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Why partners need to listen more to their fee earners

  • July 3, 2017

A new report by the research and information firm, LexisNexis, suggests that there could be a growing disconnect between partners in mid-sized firms across the UK and the front line fee earners that work for them.

The study – ‘Mind the Gap’ – found that partners tended to have a much more optimistic view of their firms than more junior lawyers. For example, 84% believed that their firm had a clear commercial strategy for the future, as opposed to just 62% of professional employees and 72% believed that the partnership was capable of ‘agile’ decision making as opposed just 52% of those further down the pecking order. Partners and more junior lawyers also disagreed on what should be the priority issue in 2016 with the former focused on review of information sources while the latter were crying out for more investment in processes and technology. Perhaps most worryingly, well over half of the partners not only disagreed with their employees but actually seemed to believe that no further attention needed to be paid to these areas.

So why does it matter and, furthermore, why is it of interest to a professional recruiter?

The reason is perhaps obvious. If the study is truly representative of UK law firms – at least those in the medium-sized bracket – then it does suggest that many leaders are not communicating with their people as effectively as they could be and are consequently not winning ‘hearts and minds’. And this is important because the logical result will be a lack of engagement that will impact on the day-to-day effectiveness of the business and raise levels of staff attrition.

It also makes it harder to attract and hire the sort of high-calibre legal talent that a practice needs in order to thrive in increasingly competitive markets. In our hyper-connected world, candidates will quickly pick up on any divergence of message and mission between partners and professional staff, and, in many cases, will respond by voting with their feet. A truly attractive employer brand can only be built on a healthy and open culture. And this, in turn, calls for effective, two way internal communication where goals and objectives are continually shared, rather than simply handed down from above.

Do you think there should be closer relationships between fee-earners and partners? Let us know your thoughts below.

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