banner image

From Intent to Inertia: Why Some Law Firms Struggle To Uphold their New Year’s Resolutions

  • February 6, 2024

With the first month of the new year now in the bag, it is highly probable that those ‘New Year’ resolutions set at the back end of 2023 have already been broken – at least those set on a personal level where exercise or the quitting of bad habits are usually top of those lists.

In this regard, it is estimated that as many as 80% of people fail to keep their resolutions by February, with only a mere 8% seeing them through for the entirety of the year.

A 4000-year Old Tradition

The act of setting goals at the start of a new calendar year is reported to date back to Ancient Babylonians some 4000 years ago where ‘debts were promised to be paid to gods and borrowed objects returned’. And, whilst the new year promises were deeply entwined with religion and mythology, the premise of a ‘new beginning’ is one that has carried through for many thousands of years.

While resolutions are often associated with personal goals, they hold equal importance when it comes to business – especially around setting annual objectives and reflecting on the overall strategy in an ever-changing environment where continual review of the road ahead is crucial.

Most businesses will review their new year plans in quarter four when typically, there is enough information to reflect back on metrics and KPIs for the current year, assess whether or not objectives will be hit, and allow some wiggle room to re-calibrate and focus on ending the year on a high.

Objectives or ‘new year resolutions’ therefore have likely long been set at this juncture – and for those firms set on a growth trajectory, these will likely include executing hiring plans as well as a laser-sharp focus on staff retention.

Are Your Business Resolutions Still on Track?

At the stroke of midnight on 1st January, and the subsequent return to the office after the festive break, law firms will no doubt have set their sights kickstarting the 2024 objectives with intent. However, as the first quarter unfolds, it appears that some legal practices may be encountering obstacles in adhering to their hiring-focused resolutions.

Even one calendar month down the line, and then as the year progresses, it’s essential for law firms to reassess their hiring objectives, adapt to unforeseen challenges, and remain committed to the path of growth – especially when you consider a recent statistic that 75% of UK businesses are in a state of ‘existence’ or just surviving.

So what areas should firms be focussed on to ensure their well-intentioned goals remain on track?

Streamline (and Standardise) Your Hiring Process:

The aspiration to streamline hiring processes and avoid past mistakes holds promise, but the intricate decision-making within law firms can pose challenges. If you recruit regularly, it is worth looking to standardise processes where possible, albeit not at the detriment to the often-unique experiences of each individual candidate that comes into contact with the firm. An ethical approach to recruitment is recommended here – and is becoming a non-negotiable in the current candidate-led market.

Enhance Diversity Efforts:

Despite the emphasis on diversity and inclusion, some law firms may struggle to make significant progress due to ingrained practices and a lack of comprehensive strategies. Overcoming unconscious biases and fostering an inclusive environment requires continuous effort, which may not be progressing as rapidly as intended. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are not just buzzwords or an acronym to add to your customer-facing marketing; they are essential components of a successful business strategy of any firm that aims to remain competitive. As the glue that keeps social dynamics within a business and in turn, team competence and efficacy functioning at its highest capacity, it is indispensable to your hiring strategy, whatever your recruitment goals or objectives may be, and when done right, it can be instrumental in keeping your talent attraction and retention efforts on track.

It is perhaps concerning then, that firms are yet to treat it as more than an emerging trend in practice, and some go only as far as paying lip service when professing to make it a central part of their recruitment efforts. If you’re serious about taking your hiring game to the next level in 2024, then this is a great place to start. We look at how to build a DEI strategy that supercharges your recruitment efforts here.

Revisit Your Job Descriptions:

Job descriptions may be overlooked as daily legal tasks take precedence. Busy schedules can result in insufficient attention to crafting comprehensive and appealing job descriptions, making it difficult to attract top-tier talent.

However, as the hiring landscape evolves, legal candidates still rely on engaging, informative, and powerful job descriptions to assess whether or not they are a fit for their career aspirations and professional development. The best job descriptions go beyond skill requirements, offering a glimpse into firm culture and showcasing benefits that matter to the market’s top talent.

As law firms forge ahead with hiring initiatives, the importance of making your voice shine amidst the noise becomes increasingly important. If you want to turn the heads of the right people from the get-go and avoid a ‘square peg in a round hole’ scenario with regard to your hiring efforts, then your job descriptions must be compelling, engaging and effective enough to attract the market’s top talent. Find out more about how to craft a winning job description here.

Harness the Potential of Social Media:

The traditionally conservative legal industry may find it challenging to fully embrace the power of social media. The time and resources required for maintaining an active and engaging social media presence can be overwhelming for firms, leading to a lapse in this resolution, however, love it or loathe it – the fact remains that legal professionals will research the whole digital footprint of a firm as part of their decision-making process.

If you have the core channels set up and active, it’s always worth a holistic review of things like your bio information, and your wider content strategy. What kind of things do you communicate? Do you share information that gives visitors to those platforms a good idea of your working environment and culture? Is it obvious how you celebrate success? Can you utilise the voice of your existing employees to focus on things like career development?  A social media strategy is usually easy to flex and improve as and when you need to, so if that review wasn’t part of your new-year resolution, it’s always worth finding the time to conduct your due-diligence and ensure that your channels are working as hard as they can to put your best foot forward to those in the active talent pools.

Invest in Training and Upskilling:

Despite recognising the importance of investing in staff development, law firms may face budget constraints or a lack of suitable training programs. This can hinder the execution of the resolution to upskill existing staff – something that will no doubt be on the agendas of businesses up and down the country as the much-documented skills shortage becomes a harsh reality.

Similarly, what legal professionals look for in an employer has changed significantly since the pandemic and the value of career fulfillment has become a staple part of the modern legal professional’s priorities when searching for the ideal employer.

The notion of the one-employer-career has changed dramatically in recent years, and it’s not at all uncommon for legal professionals to be left with a lingering sense of stagnation after spending a few years building their skills in their current role, and consequently view the option of jumping ship as the only way to experience real progress in their career.

The resulting high turnover rate is what has brought the idea of Employee Development Plans into focus for law firms, with an aim to ensure ongoing employability through improving the individual’s workplace soft and hard skills, and industry knowledge. A good plan will strive to create a series of actions designed to help the individual develop and grow within the context of their legal career, while also developing their capabilities and meeting the needs of the employer.

Build and Maintain Brand Image:

Building and maintaining a strong brand image demands consistent effort and resources. Law firms may find it challenging to allocate sufficient time and funds to enhance their brand, especially when immediate client needs take precedence.

Candidates believe in what they can see now more than ever, and in an age where information is easily accessible online, maintaining a strong brand and a good reputation is essential for attracting and retaining top legal talent. Prospective candidates will research a firm as much as the firm will investigate the candidates’ qualifications and qualities and should your credibility fall short as an employer you can be filtered out of shortlists before a CV or profile is even read.

A proactive approach is therefore essential in order to positively influence one’s brand and reputation in the market, whether that be by building a workforce that acts as ambassadors that champion the business values, or convincingly demonstrating that your business does indeed walk the walk when it comes to employee satisfaction. Click here to find out more about how you can tap into the potential your employer brand carries and catalyse its growth.

Consider How Flexible You Can Afford to Be:

One might say that the hybrid working drum has been beaten to death ever since its meteoric rise in popularity among legal candidates during the pandemic. It’s hardly a secret to anyone keeping a close eye on the state of play across the industry over the last few years, and most if not all firms competing for the best talent available on the market will be well aware of just how highly sought after flexibility is by the talent pool in their current market.

And yet, this topic of flexibility remains a sticking point with some employers today, and as a result a barrier to rather than a buttress for hiring success. While that is in part due to expected challenges in marrying candidate and business demands, it is also due to the general rigidity legal employers are known to have towards changes to traditional modus operandi in general. When competition for talent is fiercer than ever before, can your firm afford to be flexible when it comes to working arrangements?

Ultimately, the crux of your success in your hiring efforts will come down to how well you can provide the best employee experience better than your competitors (and back it up). If it is indeed a viable option for your business then it should absolutely be part of your recruitment – and retention – strategy.  We take a deeper look at this and much more here.

In Conclusion:

With almost 11 months left of the year, arguably it is still all to play for when it comes to adherence to your annual business objectives. If however, the roadmap to growth has already hit some bumps in the road, especially when it comes to talent attraction, utilising the services of legal recruitment specialists will undoubtedly get those plans back on track with renewed insight about current market conditions and the movement of talent within your region and/or practice area.

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.

Share This Post

banner image

6 Ways to Make Attracting Legal Talent Easier in 2024

  • January 29, 2024

Following the pandemic businesses across the legal industry have gradually started to find their feet, slowly but surely accepting and adapting to the multitude of changes the post-pandemic market has thrust on our shoulders. Employers have recognised and respected the change in status quo concerning the expectations set out in current client and employee demands and seem to be reworking their hiring strategies accordingly to keep up.

