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The Importance of Associate Perks When Trying to Attract Law Firm Talent

Summary: Perks can be the difference between hiring the best legal talent out fresh out of law school and missing out on the cream of the crop.

The Importance of Associate Perks When Trying to Attract Law Firm Talent
 
  • The advent of perks has changed the face of recruiting not just in business, but law as well.
  • This is because as important as salary is for any position, including an associate attorney, perks increasingly sell the position to the right candidate. 
 
Simply put, if a law firm wants to attract new talent to its legal workforce, it better have some fairly nice perks in place.

These days, no matter what sort of high-level position that a company has open, perks have to also be included.

This is particularly true in today’s tight job market, law notwithstanding. In law firms, if you list a job opening without perks, candidates will inevitably shuffle off to another firm’s open position(s).

And as far as your own open position is concerned, well, it’s going to remain open unless you add something to make the position more enticing than just a job.

Money isn’t everything

Maybe your new associates were or were not told in law school that once they are hired by a firm like yours, it is a 100 percent guarantee that they would be working long hours – nearly always.

Of course, telling this to new associates might scare some job hopefuls right out the door while others stay behind stoically. And why?
 
  • They already know the work will be deeply involving.
  • They already know not to be afraid of such hard work.
  • They’re prepared for this type of work and work hours.
  • Your perks are the deciding factor for them to take the job in the first place.
 
The prospects that don’t run for the exits and consequently stay for your recruiting process are, of course, the valued hopeful additions to your legal workforce.

But even with that, you have to understand that these newbie lawyers are not in front of you just because your firm is offering them a high six-figure salary; they can very well have as much interest in your law firm due to the perks your firm includes with the open position.

No two law firms are created equal

According to a recent article published on Above The Law, in certain situations, some law firm perks are better than making more money.

 Indeed, the culture of a law firm, the work that is practiced by a firm, and other factors all distinguish the experiences of attorneys who work at different shops.  In addition, some firms offer non-monetary perks that might be even more valuable than making additional money in certain instances. 

To that end, the practice of law has become much more fluid in recent years.  Whereas attorneys used to work at firms full-time, and with strict guidelines about when associates would become partners, many firms are embracing more flexible employment relationships. 

Such “of counsel” and other similar arrangements can offer flexibility that might be better than making additional money in some circumstances. 

Although many lawyers are usually saddled with student debt and want to work for a shop that pays the most cheddar, certain benefits offered by some firms might outweigh netting more cash.

Working from home

One of the biggest trends in the modern workplace is that more and more employees are permitted to work from home. 

Empowering employees to work from home allows employers to realize sizable benefits, since this can help lower real estate costs, and serves as a powerful incentive when recruiting talent.  Furthermore, working from home has a number of advantages for employees as well.

Of course, everyone is probably aware of the lifestyle benefits that can be realized form working at home. 

Commuting is usually a painful experience for many employees, especially if your legal workforce has to take mass transit or stuck in cars during the rush hour.

If a lawyer lives in a suburban area, commuting to and from work could easily take an hour or two a day.  However, if your attorneys work from home, they won’t need to spend time commuting and can use this saved time in more meaningful ways, particularly toward their work.

Working from home can also save money that your associates can put toward paying off outstanding student loans or achieving other financial goals. 

Working from home means your new associates will not need to pay for commuting costs, such as tolls, parking and similar expenses when traveling to and from work.
This could easily equal several hundred dollars a month. 

In addition, working from home also means your attorneys will not need to shell out as much money on dry cleaning, buying lunches, and other similar costs associated with heading to the office. 

Working from home also means your associates with kids will spend less on childcare, since parents who work from home are usually more available to look after kids.

Many law firms have gotten on the work-from-home bandwagon, and more firms will likely implement such policies. 

Remote office technology continues to improve, and more law firms will realize additional savings as the technology gets better. 

In any case, even if your attorneys made a little less money at a firm with a work-from-home policy, it might be a worthy perk to work at such a shop for financial and personal reasons.

Traditional attorney tracks that offer improved job flexibility

Many firms also have non-traditional attorney tracks that offer improved job flexibility.

Non-traditional work arrangements have existed for many years in many industries, including law.

Some believe, however, that such initiatives have proliferated recently due to the expansion of the “gig economy.” Because of this, numerous attorneys are required to only bill a fraction of the normal billable hour requirement of other attorneys at their firms in exchange for a pay cut. 

Furthermore, a few lawyers that have loose “of counsel” relationships with shops, and others who only work on certain kinds of matters or during busy times at a firm.

The flexibility of non-traditional employment arrangements can easily make up for the reduced compensation that usually comes with these types of agreements.  Such arrangements allow individuals to pursue passions, such as teaching, writing, and other work. 

