighted research from KMPG which stated that 46% of employees want their employer to ‘demonstrate a commitment to environmental, social and governance’, with 1 in 5 turning down the offer of a new role if they felt a disconnect.

 

Clayton Legal’s Commitment

Of course, CSR, ESG, EVP, and any other business-related acronym are not just relevant to the legal sector.

As a prominent Northwest employer that has been in business for nearly 25 years, we also recognise the importance of our own value proposition when it comes to our people and our community.

Our commitment to CSR can be seen here, where we detail our approach, programme, and statement of intent as we strive to become a socially responsible business, both internally and externally – making a positive impact on our people and workplace, our clients and suppliers, our local community, and our local and global environment.

The purpose of our programme is to sustain a business that is successful and respected in its ethical standing by our stakeholders. These include candidates, clients, investors, regulators, suppliers, and the wider community.

We are particularly passionate about supporting causes that have roots and impact here in the UK, and in the Northwest. One initiative that we have recently joined and committed to is Ecologi, a certified B-Corp social enterprise, and platform for Climate Action; helping individuals, families, and businesses become Climate Positive.

This market leader is certainly gaining traction and publicity, and we are delighted to join the other 40,000 members in taking simple, but impactful climate action. This year we have committed to fund the planting of trees in the UK for every placement we make and are also involved in the Beta trial to calculate our carbon footprint, and put plans in place to reduce our emissions.

You can see the impact of Ecologi’s work and their UK reforestation projects here.

In addition, Managing Director, Lynn Sedgwick and Performance and Development Director, Louise Kearns joined the Good Growth Programme in February this year, ran by Lancaster University and supported by Boost, Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub.

The 5-month Programme was underpinned by world-leading research produced by Lancaster University Management School and focused on business strategies that are centred around the environment, community, and social justice. It was a great chance to connect and collaborate with other SME leaders and contribute to solving local and global challenges.

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help – whether that’s on a contingency or retained basis. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Laura Lissett

Marketing Consultant

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5 Top Tips On Retaining Your Legal Clients And Market Position

  • March 21, 2023

Even after a tumultuous couple of years during and following the Covid-19 pandemic, 2023 also brings with it certain challenges for law firms.

Economic pressures, talent retention, and for many, adapting to the permanency of hybrid working are all factors that make business-as-usual still pretty unpredictable.

And, as well as a necessary focus on retention and recruitment of employees, law firms will no doubt be conscious of their business strategy, growth plans, and the retention of their client base.

It goes without saying that earning a client’s trust is paramount to the success of your law firm.

Additionally, you work hard for your clients and to maintain and build your legal professionalism. Retaining clients and your place in the legal marketplace requires strategies to help build relationships and keep those clients coming back to you as their firm of choice.

Client retention means you can avoid spending a lot of valuable time in marketing your law firm to earn new business. Also, happy clients who return to your firm may even provide a lead to additional work if they recommend you to others in their network. This can be a huge boost, especially if they have wide-reaching connections.

So, how can you help retain those valuable clients and increase your repeat business, thus placing yourself well ahead of the pack with a continued focus on growth? Here are our five top tips that could accelerate retention levels and see your firm’s reputation rise.

1. Communicate

How often do you hear clients complaining that their solicitor doesn’t return their calls, or that they don’t know where things are up to in their case?

Your clients want to feel valued, and it’s easy to make them believe their business is important to you. Start by returning their phone calls or emails. You can delegate some of this work if necessary, but if correspondence requires your personal attention – make the time to address it. This could be as simple as setting aside a specific time each day and blocking off your diary to give you space without interruption to answer clients’ questions.

2. Be Honest

Things don’t always go to plan. It’s critical for your legal team to be able to handle bad news, as well as good, and deal with unexpected results.

Therefore, it’s vital to be clear with your client that you can’t guarantee results. Managing potential outcomes can be tricky, but preparing your client from the start will make results easier to handle.

Remember that your clients have come to you at a time that they need assistance – it could be any one of several challenging issues in their personal or professional lives, and they will want to hear positive news from you.

But honesty is essential. Don’t be tempted to give false hope and be clear that there may be problems or even a negative outcome if you believe this to be the case.

It’s also essential, to be honest about your performance as a provider of legal services. For example, if you are late with documents, admit it. If a client discovers you were untruthful about a small issue like late documents, they will doubt you over more significant issues. Aim to protect your firm’s integrity in all circumstances.

3. Bill Clients Accurately

Overbilling or charging in a way that was not clearly demonstrated initially to the client will not help establish your firm’s professionalism.

Therefore, invoices should always correctly reflect the work done. Time tracking and billing software can help your firm create accurate bills, avoiding unhappy clients who believe they have been overcharged, and resulting in faster payments and higher levels of customer confidence in your firm.

Additionally, you may wish to offer various billing options such as fixed fee, hourly billing or flat fees for services – clients have different preferences, and to keep ahead of the pack it’s a good idea to consider offering different options. Being agile in this way could be the difference between keeping and losing a client.