Last year however, it wasn’t quite the year of progress many would’ve envisioned, and while it’s certainly true that finding the right legal talent in today’s market is rarely ever a straightforward task, many will agree that few years have brought more challenges when it came to both the recruitment AND retention of top talent.

According to a report released last year by Vacancysoft and Search, 2023 was a less active year than anticipated for the UK’s top law firms with vacancies down 35.5% year-on-year. And, even as hiring appetite increases as a new year takes hold, according to the Wolters Kluwer ‘Future Ready Lawyer 2023’ Report, recruitment and retention are likely to still be key challenges for the legal industry in the next 3 years, one that legal professionals “are not yet ready to overcome.” A similar concern for the general outlook on recruitment in the coming years was also echoed by the International Bar Association in their IBA legal agenda, listing talent attraction and retention as one of the biggest challenges to businesses in the sector, due to the changing demands and priorities of younger legal professionals, in particular work-life balance and a greater sense of purpose in the work they do on a day-to-day basis.

For any firm intent on growth this year, there is therefore no better time than now to put your recruitment process under the microscope and lay the groundwork needed for it be successful – particularly against a backdrop of continued economic uncertainty and a skills shortage still prevalent in the sector.

Recruitment can be, and often is, a laborious and multi-faceted process, but here are 6 steps to ensure you start on the right path this coming year >>>

1. A Focus on Flexibility

A direct and perhaps one of the biggest consequences of the widely reported skills shortage is the sudden shift of the industry towards a more digital tech-oriented manner of working and the incorporation of such tools into legal practice – something that’s sure to change demand for certain skillsets within the legal profession. What is poignant about this fact however, is how it will actually emphasise the need for soft skills in the near future. With AI technology set to spearhead the streamlining of legal procedures and more work to be commoditised, what will be highly sought after by legal employers skills-wise is the ability to deal with human beings, and the qualities that best serve that purpose.

However, if some of the inflexibility found in firms across the sector continues to persist, the search for talent of this calibre will only get harder. A paper published last year by Harvard Business School and Accenture revealed that a huge number of skilled hidden workers are shut out of employment simply due to the lack of flexibility present among employers today. Law firms risk being oblivious to the reservoir of talent right under their noses if they fail to adapt to the changing demands of legal professionals.

It therefore serves your firm far better to begin looking at how you can better serve the candidates you want working at your firm. Whether this requires a sit-down with your recruitment team to discuss how such accommodations can be made and communicated throughout the hiring process or a talk with your management team to improve existing firm practices to better support its employees, it is a must for any firm seeking to remain attractive to prospective candidates.

2. Update Your Hiring Strategy With a Focus on Candidate Care

As you begin to rework your hiring and firm practices with your candidates in mind, the central theme of empathy should be the thread that runs throughout your hiring process, as this is what virtually all job seekers are looking for at the end of the day.

Show your candidates you have their best interests in mind and are invested in delivering the right level of support at every stage of the application process, by implementing strategies for better candidate care. This could involve simplifying interview processes to enhance accessibility through the option of flexible interview locations or the use of screen readers during assessments. This could be especially ideal if you’re looking to hire remote and hybrid employees.

Remember to implement and establish channels of communication with your candidates throughout the hiring process too. Regular communication is key to a good candidate experience.

3. Refine Your Employer Brand

Your employer brand is what gives your law firm the edge over the competition in your search for legal talent. It’s how you ensure you appeal to candidates with what your firm has to offer, whether that be an excellent salary and benefit options, a sense of purpose, shared values or great career development opportunities.

Despite its recognised importance in any successful hiring endeavour today, many law firms still struggle to utilise it effectively to position themselves in front of their target audience. If you find yourself questioning the efficacy of your brand, then a good starting point will be to define what makes people actually want to work with you. Ask your team members what convinced them to continue with your firm, and what they find most appealing about working there.

  • Do you have a supportive leadership team?
  • Does your firm offer excellent opportunities for professional development and growth?
  • Does it foster an employee-centric culture that eliminates many of the problems legal professionals encounter in the workplace, such as burnout?

Once you know what makes your business unique, the next step is to get it publicised as much as possible.

Don’t forget that existing employees can help here – particularly those that are engaged and are already good advocates for the business and brand.

By giving them a voice to provide prospective candidates with insights into the employee experience, you add much more credibility to your message and get the attention of the right individuals. Use testimonials, success stories and positive feedback to your advantage and make them known on social media as often as possible to expand your reach.

4. Review Your Digital Footprint

Establishing a compelling employer brand is pivotal for attracting top legal talent, but its effectiveness hinges on strategic exposure to the right audience. A strong digital presence is essential for any law firm in the industry today. Presently, approximately 86% of job seekers incorporate social media into their job search, and prospective legal candidates frequently turn to the web for insights into a firm’s culture through reviews.

Ensuring that your website provides an insider’s perspective on your business operations is crucial for the credibility and authenticity of your employer brand. Clearly articulate your values, mission statement, and vision to engage the interest of potential candidates while maintaining a consistent presence across the social channels frequented by your target candidates. Don’t forget to assess and update your appearance on job review boards too.

5. Spark the Interest You Want Through Your Job Descriptions

Your job descriptions are one of the first things potential candidates will examine when deciding whether they want to work with you. With this in mind, it’s important to ensure you’re conveying the right information. Don’t make the mistake of putting off talented legal employees by listing too many unnecessary or “preferred” skills.

Highlight only the characteristics and qualities you know you’re going to need most. At the same time, make sure you’re avoiding any language in your descriptions that may show unintentional bias towards a specific audience.

When writing your descriptions, don’t forget to showcase reasons why your candidates might want to work for you. Draw attention to your unique company culture, your salary package, and even the available training opportunities in place.

More help to ensure these turn the heads of the right people can be found here.

6. Bring in the Experts

When it comes to attracting legal talent, undoubtedly the best tool you can possibly have in your arsenal is the services of an expert in the field – one that takes the time to understand your firm’s business needs, and acts with your best interests at heart, while giving you the support you need at every step of the process. This is what makes the expertise of a legal recruitment partner so invaluable for hirers as not only can they position your business in front of the right legal candidates – a task becoming increasingly harder by the day in today’s market – but they also work with you to build a talent pipeline and ensure your recruitment process remains efficient and effective even when not actively hiring.

Amongst several other benefits that come with such partnerships, perhaps one of the most beneficial is that the longer you work with them, the better they can understand the needs of your firm, and the better the fit and quality of candidates they can find for your business as a result.

At Clayton Legal, we work with law firms such as yours to make this a reality, no matter the staffing requirement asked of us, and are committed to adding real value to the businesses that partner with us for their hiring needs. Our team make it their mission to ensure you get nothing less than the support and the talent you need to make your recruitment endeavours successful – and are on hand to provide guidance throughout the process wherever necessary.

If you are currently weighing up your options and feel that your hiring efforts could do with a little extra help from a recruitment expert then there is no better time than now to get in touch with our team for an informal chat about how we could help. Give us a ring on 01772 259 121 today or contact us here.

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.

Share This Post

banner image

Navigating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Blueprint for Law Firms

  • December 15, 2023

Workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion, commonly abbreviated as DEI, encompass the establishment of policies and procedures that actively promote the representation and involvement of individuals from diverse backgrounds, including varying genders, races, ethnicities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, disabilities, and social classes.

Creating an inclusive workplace culture has been high on the agenda of many businesses in the last few years and the benefits around this are much publicised – from aiding employee recruitment, engagement, and retention, to innovation, strategic growth, and performance of the business more widely.

In the context of law firms, embracing DEI principles is not merely a moral imperative, but arguably a strategic necessity. The legal profession, like any other, benefits immensely from a diverse array of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. In a multicultural and pluralistic society such as the UK, ensuring representation and inclusion in law firms is paramount to building trust, credibility, and legitimacy within the broader community.

Law firms that prioritise DEI initiatives are better positioned to address the diverse needs of their clients, who themselves come from various walks of life. A diverse legal team enhances the capacity to understand and navigate the intricacies of complex legal issues, thereby promoting a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to problem-solving. Moreover, fostering an inclusive environment within law firms is essential for attracting and retaining top talent from all backgrounds, ensuring that the legal profession reflects the rich tapestry of the society it serves.

The benefits are clear – and widely acknowledged across the legal landscape, but does that necessarily translate into actionable and implementable practices?

Arguably not…or at least, not at the moment.

A National Scandal?

Back in September 2023, Matthew Hill, the Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board (LSB), addressed the issue of diversity at the Law Society’s Junior Solicitors Network summit, asserting that the lack of diversity at partnership level in major law firms should be a matter of ‘national scandal’.

