Anyone who has worked in multiple law firms knows that every law firm has its own personality. As with people, some are positive and welcoming. Others are disappointingly cold and rigid. Perhaps most fall somewhere in between.
Firm administrators who are charged with hiring and retaining talent need to be realistic about the firm’s current personality. Additionally, however, they must be willing to take the lead in making any changes that will increase the firm’s attractiveness to job seekers.
We all know that for decades, law firms have notoriously touted the “work-life balance” as a selling point. Indeed, that line has been used so often for so long that today it is largely ignored by job seekers. It’s a little bit like advertising that a used car “runs great.” Everyone says it yet we all know it’s often untrue.
So what can the firm do to improve your law office in a way that appeals to job seekers? We’ve compiled some of the top tips about creating and fostering a positive work environment. While not all of these strategies can be implemented overnight, they are factors that are worth fighting for if you want to ensure your firm’s long-term success.
#1: Understand the unique needs of younger professionals
In today’s workplace, the bulk of recruits will be among the Millennial generation. Unlike their predecessors, they are not a group who tends to go along with the status quo. For example, Millennials have changed the conversation about “work-life balance” to one of “work-life blending.” According to JP Box, author of The Millennial Lawyer, this means that instead of “compartmentalizing their lives between work, family, friends, charity, and play,” Millennials “wish to achieve personal, professional and charitable goals on a continuous spectrum of life experiences.”
At the law firm level, this could mean recruiters place more of an emphasis on things like the pro bono work, law firm gatherings that include employees’ families, and firm participation in sports leagues or other extracurricular activities.
#2: Make positive reinforcement an institutional reality
This strategy isn’t just a suggestion, it’s actually science. Studies have shown that employees are happier, do better work, and are motivated to succeed when they are praised for the good work that they do. This doesn’t mean the firm should shower people with false praise (that can have its own deleterious effects). It just means that supervisors should be trained to make authentic positive feedback a part of their everyday management routine.
#3: Avoid public criticism
The other side of the coin, of course, is that a firm leader should avoid publicly criticizing employees. In fact, not only is public criticism harmful to the target of such remarks, it can have a negative impact on everyone else who hears it. Potential additions to the firm who walk into an atmosphere of negativity with a cloud of criticism will feel less than motivated to stay.
#4: Take time to celebrate
Celebrating employees can also turn your firm into a job seeker’s dream. And let’s face it, there’s a lot to celebration within the law firm environment. Deals close, lawsuits are won, new clients are retained. All of those things are worth celebrating. Personal celebrations like work anniversaries, birthdays, and weddings are also good reasons to celebrate. And while not every occasion is worth the same level of revelry, taking the time to recognize and rejoice significant milestones can have an undeniably positive impact on the workplace.
#5: Encourage movement
This is another tip that comes straight from science. Studies have shown that when employees are encouraged to exercise, they tend to exhibit happier moods, increased motivation, and increased job performance. Just be careful that the encouragement doesn’t feel like shaming.
#6: Set a track record of retaining existing employees
According to some sources, law firm retention rates are the lowest level ever. Practicing law is difficult and employees can become quickly disillusioned. As noted, many law firms use the same tired lines in their recruiting efforts. Anyone who has worked in the profession for any length of time at all knows that those words are just that – words. Recruits don’t even listen to them anymore.
But you know what does speak volumes to potential employees? Outstanding retention rates. If you can schedule prospective employees to interview with existing employees who have been on the job for 5, 10, or 20 years, you’ll be proving that your firm has something the others simply do not.
#7: Build in mentorship opportunities
When an attorney or legal support staff member has to choose between firms that largely boast the same set of benefits and priorities, your task will be to find ways to stand out. Consider implementing mentoring programs and other initiatives that demonstrate investment in the members of your firm.
Of course, your firm won’t be able to implement all these changes at once and may decide never to take on others. What tactics you do change will take a concerted effort to employ. Be intentional about how you want your law firm to appear and make this a part of your overall recruiting strategy.