4. Remain Professional

Of course, the most critical aspect of retaining clients and gaining market position is to complete the legal work you have taken on; providing services that are effective and offer value to your clients.

Meeting deadlines, employing skilled solicitors, and handling cases efficiently will ensure clients recognise your professionalism and return to use your services again – as well as recommend you to others.

Equally pivotal to ensuring your law firm remains relevant is to keep all your employee’s certifications up to date, and make sure you stay informed about legal changes and court decisions.

5. Consider Diversifying

It may seem a bold move, but diversification can give you an advantage over competitors and place you ahead of the curve. Addressing the ‘where’ and ‘how’ to scale your law firm should be considered carefully and will be dependent on your current position – both geographically and in terms of client base and marketplace.

Dramatic strategy changes may seem radical, and remaining credible is paramount, so you may wish to consider small steps if looking to increase your service offer. If you choose to consider this route, a good place to start is by re-examining your strategic plan to highlight areas you could develop as well as ensure you are on the right track for success.

Following these top tips will help you create better client retention, enhance your reputation and keep you one step ahead of the competition in a crowded legal marketplace.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking to develop your legal team, we’d love to be part of that conversation.

Don’t hesitate to call one of our regional or practice area specialists on 01772 259 121.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest Salary Survey & Market Insights Report Here.

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5 Warning Signs Your Top Talent Is About To Leave

  • February 10, 2023

Finding the ideal talent for your legal team is the first stage of building a successful business. Once you’ve attracted top-performing candidates to your workforce, you also need to ensure you’re taking steps to keep them around.

And with hiring activity still healthy across the legal landscape, employees have many opportunities to switch firms should they find themselves unsatisfied with their current employment. That means learning how to retain your top talent is more important than ever.

Legal professionals can choose to leave a firm for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, they feel they’re not getting enough satisfaction from their role, or they lose interest in the firm’s vision for the future.

Other times, employees may feel they don’t thrive in their current position due to issues with colleagues or managers.

While the cost of replacing a lost employee can be significant, it’s worth remembering that anywhere up to 75% of turnover can be avoided.

That is why it is critical to recognise the signs that your employee might be looking elsewhere.

In this post, we are going to share several signs to be aware of.

1. They’re Avoiding Long-Term Projects and Growth

When an employee decides they no longer want to work with a firm, they often begin to reduce their involvement in long-term projects and strategies for development or growth. They stop envisioning a “future” with the business, which means they generally spend more of their time on short-term tasks and simply “checking boxes” on their to-do list.

When an employee who previously volunteered for various challenging projects no longer raises their hand in meetings or delegates long-term work to other employees. In that case, this could signify they’re not planning on being around for long.

Pay close attention to whether your staff members still invest in their future with the company by agreeing to learning and development opportunities or discussing goals during one-on-one meetings. If your employees no longer see a future with you, change their perspective by offering them insights into progression opportunities, they might miss out on if they leave.

2. They Show Visible Signs of Stress

The World Health Organisation says “burnout” is a significant occupational phenomenon that has increased drastically in recent years. Burned-out and overwhelmed employees disengage from the workplace, show clear signs of exhaustion, and often look for alternative work opportunities. With this in mind, tracking your employee’s mental and physical health is important.

Pay attention to signs of exhaustion, like the heavy reliance on caffeine, yawning, or even a slower-than-usual pace in your team member’s workflow.

The attitude of your employee might begin to change too. They may appear to be overwhelmingly negative towards other colleagues or attempt to isolate themselves from their peers, taking part in meetings less than usual. In some cases, they could even become more argumentative or aggressive. If you notice signs of burnout, speak to your staff member about how you can help them manage their workload.

3. They’re Not as Creative or Intuitive as Usual

When employees decide to leave a business, they stop actively contributing to its growth. You may notice some of your top performers who used to share ideas for development in previous meetings are now quieter when you’re asking for suggestions or advice.

Rather than trying to solve problems with out-of-the-box ideas and collaboration, your team members may simply pass difficult tasks onto other employees. They could stop taking the initiative with their work and may focus on doing just the “bare minimum” to get by.

An employee who’s occasionally quiet during business meetings isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. However, if your team member seems to have lost their passion for helping the firm grow, they may no longer feel inspired by your firm’s mission or values.

A good way to address this issue is to give your team members regular feedback and let them know how much you value their input. Employees are more likely to contribute when they feel recognised and rewarded for their hard work.

4. They Focus More on External Networking

Networking is important in building a thriving career as a legal professional. It’s not unusual for dedicated employees to visit industry events and connect with other experts on social media. However, there may be a problem if your team members focus more on external networking than on building internal relationships.

If you notice your team members are disconnecting from their internal peers, failing to attend meetings, or spending less time chatting with colleagues, check out their external networking efforts. If they’re heavily invested in adding new connections on LinkedIn and improving their personal brand, this could be a sign they’re looking for a way to branch into new opportunities.

There are a few ways managers and supervisors can tackle this issue. Preventing staff from building external connections isn’t an option, but you can encourage your team to bond with their colleagues through team-building exercises and more consistent internal communication.