While discussing the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), Hill emphasised that the new centralised assessments were not intended to instantly resolve all diversity issues. Instead, he highlighted the broader concerns of attracting individuals to the legal profession and making the legal career path universally appealing. Hill identified existing working practices within law firms, such as informal strategy planning in exclusive settings, as hidden barriers for individuals from diverse backgrounds. He called for increased transparency in progression and promotions, urging a re-evaluation of how seniority is perceived in the legal profession, emphasising the need for a more sophisticated model that captures the diverse richness of professional experience.

A recent article in the Law Gazette similarly highlighted that whilst the intake of trainees from a mix of racial, gender and socio-economic backgrounds has improved in recent years – the legal profession still faces huge challenges in retaining its diverse cohort – especially when it came to a seat ‘at the top table’ and making DEI a strategic management decision.

How Diverse Is the Legal Profession? Current State of Play

According to the latest data published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in the United Kingdom at least, there has been a slow but steady increase in diversity among all lawyers since the previous survey in 2021, although there is still some way to go with certain diversity groups and categories.

Ethnic lawyers constitute only 18% of the law firm lawyer population, and the disabled make up just 5%, in contrast to the 14% representation in the overall UK workforce. While there have been some advancements in the US, similar patterns have emerged; the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) citing that although 28% of law firm associates belong to minority groups, only 11.4% ascend to partner positions.

While the lack of diversity and equal opportunities remains a significant topic of discussion in the legal industry today, it is not a new challenge. In fact, calls for enhanced diversity date back to 2008. As awareness among legal professionals regarding the significance of working for firms that advocate diversity increases, coupled with a growing client demand for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the question looms: How will law firms choose to address this issue?

DEI – A Recap

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a term used to describe policies and programmes that promote the representation and participation of different groups of individuals, including people of different ages, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, genders, religions, cultures, and sexual orientation.

Its significance in achieving long-term corporate success cannot be understated, as it forms an integral part of the firm culture that employees will be reliant on to achieve optimal performance. A good way to understand its role in business is to consider the following analogy depicted by former Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Michigan, Robert Sellers:

  • Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party
  • Inclusion means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist
  • Equity means that everyone has the opportunity to dance

This metaphor is an apt way of describing how DEI policies are to work in practice. The CIPD confirms that while U.K. legislation sets minimum standards overlaying disability, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, among others – an effective DEI strategy goes further than being legally compliant. DEI implementation is meant to unite the best interests of both employee and employer by supporting and promoting the wellbeing and engagement of the former, which in turn adds increased value to the latter.

DEI and Business Growth

The business case for diversity has been well-documented since the McKinsey reports produced on the topic in 2014. Their latest published report still confirms that the case remains strong, with a few key findings indicating that the connection between diversity on executive teams and financial outperformance has only strengthened over time. Some of them include the following:

  • Companies with more than 30 per cent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn, these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives or none at all
  • A substantial differential likelihood of outperformance—48 percent—separates the most from the least gender-diverse companies

All encouraging signs that show what is possible with enough support and focus.

However, while there is a profound awareness of the need to step up efforts in DEI, this growing imperative is not reflected in practice. The NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education revealed in 2021 that the overall attrition rate for associates was as high as 34% among legal professionals of colour. This was further corroborated by a research paper released by Thomson Reuters institute, which showed that women, minorities and LGBTQ+ associates represented the biggest flight risk for firms. Considering these are also groups that were found to struggle the most during the pandemic, this signifies a serious lack of impetus and action on the part of employers to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce.

While it is indeed logical to assume that law firms do want to attract diverse talent, based on the data previously mentioned and the skills shortage problem many are contending with, it does not take away from the fact that barriers to progress still remain among minority groups and that the homogeneous and straight-and-narrow way of recruiting is very much still a prominent amongst legal employers, which is in turn affecting their ability to attract and acquire the talent they need.

Demand For DEI Initiatives Driven By Workforce

Interestingly our changing workforce increasingly wants to join teams that embrace diversity. A post last year on the LinkedIn talent blog revealed that employers that posted more about diversity received 26% more applications from women for example.

This data backs up The Psychological contract concept that first emerged in the 1960s related to our beliefs and expectations of our employers, confirming that employees want to work for employers with good practices where they also feel valued.

According to research from US firm, Eagle Hill Consulting circa 53% of workers stated that a company’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives play a key role in their decision about where to work. Yet only 29% of employees say their current employer has taken additional action to demonstrate a commitment to DEI in the past six months.

Fairness and equality are becoming ever more important amongst the Gen Z demographic cohort specifically – with research demonstrating that 77% of Gen Z consider it important that their company supports diversity.

Similarly, the latest research from YouGov, which looks specifically at attitudes of employees in Great Britain on the topic of DEI, found that two-thirds of working Britons (66%) said that the acceptance and inclusion of employees of all backgrounds is important to them when considering job opportunities – especially since a ‘substantial proportion of respondents’ had faced some sort of discrimination in the workplace themselves.

Looking specifically at the role of DEI in recruitment terms, Sandra Kerr CBE (race director of Business in the Community), pressed the point that businesses don’t “underestimate the importance of strong diversity and inclusion policies for jobseekers”. She also pointed out that “employers could miss out on potential talent if they do not ensure that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to grow and progress at their organisation,”

A stark warning indeed – particularly given the ongoing challenges around hiring talent and other variables such as a skills shortage and inertia to contend with.

Developing Your DEI Strategy

So, where do you start when it comes to developing a DEI strategy for your law firm? Conducting a sense check on your current practice is always a good idea, especially in light of remote and hybrid teams.

There is a well-versed quote from the personal development world that what you focus on grows. The converse is true. Perhaps the last couple of years have meant DEI, and its implementation has taken a back seat in your firm. We know from the latest headlines that the defined role of the ‘Chief Diversity Officer’ is waning, and there is more generally an exodus of DEI practitioners in businesses across all sectors.

And whilst this may, in part, have been driven by recessionary pressures or simply attrition, companies do concede that DEI in the workplace is still ‘mission critical’.

As recommended by Stephen Covey, the start needs to focus on the ‘end’ that the business has in mind. Assess your current state and where your desired state will be.

Your overall strategy needs to cover patterns in your ‘workplace’, whether that be remote or hybrid working; communication, both the what and the how; your L & D process and finally, how you will review your progress as you reinforce that your firm is the inclusive place to develop the legal career of it’s people.

Creating a more diverse and inclusive culture within law firms requires deliberate actions. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Recognise and Counter Bias – Promote self-awareness among team members by providing training on recognising and countering bias. Encourage reflection and learning about each other’s backgrounds, circumstances, and personal stories. Regular gatherings, whether in person or virtual, can facilitate open discussions and promote a more inclusive environment.
  2. Foster an Inclusive Internal Culture – Establish a culture that encourages open conversations about diversity and inclusion. Create opportunities for diverse groups within the firm to have a say in developing solutions. Have a clear plan in place to address bias and diversity issues, ensuring that every employee feels safe and heard.
  3. Embrace Inclusive Leadership – Leaders within the firm should embody inclusive practices and lead by example. Encourage leaders to listen to diverse perspectives and create opportunities for marginalised groups to thrive. Inclusive leadership sets the tone for the entire organisation and fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion.
  4. Utilise Data to Drive Progress – Measure the success of diversity initiatives by tracking relevant data and metrics. Setting clear metrics and goals allows firms to assess what is working and what needs improvement, and ultimately makes them accountable – especially when shared with all staff throughout the firm in question.
  5. Create an intentional hiring plan – If your goal is to foster law firm diversity and inclusion, then there must be a laser sharp focus on how this is considered when it comes to hiring new talent for your firm. The plan in question should, of course, fully align with your vision and objectives, but also needs to consider any potential for implicit bias when screening and evaluating candidates for the role(s).

On that last point, research from Resources For Employers highlighted that 56% of the Business and HR professionals surveyed said they did have initiatives relating to DEI in their recruitment strategy. And, whilst 24% said they didn’t, there were plans to put these in place.

The benefits of DEI in recruitment are clear, although implementation can be challenging. There may be unconscious bias at play, a general lack of diversity awareness within the hiring team or senior management, inconsistent measurement or evaluation, or simply a resistance to change.

Collaboration and partnership with a legal recruitment specialist may offer some assistance here – especially one that has a good understanding of your market, practice area, and region, and who has an extensive network of engaged candidates to approach about your role(s). Recruitment consultants can offer meaningful steps in the process including screening and helping to craft job descriptions for optimum success, and those worth their weight in gold will also abide by ethical recruitment practices and standards to ensure the highest standards of professionalism, fairness, and transparency is key.

