In our work as legal recruiters, we talk to candidates every day about job opportunities and what they seek in a new position. Many times we actively solicit attorneys with niche practice areas for specific client needs and there are some firms we call first – because we know that job satisfaction at certain firms is low and highly qualified associates are eager for a new opportunity. But there are some firms where the job satisfaction is so high that associates rarely want to leave and won’t even consider a new opportunity, no matter how great it is.
To a law firm employer, this is a critical distinction worthy of attention! Firms make a considerable investment of time and money in their associates and they are more profitable when they can retain that investment. There are formal surveys in the marketplace with noteworthy information, which we discuss below. We also offer some insights anecdotally from the numerous conversations we have had with candidates over the years.
“For me, it’s been the collaborative work environment and an excellent mentor. I also have flexibility in my work schedule.”
Our top 7 list of what firms can do to increase job satisfaction and retain their associates:
- Offer training programs including how to network and how to build a book of business.
- Clearly communicate the timing and requirements of the partnership path.
- Develop basic skills regarding how to bill time, deal with clients and legal writing.
- Offer substantive work opportunities both inside and outside of the firm.
- Allow associates to interact with clients and build their business.
- Provide firm-wide retreats to build relationships with other lawyers in the firm.
- Allow for flexibility when possible to attend children’s events and work from home.
A 2013 annual survey revealed higher levels of job satisfaction in almost 10 years from mid-level associates. “Scores ticked up in all 12 of the areas that we use to measure job satisfaction, including the interest level of the work, compensation, training, partner/associate relations, and billable hours.” Read more: Leaning Out: The 2013 Associate Survey
Of note is the fact that the 2013 results were sharply divided between men and women, with men ranking higher satisfaction in almost every area and the likelihood of remaining on partnership tract with the firm. But that’s another blog topic in itself.
The Vault is a site we frequently hear about from candidates. It posts insider reviews about the inner workings of firms and often affects a candidate’s interest in a particular firm. The Vault also conducts an annual survey of “best places to work” and can be found here: Vault Announces the Best Law Firms to Work For. The Vault’s criteria is similar and weighed their results by Satisfaction (25%); Hours (10%); Compensation (10%); Business Outlook (10%); Substantive Work (10%); Associate/Partner Relations (5%); Transparency (5%); Formal Training (5%); Informal Training, Mentoring & Sponsorship (5%); Pro Bono (5%); Overall Diversity (5%); Career Outlook (5%).
“A company’s employees are its greatest asset and your people are your product.”
-Sir Richard Branson