5. Their Performance Begins to Suffer

For a legal employee to thrive in their role, they need to do a lot more than just show up and follow the instructions given by a manager. The best staff members are constantly pushing themselves to be their best. However, if your employee is disengaged and disinterested in their work, you may begin to notice performance issues.

You might be able to notice more errors in their work, which they never used to make before. Or perhaps your customers are providing negative feedback concerning a specific employee’s behaviour. Other colleagues may even complain that one team member is no longer pulling their weight around the office.

If your staff member is no longer reaching their targets or making the right amount of effort, the first step shouldn’t always be to engage in disciplinary action. Speak to your team member and discover what’s happening behind the scenes.

Don’t Lose Your Top Performers

In today’s changing legal landscape, issues like disengagement, burnout, and even “quiet quitting” are becoming increasingly common. Fortunately, if you can recognise these signs ahead of time, there are still things you can do to re-ignite your staff’s passion for your firm and prevent them from seeking other employment options.

Pay attention to your top performers, and make sure you’re not actively pushing them away.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Your Legal Team Growth: 5 Standout Ideas To Consider

  • April 25, 2019

Effective teamwork is crucial for any Legal firm.

Whether it’s an outstanding legal secretary, fielding calls and organising schedules and paperwork or a competent paralegal, interviewing witnesses and taking statements, everyone at your firm needs to be engaged and focused on the same goals to facilitate great results.

Finding the perfect blend of knowledge, skills and attitudes for your team can help you to get ahead of the competition and achieve your goals faster. However, before you can start reaping the rewards of a high-performing team, you’ll need to know how to set your employees up for success.

Here are just some of the ways that you can develop a more cohesive community within your legal firm.

Step 1: Recruit Based On Shared Values

A high-performing team is defined by a group of people who can support each other in reaching critical professional goals. Cohesiveness is essential to your team, which means you’ll need employees who can pull together for the greater good based on a clear understanding of what your firm wants to achieve.

This will happen more easily when your employees share your organisational values. When recruiting, build into your process, questions and exercises that explore a candidate’s beliefs.
This will give you an opportunity to test if their ethics match the firm’s.

When onboarding new employees, remember to explain why your legal firm’s values are important and provide them with examples of how you see these beliefs being expressed, so they have some ideas of what’s expected.

Being clear and consistent about your vision and values will give your team a sense of direction and some common objectives. Even if individual solicitors or legal teams are working on different cases, it’s important that everyone still understands the bigger picture.

Step 2: Embrace Diversity

Legal firms can often be attracted to a specific type of candidate. After all, you need someone with the requisite qualifications and experience who understands your field of law and shares your vision. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone in your team needs to have the same perspective. In fact, you can often accomplish more by embracing a wide selection of diverse viewpoints.

As the digital world continues to have more of an impact on every aspect of our society, it’s also increasingly critical to find candidates who have varied backgrounds and skills to offer. The more diversity you have in your team, the easier it will be to overcome complex challenges with ‘out of the box’ thinking. What’s more, diverse recruitment can help to improve your employer brand, which will help you to build your legal talent pipeline.

Step 3: Build a Supportive Environment

High-performing legal teams need to feel as though they can rely on their members to help them accomplish goals on behalf of the firm. A supportive team environment will not only enhance employee morale, promote peer-to-peer learning and lead to increased retention of your legal talent, but most importantly contribute positively to the quality and consistency of service that your firm provides its clients.

Creating a supportive environment within your firm begins by exploring the idea of psychological safety. Your team members need to know that they’re not going to be punished if their creativity and independent actions lead to mistakes.

Recognising and rewarding out-of-the-box thinking among your people and celebrating those who try new things is a great way to help your legal team flourish. By encouraging as well as modelling these behaviours, you’ll bring your firm’s vision and values to life.

Step 4: Give Employees Room to Thrive

Although effective teams need to collaborate to achieve their goals, they also need room to explore their unique skills. A high-performing legal team is bound to have people from a range of backgrounds, each with their own strengths and areas of expertise. Team leaders will know how to delegate tasks to take advantage of certain talents.

Make sure that you’re providing your staff members with the environment, resources and support they need to thrive both in a team environment and individually. For instance, it’s critical to ensure you develop the right atmosphere to enable the fee earners on your team to manage multiple caseloads.

Every member of your team will have their own strengths and development areas. Pairing the right people together will naturally lead to mentorship opportunities that supplement skill gaps as well as providing bonding opportunities.

Step 5: Focus on Great Leadership

Finally, in any legal firm, it’s crucial to make sure that your team has the right leadership to guide them towards success. Regardless of your area of law, your leadership team needs to be ready to inspire and motivate the rest of your legal team.

Leaders are the people who set the standard for the rest of the group, by showing them what “excellence” means to your organisation. According to the CIPD, the input of the right leader can be enough to improve workplace engagement by 39%.

Develop leadership strategies intended to keep employees motivated as they work together with their peers, and make sure to offer rewards and recognition for those that achieve great things in their roles.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year download our latest guide here.

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