Conclusion

The importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace cannot be overstated in today’s globalised and diverse workforce. A commitment to DEI not only aligns with ethical principles but also brings numerous benefits to organisations, including improved innovation, employee satisfaction, and overall business performance – as well as in the attraction and retention of top talent.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are not just buzzwords or indeed an acronym to promote and mention on the company website. They are essential components of a thriving and forward-thinking legal firm who understands that they must actively embrace these principles to ensure a fair, just, and representative legal landscape more widely. By adopting inclusive practices, fostering diverse talent, and committing to continuous improvement, law firms can lead the way in promoting a more inclusive and equitable future for the legal profession in the United Kingdom.

 

About Clayton Legal

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

Share This Post

banner image

Bridging The Gap In A Skills Short Market For Law Firms

The legal industry is experiencing change at a remarkably rapid pace. The last few years have ushered in a transformative period that will come to define the future of the legal landscape in later years. Amongst the many developments we have seen emerge in the past few years, such as the gradual shift towards greater flexibility in the work life of legal professionals, the incorporation of AI technology into legal and hiring practices and the transition of the industry away from established traditional norms comes a particularly pertinent point of discussion – and contention – one that has (and will continue to) influenced how law firms will operate in years to come: The well-documented skills shortage experienced by law firms across the market.

It’s no secret to anyone keeping tabs on how the industry has fared since the pandemic from a hiring perspective, with redundancies, and a resulting candidate-led market just a few of many defining features of the post-covid era. Much has been written about its impact on business performance, and in particular, recruitment, as law firms large and small face a lot of difficulty today in acquiring the talent and expertise they need, due to a variety of factors at play.

Why is there a Skills Shortage?

Some of these said factors are simply a direct consequence of the pandemic, as businesses across the world of work have struggled to keep their head above water amidst a multitude of challenges such as economic turmoil and changing regulations, which has led to a sharp increase in client demand for legal services, one that law firms are buckling under the pressure to meet. Last year UK law firms were reported to have advertised over 2,300 jobs for London-based associates between January and November the year before – a whopping 131% increase on 2020’s numbers – but struggle to actually fill them.

And with the increasing effort to expand workforces to address this issue, comes an inevitable squabble for the top legal talent on the market, leading to stiff competition between law firms for the same candidates and consequently the difficulty in recruiting we see amongst businesses today. Chris Sullivan, head of Clifford Chance’s London private equity division echoed this sentiment: “The hires we are making are about growing our business to meet client demand…The aim is to grow our headcount and given the demand we’re seeing I wouldn’t put a cap on that. It is certainly a very competitive market for talent, there’s no question.”

Law firms are consequently plugging the gaps with an attempt to turn the heads of legal professionals with much-improved remuneration packages, including ‘retention bonuses’, offered to those wanting to leave for a rival firm, and a host of other benefits now known to be in high demand amongst candidates, such as flexible working arrangements. Such a shift from practices expected of legal employers in hiring points to another reason the fight for talent is so intense, and that is the changing needs and priorities of legal candidates.

Partly borne out of the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic, the idea of flexible working has quickly become a staple in the list of demands of candidates today, due to a greater need for better work-life balance in such turbulent periods and is now expected to be part of any benefits package worth considering from legal employers. Hybrid and remote working have been warmly welcomed amongst legal professionals, and any idea of returning to a type of culture that, according to a recent article in Bloomberg,  pushed so many to leave for the sake of their well-being is firmly rejected. The rising demand for other desirables such as development opportunities, and a real sense of purpose that provides lasting satisfaction beyond a handsome salary, makes meeting candidate expectations while fulfilling business obligations a real challenge for law firms, especially considering how averse the industry is in general to changing established practices.

Perhaps one of the biggest drivers of change in the industry today, and a big reason for the skills gap, is its movement towards digital integration and a technology-centric approach to business. The pressure of rising costs and shrinking budgets on firms across the sector has pushed many to embrace the value that digital technology holds in streamlining legal procedures, improving productivity, and bolstering efforts to comply with data protection regulations, giving rise to the need for lawyers who are digital-literate and capable of adding such expertise to their value as a professional. As the legal industry has always held fast to its very straight-and-narrow approach to cultivating legal talent in terms of culture and education, there is now a lack of ‘business of law talent’ in the skillset of legal professionals, with ‘practice’ narrowing as the ‘business of delivering legal services’ expands.

Where is the Gap?

Amongst the most desired hard skills missing in the repertoire of candidates, cloud computing and cybersecurity rank the highest, and unsurprisingly too, considering the level of efficiency (collaboration and cost-wise), flexibility, and scalability the former offers firms looking to keep pace with increasing client demand and adapt to changing workloads. Hand in hand with that comes the necessity of ensuring client data privacy and security can be maintained across cloud-based systems, (especially considering this is a sticking point with the use of such technology) explaining the high demand for competence in cybersecurity. With the world shifting towards a digital-oriented way of working over the last couple of years, the skills gap present in firms and general counsel in this area, is increasingly striking. A 2021 EY CEO Imperative Survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of respondents (which comprised of business leaders and senior legal officers) admitted that they lacked the data and technology required to respond to a data breach. Sixty-eight percent of General Counsels stated that they lacked access to accurate, real-time info on their legal entities, highlighting a real lack of confidence from GCs in their ability to handle increasingly complex corporate risk management.

With GDPR in the EU a big driver of the use of technology amongst firms, and GDPR regulations tightening the noose around businesses failing to comply, the need to ensure client data security, as well as competence in risk management, has never been more evident for employers active in the hiring market for legal talent.

However, a notable by-product of the industry’s sudden shift towards digital technology is the difficulty of younger candidates stepping into the profession during the post-pandemic era in building core soft skills essential for career success, leading to a soft skills gap in the today’s talent pool. Many will be well aware of how the divide in digital literacy has created multiple issues in building and maintaining relationships – personal or professional – over the last few years. As consultant and psychologist Kim Tasso eloquently put it, those who missed out on acquiring these key skills while the world grappled to cope with the impact of Covid and lockdown now find themselves playing catch-up.

So what exactly is missing when it comes to soft skills?

At the top of employers’ lists when looking at an ideal skillset for advancing employees is attention to detail according to research conducted by Business Name Generator, with more than a quarter of respondents within the legal industry stating it was the most important skill to have in the workplace. Self-motivation came in close second, with 22% highlighting the need for it in a new recruit’s repertoire, and this was further echoed by Kim Tasso in her piece on what soft skills legal professionals will need this year: “Set goals…and keep these goals front of mind. You will need to constantly check them against data and evidence to see if you are still on track; and know when it might be appropriate to revise or update them.”

Communication & Emotional Intelligence

One important skill, however, that atrophied in many due to the nature of the pandemic era is communication – both verbal and non-verbal. It’s no secret to any aspiring legal professional the importance of active listening, good conversational skills and confidence when interacting with peers, colleagues and clients, as it is a non-negotiable for key areas of the profession such as client and relationship management, effective networking, and conflict resolution. The ability to present cases and ideas persuasively, whether through a Zoom call or in front of hundreds of conference delegates, is indispensable for any legal professional who wants to be taken seriously.

Even more important for things like effective client management is the awareness of and ability to pick up non-verbal communication cues such as body language and facial expressions, particularly when cultural barriers are involved. As it comprises the vast majority of overall communication, it can and often is the difference between a closed deal with a client or a major career opportunity, and a failing endeavour to achieve lasting success on an individual and corporate level.

Another highly sought-after trait that comes hand-in-hand with, and actually facilitates excellent communication is a high EQ (emotional intelligence). As the single biggest predictor and strongest driver of leadership and excellence, it is also a must for employers to have among their legal teams in abundance. This can be broken down into several different skills: self-control (ability to understand one’s emotional triggers and manage one’s own emotions), empathy (ability and desire to recognise and understand the emotions of others), and the aforementioned self-awareness (ability to recognise our own emotions, and impact on others).

While these are already highly relevant and desirable, they are set to become even more so in future for employers as the industry continues embracing the value of digital and AI technology in streamlining processes and automating more mundane, non-complex tasks. With this highly likely to lead to a big jobs slash across the legal sector, ‘what will be left is the capacity to deal with human beings’, as Fuller stated in HBS’s publication Working Knowledge. Only the high value, complex or newest areas of law will need human input, among which will inevitably be client and relationship management, pointing to an even greater rise in demand for legal talent with a well-developed set of soft skills in the near future, something that Fuller also emphasises in the above publication: “Bosses will be hungry for good judgement, strong motivation and the ability to collaborate and articulate a vision.”

It is therefore concerning that, despite efforts to attract the candidates of today, businesses are failing to hire on a permanent basis, and are at risk of becoming oblivious to the gold mine of talent right beneath their feet due to the issue of inflexibility still present in the hiring practices of many firms today. It’s one thing for a skills gap to be present due to a lack of candidates available in the current talent pool with the desired kind of profile, and another thing entirely for such a profile to be the actual reason there is a perceived skills gap in the first place. According to a report from Harvard Business School and Accenture, there is a huge pool of skilled hidden workers shut out of employment by inflexible working requirements established by companies.

Just under a third of respondents of a survey conducted by Managing the Future of Work stated that they are only able to work part-time due to caregiving obligations, a reason highlighted as the ‘single biggest driver’ of hidden talent by Fuller in HBS’s publication. With 91% of that number being women – who are said to have better social skills in general – and this preference for flexible working set to only grow amongst candidates, the inability to show ample flexibility when it comes to working arrangements in the legal industry poses a major threat to the hiring efforts and overall success of firms unwilling to budge, especially considering what the future looks like from a business perspective.

In light of this, it is, although expected, prudent to ask oneself: How do employers combat the ongoing skills shortage to avoid a grim trajectory and futureproof their tomorrow? To answer that there are a few things you must consider:

Work-Life Balance: The Cornerstone of Individual – And Corporate Success

Starting with the most obvious but perhaps least straightforward aspect of the solution, the relaxing of stringent rules around working arrangements is very much the way to go for any law firm serious about standing out to today’s candidates. This isn’t just a matter of policy, but a cultural shift that should be embraced internally. With research increasingly indicating that employees able to achieve a better work-life balance are more productive, the priority a firm places on its workers’ wellbeing is evidently inextricably linked to the level of corporate success they see. This is the first step any business is advised to take when struggling to recruit, as it not only makes your accessibility to talent looking for a supportive culture far higher but also enables you to better facilitate their success.

What will determine the amount of value you get out of these decisions, however, is the prep work you do internally – that is, the commitment you show to building that kind of culture in your firm. Yes, what this will look like will differ slightly from individual to individual and it is multifaceted in nature but the most important rule to follow is communication with both your employees and leadership team. You should aim to have regular, frank and open conversations about what kind of culture you wish to establish and what every employee can do to help the business do that. This might be easier said than done, but there are steps you can take to make every candidate sure that you are an accommodating employer when it comes to culture.

This doesn’t just apply to working arrangements. Candidates are more discerning about where they work when it comes to career development and work culture, as this plays a large part in career satisfaction and work-life balance. Considering the nature of the problem at hand it is in your best interest to prioritise and invest in an employee development plan to upskill your workforce and ensure they are well-equipped to thrive in their roles in order to shield your business from the impact of a skills shortage and mitigate the problems it can cause down the line.

Setting Your Employer Brand Apart

Once these boxes have been ticked, the groundwork has been laid for your employer brand to shine. Taking a proactive approach to changing the culture and practices of your firm ensures it has the platform it needs to position the firm as one that values and invests in its workforce. In an age where the candidate experience is more important than ever, it’s imperative that you not only have an established employer value proposition but are also capable of communicating it effectively and convincingly to candidates. We break down how to build a winning employer brand in this guide here.

Your Personal Reservoir in a Talent Drought

The value that a specialist legal recruiter holds for firms running dry in their search for talent cannot be understated. With access to a wide pool of candidates, active or passive, a profound insight into current market trends and changes at every level, and a commitment to understanding the hiring needs of your firm, they are your ultimate ally in navigating a talent drought and staying competitive in a harsh climate. By simplifying what is often such an expensive and time-consuming process for hiring managers, they help to save your firm two of its most valuable resources, while ensuring you get the skills and the talent your business needs to thrive and excel.

That’s why our team at Clayton Legal are on hand – we take the stress and complications out of recruitment for your firm so that you can focus on what really matters. If you feel that the time has come to make an important hiring decision regarding your team, get in touch with us here.

Next Steps

If you would like to speak to us confidentially about market conditions, opportunities in your practice area or geographical region, or if you are actively looking for a role and would like us to help give you that competitive edge, we would love to speak to you – especially if you have your heart set on a new challenge for the new year.

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.

Share This Post

Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

banner image

Why Every Law Firm Needs an Employee Development Plan

What legal professionals look for in an employer has changed significantly since the pandemic, with work-life balance being the theme that has taken centre stage in job discourse amongst legal candidates. As the importance of employee satisfaction has grown massively in recent years – whether that be in the form of hybrid working or strong DEI practices – the value of career fulfilment has become a staple part of the modern legal professional’s priorities when searching for the ideal employer. 

Today it’s not at all uncommon for employees to be left with a lingering sense of stagnation after spending a few years building their skills in their current role, and consequently view the option of jumping ship as the only way to experience real progress in their career, in part due to the negligence of their employers to ensure their continued growth with a long term development plan of any sort.

The resulting high turnover rate is what has brought the idea of Employee Development Plans into focus for law firms, as it provides a range of solutions that can benefit all parties on an individual, collective and corporate level. Such plans centres on work-related skill development, and is owned by both the employee and the line manager. As a continuing process that is consistently and regularly reviewed and updated, an EDP should aim to ensure ongoing employability through improving the individual’s workplace soft and hard skills, and industry knowledge. A good plan will strive to create a series of actions designed to help the individual develop and grow within the context of their legal career, while also developing their capabilities and meeting the needs of the employer. 

 EDP: Goal & Objective

As mentioned above, the goal of Employee Development Plans is not just to meet the needs of the individual – when done right it should also help employers effectively tackle the problems that are brought about by a lack of professional and career growth, the biggest of which, is replacing key skills and people your team without having to invest so heavily. The difficulty of doing so in today’s market is no secret to any Hiring Manager or Partner and while utilising the services of a specialist legal recruitment agency can mitigate this, it is still very much advisable to eliminate other causes of persistent turnover issues by demonstrating a genuine commitment to your employees’ professional development. This in turn will create and facilitate a productive workforce that gives back that same level of commitment across the business because it: 

  • Meets their career/professional needs. 
  • Provides that sense of security and support they need from their employer to thrive as individuals. 

It also ensures your firm doesn’t constantly run the risk of being hit by a skills shortage, and helps avoid additional costs involved in recruiting, onboarding and training up new staff. 

 With the importance of an Employee Development Plan in a firm’s people strategy now established, let us look at what makes a great EDP. 

How To Create A Great Employee Development Plan 

 There are 6 key points to consider when mapping out Employee Development Plans, and although not exhaustive, are certainly a good place to start:

1. Where does the skill gap lie?

  •  Begin with an audit of the individual’s skills and see how their existing skillset aligns with the demands of their current role. You’ll want to consider how your clients’ needs have changed over time, what skills the role will demand of the individual in question and how the role will develop/evolve based on this. Knowing where the employee needs to be at the end of the training will enable you to measure progress, and gauge what the next step forward will be at each stage. 

 2. What training and development is required? 

  •  Leading on from the initial skills audit & your vision of the role, your next step should be to establish what the employee’s personal and professional goals are. This is important because it encourages them to develop a holistic view of their own growth. Remember that the goal at this stage is alignment between their professional goals and the business needs, and the best way to achieve this is to have employee buy-in right from the start. Having them understand their perspective on where their competencies, capabilities and flaws lie, as well as how to build a training plan that addresses all aspects of their growth makes them more likely to be invested in an EDP. 

 3. Building Your Action Plan: 

  •  The next area of focus should be the training itself – what training courses, qualifications or knowledge the employee will need. The 70/20/10 rule can prove helpful in this regard – 70% of learning should come from experience on-the-job, 20% from other colleagues and 10% from training and courses. This is important as it helps the individual avoid viewing the training as separate to their daily work lives. Any training scheduled should be built into the role itself or based on already established relationships with others. 

 4. Why this needs to be done: 

  • Transparency and communication of long-term goals helps to instil a sense of belonging and ownership in the employee. Making them aware of how their learning and development will benefit not only their own career but also the wider business can provide them with clear guidelines and focus on how they can contribute in their role. It will also give them a sense of place – how they fit into the firm as a whole – and help them build a sense of pride in their work. T his in turn will fuel productivity and accountability for their own progress in their training.  

5. When is it needed? 

  •  It is advisable for managers and employees to have agreed achievement milestones put into place. These can reflect the overall aims of your legal firm where appropriate. Monitor progress regularly to encourage and provide direction to the individual, and to show support on their journey. 

 6. How can progress be measured? 

  •  Methods for measuring training and development can be in the form of formal appraisals, informal meetings and open discussions. The method chosen may depend on the goal(s) and the timeliness set. For short-term training it may be appropriate to have a 1:1 with the employee at an agreed time (for example, after completion of a training course). For more long-term goals, or where several employees require the same upgrading of knowledge, it might be more beneficial to have an open discussion on progress. 

 Staying Ahead to Stay on Course 

 A regular and thorough review of the latest and most relevant, procedural and practice development processes is paramount to the continuity and eventual success of the EDP. Ensure you do your due diligence in establishing where training needs to be updated, improved or changed and don’t forget to change training needs as the requirements of your firm develop and expand. Encourage your employee to offer suggestions on where development needs should be considered and where the training can improve. Regular meetings to discuss and record progress, as well as reflect on what is and isn’t going well should be conducted to ensure smooth and successful progression. 

EDPs present a fantastic opportunity to address longstanding needs of both employees and employers and ensure lasting success through a continuous alignment with individual and practice progression. The long-term benefits are undeniable, as the value of having employee satisfaction from a real sense of involvement, and employer commitment and satisfaction shows in the effect a that skilled, up-to-date workforce – who are committed to your firm and are future-proofed – can bring to your firm. 

Of course, the entire process can be made much less of a burden – and significantly more successful – by getting the right hire through the door first time. The best EDP is no substitute for effective recruitment and as a business your best shot at maximizing the value of your EDP is to recruit individuals whose career goals and aspirations run parallel to those of your firm’s from the get-go.

That’s why our team at Clayton Legal are on hand – we take the stress and complications out of recruitment for your firm so that you can focus on what really matters. If you feel that the time has come to make an important hiring decision regarding your team, get in touch with us here. 

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 guide here.

Share This Post

Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

banner image

The (Real) Cost Of Getting Your Hiring Wrong

  • September 26, 2023

In the last few years, and notably since the pandemic, the hiring landscape across the legal sector has presented a number of challenges.

Some firms were forced down a redundancy route, whilst others, despite the appetite and budget to grow, were met with an apathetic talent pool and skills shortage.

What is a common challenge for all businesses, almost irrespective of market conditions, is the importance of getting hiring decisions right – the first time.

That said, with competition for the best legal talent on the market the fiercest it’s ever been, the time, resources and money spent on training a new hire make the investment stakes in recruitment & onboarding far too high for the hire in question to underperform. Not only does this put your firm in the awkward position of restarting that recruitment process to look for a replacement, but it also means that possibly more time & resources will need to be spent to avoid such an issue the second time round.  

 Here we look at the real cost of a bad hire in the current market and what you as an employer can do to mitigate any risks in your recruitment process. 

The Consequences of a ‘Bad’ Hire

Fact – making the wrong hiring decision costs your firm money. 

What is shocking is not only the number of poor hiring decisions that are made but how little hiring managers are aware of the true cost involved, especially considering how cut-throat the legal market has become in a post-pandemic era. According to a study done by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, 85% of HR decision-makers admitted their company had hired someone who was not right for the job and despite 33% of businesses not believing it to cost their business anything, it was found in the same report that a poor hire at manager-level with a salary of £42k can cost a business over £132k – more than 3 times the person’s annual salary – when factoring in costs for training, onboarding and more. 

Due to the growth of the legal sector in certain areas, some law firms have struggled to find the right talent to meet their needs – which has led to a lot of rushed hiring decisions and consequently, an uphill struggle to adequately replace them. When considering how much time & resources are wasted on a bad hire, how much it takes to find and recruit a new one and the risk factor that virtual interviews and onboarding processes now bring into the equation, having to replace a bad hire is far too costly a venture for firms to make in 2024. 

The key is finding the right candidate for your vacancy who not only ticks the boxes in relation to the role, but who will also fit in with the existing team, who can envisage a long-term future with you, and who has room (and the desire) to grow professionally. 

Hiring In The New World – What to Hire for Now?

It starts with establishing what you are looking for in your legal hire, what they are looking for from you and how you are going to find a sizeable overlap between the two. Only when this occurs will you get the right ‘fit’ – the ideal candidate that wants to stay and build their career at your firm. 

However, as you will likely have noticed by now, what legal candidates are looking for has changed somewhat. Flexible and hybrid working now sits near the top of their priority lists as the value of an employer that can offer such arrangements is now very apparent, considering the positive impact it has been shown to have on employee performance due to a greater work-life balance.   

Additionally, with candidates now in a time where they are always connected enough to express as well as access a range of opinions however and whenever they wish, they are now increasingly looking for firms with a strong employer brand. Thus, in an industry where reputation rules, how your firm comes across on a cultural level to the average candidate is now more important than ever. With increased importance placed on DEI and an imperative now placed on employers to support candidates on all sides of the neurodiversity spectrum, how your employer brand positions your firm to compete beyond things like remuneration and job titles and offer such candidates something more, now becomes the difference between a great hire and a bad one. 

If you aren’t making the ‘right’ offer to legal talent, you will find your applicant shortlists filled with candidates who don’t meet your expectations. When the time comes to make a hiring decision, the chance of you making the ‘wrong’ recruitment decision will then be significantly higher due to your reduced talent pool both in terms of volume and ‘quality’. 

If you want to know what turns heads amongst candidates, and how to rework your hiring practices to better bridge that gap between what candidates want and what you offer, check out our guide on how to tap into what legal candidates today are looking for.

The Importance of Head-Turning Job Ads to Do The Heavy Lifting

When it comes to your hiring requirements, and the importance of getting the attention of the right legal talent the first time around, how your job descriptions are written is key. Despite how much the hiring landscape has evolved in recent years, legal candidates still rely on engaging and effective job descriptions to determine which role is the best fit for them personally and professionally.  

 Your job descriptions should not only be informative about the role but should also be easily accessible, communicate your EVP clearly, be transparent about the candidate experience during and after hiring and ensure inclusivity in all stages of the hiring process. It’s also important to consider whether the skills and personality traits you usually look for in your employees have changed. Many legal specialisms have exploded since the pandemic, you may want to ensure your job adverts aren’t alienating the right legal talent with hyperbolic language or setting rigid and unnecessary requirements that can deter otherwise well-suited candidates. 

Mitigating The Risk By Enlisting The Help Of Experts

Whilst the hire/no-hire decision ultimately comes down to the firm in question, using the services of a specialist legal recruiter will also help to ensure that only the right candidates are short-listed from the get-go. Not only will using a 3rd party save time – especially in the early stages of reviewing CVs and applications, you will also have access to passive talent; widening the net and ensuring that the role(s) in question are visible to a much larger talent pool.

What’s more, many agencies also offer retained services as well as contingency, with additional features designed to impact the likelihood of a successful outcome.

This model is often more rigorous in nature and may include additional features such as:

  • Bespoke market mapping
  • Salary benchmarking intel
  • Psychometric testing
  • Video interviews and candidate profiling
  • Dedicated Account Manager or team of specialist consultants<
  • Regular face-to-face updates and reporting/analysis
  • Strategic headhunting
  • Integrated marketing campaigns including advertising

Whilst there is no absolute guarantee that your new hire won’t leave through utilising a recruitment agency, the belt-and-braces approach and additional screening will undoubtedly help to mitigate that risk.

Finally

Often, we hear responses of 70-75% retention said with pride but we’d ask you to turn this statistic upside down – and consider the direct impact that 25-30% is actually having on your bottom line. Therefore, we’d encourage you to make use of our True Cost of Hiring Calculator, particularly if you have hired legal professionals in the last 12 months, and have unfortunately found that some have left before their 1-year anniversary. The presentation of your results and accompanying report contains a wealth of information to further demonstrate why getting that fit right first time is imperative. 

Remember that if you want to avoid making the wrong hire, you need to find candidates who are truly a great fit, not someone who will be looking for a new role in a few months. 

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 perhaps have had your fingers burnt by a bad hire in the past, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

 

Share This Post

banner image

Is Having a PSL An Advantage for Your Law Firm?

  • August 30, 2023

One factor that all businesses face at some point in their future, is the potential disruption that comes with a key individual leaving – be that for another role, or as they head towards retirement.

And whilst you hopefully have a succession plan and strategy in place ready to put into action, realistically it could take several weeks or months before you find a suitable candidate that fits the bill on all fronts.

Enlisting the help of a specialist legal recruiter will no doubt pay dividends here, and as part of your overall hiring strategy, is key to ensure you kick start the process and find a suitable candidate as soon as possible. This is of particularly importance if the leaving employee will directly impact the bottom line with their impending departure.

But if you only hire every now and again, you will also have to go through the process of researching which agency is the most suitable. Which has a good reputation in the market? Which are likely to have a ready talent pool of individuals? Which offer the most ‘value’ when it comes to their fees and terms of business? This in itself can take much-needed time and a concerted effort to ensure the agency/agencies fully understand your firm, and your hiring requirements.

An alternative scenario?

Whilst the impact of a key individual leaving will still be felt by the firm, you may be in a position as a business where the first step is to refer to your Preferred Supplier List (PSL). Depending on your prior relationship, the process is likely to be much-simplified, whereby you make contact and are instantly connected to a recruiter who knows you, your firm, your ethos and exactly what you need.

They may even have someone in the pipeline already who’s ideal for you.

Which of the above scenarios do you prefer to be in?

When you’re busy running your own law firm, we know all to well that time is often, money – and is a scarce resource in itself. Streamlining processes, without compromising on your requirements or cutting corners is key – and establishing a PSL may prove invaluable to get the best out of your hiring efforts.

In this blog, we look at the many benefits it can provide:

Time-Saving

We’re sure you’re well aware of how time-consuming and exhausting looking for the right candidate can be, and this is firstly, and perhaps most obviously, where having a PSL can be advantageous, as it will help to save you a potentially inordinate amount of time in the whole process – especially as you will have built up that trust with the recruiting agency already.

A good legal recruiter will have the network connections, industry knowledge and insider information on candidate movement in your specific practice area and/or region. They should also have a talent pool of passive candidates not presently searching for roles, but are already engaged and have built up their own trust of the recruitment brand as a credible resource when that sentiment changes.

Agencies will also have a wider awareness of your competitors – who are hiring in the same space/practice area, and are on a growth trajectory or looking to back-fill roles where individuals have left.

Having this at the fingertips helps to speed up the entire process and eliminate potential sources of stress for your recruitment team. Additionally, your PSL will provide you with a list of pre-approved agencies who have already committed to an agreed rate and service level, so there will be no need for further lengthy negotiations. As a result, what might take you weeks or even months to achieve can frequently be actioned in a matter of days.

Reduced Costs & Increased Value

Whilst recruitment costs are still a consideration, having a PSL in place can create a huge amount of value and a cost reduction for your firm in a number of ways.

With a PSL in place, organisations can significantly expedite the end-to-end process. Instead of starting from scratch with supplier evaluations and negotiations each time a need arises, they can turn to their trusted list of pre-approved suppliers, saving valuable time and resources.

Such agreements often enable organisations to negotiate favourable terms and pricing with their preferred agencies too – especially if there is a volume of hires required (and an exclusivity clause in place).

Having gone through a vetting and selection process prior, firms will also ensure a level of quality and reliability in the services they procure. In turn, this mitigates certain ‘risks’, ensuring that the agency in question adheres to legal, professional, and any regulatory standards – and ultimately negate the likelihood of costly disruptions down the line.

A Re-focus On Core Competencies

Embracing a Preferred Supplier List empowers law firms to redirect their invaluable internal resources towards honing and excelling in their core competencies – whether that’s in a HR or hiring capacity, or if lawyers themselves are involved in the wider process.

This strategic move frees them from the time-consuming and resource-draining tasks associated with advertising, CV reviewing, shortlisting, negotiation, and management of the process. As a result, teams can channel their expertise and energy into innovating, strategising, and delivering exceptional value to their clients and stakeholders.

In this way, a PSL becomes not just a cost-saving measure but a catalyst for organisational growth and excellence, ensuring that the firm remains agile and competitive in its chosen region and specialism.

Continuous Improvement In Your Supply Chain

PSLs offer a dynamic framework that goes beyond initial supplier selection and contract negotiation. They facilitate a culture of continuous improvement among suppliers. This ongoing process involves regular performance evaluations and feedback mechanisms that encourage suppliers to consistently enhance their quality and service levels.

Through periodic assessments and audits, law firms will identify areas where suppliers excel and areas in need of improvement. This data-driven approach allows for constructive dialogue, helping agencies continually understand the firm’s evolving needs and expectations.

The incentives for agencies to improve are multifaceted. First and foremost, maintaining a position on the PSL is typically contingent on meeting or exceeding predefined performance benchmarks. This competitive aspect motivates recruitment businesses to consistently deliver value and strive for excellence.

Moreover, the feedback loop in a PSL fosters innovation. Agencies will proactively propose new ideas, technologies, or process enhancements that can benefit the firm and impact the hiring strategy more widely. These innovations can lead to more efficient operations, cost savings, and better outcomes, all of which contribute to a stronger partnership all parties.

PSL Vs. Exclusivity

A PSL and an exclusivity agreement are two distinct but equally valuable arrangements that law firms can employ to optimise their supplier relationships and get the most out of these for a successful outcome; namely, a new hire that is a great fit on all fronts.

If a PSL is not a desired route, an alternative option would be an exclusivity or agreement granted to a single agency with exclusive rights to hire for a particular role/roles.

While both options offer advantages, they do serve different strategic purposes. A PSL provides flexibility by offering a range of pre-vetted options for various needs, promoting competition and potentially lower costs. Exclusivity agreements, on the other hand, foster deeper, exclusive partnerships with agencies, which can be beneficial when a specific hire is needed, ensuring consistency and a focused supplier relationship.

Ultimately, the choice between a PSL and an exclusivity agreement depends on the firm’s specific needs, priorities, and the nature of its supplier relationships. Both approaches aim to enhance efficiency, reduce risk, and create value, but they do so through different means.

In Conclusion

If you are responsible for hiring within your law firm – either wholly, or as part of your role as a practicing lawyer, one of the choices you have as part of your hiring strategy is whether you go it alone, or enlist the services of a recruitment specialist.

This decision may be based on a number of variables including £budget, speed (the need to get the position filled quickly), and the potential scarcity in the market of the hire(s) in question.

External factors may also impact the decision. The current market, still impacted by headwinds from the pandemic, is undeniably tough as we enter a new year against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and a much-publicised skills shortage. Attracting (and then retaining) talent can be arduous at the best of times, but balancing squeezed budgets, keeping existing staff engaged, and still focusing on growth and expansion is certainly a big ask for law firms who also have the ‘day job’ to do.

Consideration of a PSL, an exclusivity agreement, even a retained recruitment service is worth doing – each with their own unique benefits and advantages but all focused on a collaborative approach to sourcing the next hire for your 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.

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.

 

Share This Post

banner image

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.

Share This Post

banner image

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.

Share This Post

banner image

Succession Planning in Law Firms: It’s never too early…but don’t leave it too late

  • May 17, 2023

The COVID-19 Pandemic taught businesses many things. How to adapt (and quickly), how to navigate unchartered territories, and most of all, how to be as prepared as you can for the unexpected. Those businesses that had business disruption plans in place were naturally given a head start, while others arguably had their fingers burnt when the world turned upside down.

One factor that all businesses face at some point in their future, is the potential disruption that comes with a key individual leaving – be that for another role, or as they head towards retirement.

And it will undoubtedly be small and medium-sized boutique firms that are the most at risk from disruption as the required skill set and knowledge will be concentrated amongst a few key individuals.

Put simply, firms without a succession plan risk losing revenue, reputation, and relationships, and whilst it’s hard to find the time to plan for the future when you are busy running the day-to-day, putting a clear strategy in place will only help to protect the business when the time comes to put it into action further down the line.

Here we look at the 9 steps to take to start a succession plan for your law firm:

 

1. First things first: look for signs your key people are thinking of leaving

Legal professionals can choose to leave your firm for a variety of reasons. They may be looking for a new opportunity or challenge in their career, want to move into another area of law perhaps, or simply have become dissatisfied in their current role.

The first step to planning for the future is to be ever aware of the warning signs your top talent is thinking of leaving.

This might include:

  • Avoidance of long-term projects and growth
  • Visible signs of the stress connected to the role
  • Signs that the individual is not as creative or intuitive as usual
  • Performance is beginning to suffer

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.

If that is not an option, or all avenues have been exhausted and the individual has progressed to handing their notice in, you might want to consider step two…

 

2. Consider whether a counteroffer is the way forward

When you are faced with the prospect of losing a key individual from your law firm, it can be tempting to enter straight into negotiations to counteroffer. Not only can it be expensive to replace key people, it can also damage morale and affect client relationships. If there is a glimmer of light that the decision can be reversed, it is no surprise that many employers go down this route to mitigate any collateral damage.

However, business leaders should think twice before making a counteroffer as there are both pros and cons that should be considered.

There are times when negotiations are worth entering into, especially if that individual can still see a future at the firm, still finds the culture and working environment a ‘fit’, and any identified obstacles can be overcome.

However, if the counteroffer is based around salary expectations, take heed. Will offering an increase lead to an imbalance across the rest of the team? Will it start a snowball effect with other individuals? Can you actually afford the increase?

Finally, it is also worth noting at this point that any negotiations around encouraging a key individual to stay will not be relevant if the reason for leaving is retirement. However, with a presumed notice period that will be required in this instance, following the next steps are still key as that person works through those final months (or years).

 

3. Review your current team in depth

As a business leader – whether as a practicing solicitor or not, the structure of your business should always be reviewed periodically. Of course, you may have an ongoing hiring plan in place to fill certain ‘gaps’ or around a growth strategy as you increase headcount. But consideration should always be made around highlighting key individuals across the business that are likely to cause some element of disruption if they were to leave suddenly (either enforced by the firm or due to extenuating circumstances).

A good starting point would be to look at ‘vulnerable’ vs. ‘critical’ positions

  • Vulnerable = There is no identifiable successor. Risk is loss of functionality and knowledge as there is no obvious replacement.
  • Critical = A leaver in this category would significantly impact a firm’s operations. All leadership positions are critical by this definition – in particular CEO, CFO type roles.

Assuming you prioritise planning for the departure of these roles first, ask yourself if there is someone else in the business that can take on those responsibilities for example. What would happen to that individual’s clients or caseload? What clients are a flight risk and would potentially follow that individual to a new law firm?

These are the initial key questions when putting a succession plan in place: understanding the risks and ensuring that business continuity is key.

 

4. Develop your future leadership team

At any given point, having a pipeline of future leaders in the business is incredibly important – whatever the size and structure. Having clear progression paths in place is a good starting point so individuals can envisage their future at the firm, supported with robust training and upskilling where needed as part of the wider package of benefits and employee support.

When it comes to creating a succession plan, however, more careful consideration needs to be taken when assessing the exact skills and experience needed  – applicable whether you are planning to move people into that role from within or recruit externally.

You need to consider for example:

Key skills that may be lost  – If the individual leaving is a business leader or managing partner, these may not only be around their skills as a practicing lawyer. Business acumen, entrepreneurship, strong financial control, and managing a team are all essential skills that you would hope their successor would have. Above all, someone who has experience in change management would be ideal to take the business from its current state to a desired future state – executing change, mitigating risk, and minimising resistance.

SPOFs – ‘Single Point Of Failure’ – an acronym that originates in the world of IT, it refers to a component or part of a system that, upon failure, would cause the entire system to fail or significantly impact its operation. In business terms, therefore, you need to consider if any individuals have sole knowledge of a particular process or system or hold a set of critical skills that no one else in the business currently has. To see these, quite literally walk out of the door, may significantly impact your business, so ensuring that knowledge is shared is good practice.

Using notice periods to your advantage – if a successor has been identified, and there is a notice period for the leaving individual to serve, it may be worth considering if there is an opportunity for the two to work side-by-side for a period. Obviously, you will need to consider internal costs here and the impact on billing criteria if you have an individual mirroring a new role, but the time spent shadowing or preparing for the shift of responsibilities could be a sensible move in the long run.

 

5. Active management of client transitions

Unless the individual is leaving your firm because of retirement or to cease employment altogether for other reasons, there is always the risk of clients following that individual to one of your competitors.

So what can you do to mitigate the risk (and impact on your bottom line)?

Once again, the starting point is taking time to analyse your book of clients, particularly those who you would class as ‘high-value’. Do these have a team of people that you deal with regularly, or is it just one individual? Understanding these relationships is key, as is ensuring that all leads and client data is shared internally through your database or CRM.

If it is appropriate, ensure that the client has contact with a number of people within your firm, not just a single person. Regardless, open and transparent communication with your key clients is vital to uphold those valued relationships, maintaining service quality, and contribute to client satisfaction with the proposed changes ahead.

From an internal point of view, and if there is a formal transition in place between leaver and successor, make time to transfer knowledge about that client. This should be on a deeper level than the information found on a CRM or caseload platform. Ongoing projects, key individuals, processes, and how they like to do business are all vital nuggets of information that will equip the person taking over the relationship with the inside track over and above facts and figures on a much more personal level.

6. Creating an external comms plan that maintains stability

By now it is evident that clear communication to all stakeholders is a key part of continuity and succession planning. Creating a plan that also addresses ‘the market’ is also key here – particularly if the individual leaving is senior, a managing partner, or a CEO for example.

The objective of general external communications is to mitigate any potential damage to the firm’s brand and to reassure clients and potential clients about the continuity of service.

And, whilst a smooth and well-managed transition can have a positive impact on a firm’s brand, a poorly executed or mishandled succession process can actually tarnish its reputation.

Communicating future plans here is key – when people observe a well-prepared and seamless transition of key personnel, it instills confidence in the firm’s ability to maintain consistent service quality, fostering trust in the brand and reinforcing its reputation for reliability.

What’s more, succession planning allows a firm to strategically position itself by identifying and developing talent in specific practice areas or industries. By aligning succession plans with the firm’s strategic objectives, it can communicate its expertise and wider value proposition to clients and stakeholders. This further strengthens the firm’s brand reputation as a trusted authority in those areas of law.

 

7. Focus on internal communications and vision

Having a clear roadmap for the future; setting a vision and the steps in place to get there is crucial for any law firm, whatever their size or practice area. Engaging team members, ensuring efforts are aligned, and facilitating personal growth and development are key elements of successful internal communications.

When a key individual has given their notice to leave, it may very well lead to discontent and worry – albeit temporary – on the supposed disruption ahead. It’s therefore vital to be completely transparent with the remaining team about what plans are in place, and how they will affect the business in the short, medium, and long term.

Some key areas to focus on in your communications include:

Providing a clear roadmap ahead –  outline the future strategic direction particularly if this will change as the individual departs.

Engage in 2-way communication – encourage team members to share any concerns, thoughts, and ideas openly about what the future will look like.

Promote personal growth opportunities – ensuring the remaining team members can still see opportunities for their own growth, progression, and personal development is crucial.

Visualise the vision – where you can, make your firm’s vision tangible and relatable.  Use visual aids, and real-life examples to help team members connect on an emotional level.

Managing change communications is a critical aspect of successfully navigating organisational transitions and ensuring the smooth adoption of new initiatives and significant changes, including the departure of key individuals. Done well, this can help your remaining team transition with clarity, understanding, and engagement for the road ahead.

8. Consider hiring strategy as structure changes

Depending on the role in question, you may not want to hire someone external – rather, promote from within. This has clear benefits – these individuals are already a good fit for your firm, understand your tech stack and processes, and may already have fostered good relationships with key clients.

However, external hiring may be needed to back-fill the role of the successor for example. A shift around of roles and responsibilities internally inevitably leaves gaps somewhere – so consideration of what a revised or likely business structure should be taken to feed into a plan around hiring.

If you are responsible for hiring within your law firm – either wholly, or as part of your role as a practicing lawyer, one of the choices you have as part of your hiring strategy is whether you go it alone, or enlist the services of a recruitment specialist.

This decision may be based on a number of variables including £budget, speed (the need to get the position filled quickly), and the potential scarcity in the market of the hire(s) in question – but there are clear advantages to engaging early with a sector-specialist to give you a head start as you continue to focus on handovers and the transfer of knowledge of your departing employee.

9. Keep internal admin up to date

Job descriptions and the roles and responsibilities of individuals are likely to change over time – particularly if they progress along a defined career path, or the business changes and roles have to flex to accommodate those.

It is therefore prudent to keep documentation up to date to make it easier to recruit into that role when the time comes – be that from your internal talent pool or externally.

Even if the ‘new’ role may change with the departing individual, it at least allows you to benchmark and assess areas of the role that may need to pass to the successor.

And, ensuring that key processes are documented and shared internally is crucial if you don’t want to end up with SPOFs in the business who take that knowledge with them as they depart.

 

Conclusion

Whilst it’s not always the case that business leaders get a heads up on when the key individuals of their team are leaving, it is still worth having succession planning as part of the annual strategic review – particularly if a SWOT analysis is conducted where this could be classified as a very real threat to business-as-usual.

Where reasons for leaving are around retirement or taking a more permanent step back from current responsibilities, as much time to plan ahead should be taken. Using notice periods strategically to help document processes and pass the baton over to a suitable successor is time well spent.

And, if there is no one in the wings that look like they have the right skills and mindset to take on additional or alternative responsibilities, engaging with a trusted and reputable legal recruitment specialist as soon as you can is key to ensure you kick start the process and find a suitable candidate that is the right ‘fit’ from the outset.

Successful succession planning is about putting solid plans in place before key individuals leave – not scrambling to fill gaps and manage ripples of worry or discontent as they walk out of the door. And, as Vijay Parikh, Owner of Harold Benjamin Solicitors wrote recently for The Law Gazette whilst succession planning may not be something on many senior partners’ agenda, it is an absolute necessity, like any other future planning for a successful business.

In short, it’s never too early to start thinking about putting a strategy in place  – even if it only comes into force sometime in the future.

 

 

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.

Share This Post