Also, such agreements can sometimes allow attorneys to only handle certain matters that they enjoy working on the most.  In addition, these types of arrangements might also keep individuals away from the office politics and the corporate rat race that might be the worst parts about working for a firm.

Other perks to consider

In an article that recently appeared on Attorney at Work, outlines the major law firm perks that are offered to incoming associates that can make it difficult to say “no” to a job offer. They are as follow.

Health Insurance

This insurance is the foundation of an employee benefits offering and a cornerstone of managing one of your potentially biggest expenses. Larger firms may offer multiple plans from several insurers while smaller firms usually offer one or two options.

The most common plans types include:
 
  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
  • Preferred provider organizations (PPOs)
  • Point-of-service (POS)
 
Generally, HMOs are more restrictive, requiring you to select a primary care physician from an approved list who will serve as the gateway to the HMO’s approved specialists. Referrals or some form of prior authorization are often necessary for the HMO to cover visits to specialists and certain hospital visits. Out-of-network providers typically aren’t covered at all.

Conversely, PPOs offer more freedom to select your physicians and referrals for specialists aren’t required. As PPO plans may vary substantially, be sure your associates understand the percentage of costs their plans will cover for in-network and out-of-network providers. PPOs are usually more expensive than HMOs.

POS plans are somewhat of a hybrid. As with an HMO, your incoming associates usually select a primary care physician from an approved list and that doctor will authorize specialist visits. Like a PPO, attorneys may venture beyond in-network providers, but their plans will cover a smaller portion of those visits.
 
Life Insurance

To attract the best emerging legal talent, your law firm should provide some level of basic life insurance coverage.

If an attorney on your staff has no dependencies, and no one would be harmed financially if they passed away, there would be less need for them to have life insurance

However, if they have children, a spouse who doesn’t work, or a spouse who works but would be impaired by the loss of income, that attorney likely needs life insurance.

Parking

Paid parking is a huge perk, particularly if your law firm is located an expensive and dense metropolitan area where parking is at a premium.

This is especially important to your incoming associates who have no work-from-home option.

Retirement Plan

If you sponsor a retirement plan, likely a 401(k), encourage your incoming associates to use it. Be sure to explain to them that their contributions leave their paycheck without them ever seeing (or getting a chance to spend) those dollars. This serves to streamline and automate the retirement savings process.

Furthermore, your law firm should attempt to match their retirement plan contributions – or at least contribute up to the point up to a certain percentage of their salary.

The Law Firms with The Best Perks

As was said earlier, no two law firms are created equal. Neither are their perks equal. This shows with these topmost law firms with their topmost lawyer perks, the list of which was recently published on Vault.

While all of the firms in the Vault Law 100 offer an incredible array of benefits and perks, the website has selected some stand outs and unique perks shared in Vault’s Annual Associate Survey according to both employees and employers:

Alston & Bird: “Daycare exclusively for firm kids (operates on the same schedule as the firm).”

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP: “A&P has unlimited free lunch with new associates for their first three months ($50 per person limit), plus a mentorship lunch budget.”

Baker McKenzie: “The firm hosts a global soccer tournament among its offices and pays for associate teams from around the world to travel to a fun location (this year it was Belfast, last year Milan) to play soccer and hang out.”

Boies Schiller Flexner: “The firm’s annual meeting, where the lawyers from every office (partners and associates alike) descend with their families upon the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne for a weekend of dinner, dancing, and drinks.”

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner: “A CEREAL BAR (that’s new and very exciting).”

Cleary: “Firm-sponsored office ski trip every February.”

Covington: “Sparkling water on every floor!”

Crowell: “Full benefits, including adoption/surrogacy benefits, for LGBT individuals.”

DLA: “We have a quarterly massage budget provided by the firm, and we offer a suite of lifestyle support options (i.e. elder care hotline, backup babysitter service, babysitter referral service, firm discounts on services and products, etc.).”

Fenwick & West: “All associates are entitled to a one-week trip to Hawaii each year, with flights and condo provided for two people.”

Hogan Lovells: “The firm’s cafeteria is called 1904, named after the year the firm was founded. The firm heavily subsidizes food. You can get a huge breakfast for $2 and a huge lunch for $5.”

Irell: “We have a personal trainer who comes to our gym. You get one session per week free.”

Kramer Levin: “It’s great they give associates who bring in clients 7% of receivables. Plus we get a sabbatical of 5 weeks paid extra vacation days every 5 years.”

Orrick: “As a member of the military reserve, my firm provides me with 7 hours of billable-hour credit for each regular business day that I am out of the office attending military training. This is a huge incentive to continue my military service while balancing my firm work schedule.”

Quinn Emanuel: “There is a Global Experience program that sponsors associates to work absolutely anywhere in the world for a week (as long as there’s an internet connection) and a Global Exchange program that sponsors associates to work in any other Quinn Emanuel office for two weeks.”

Susman Godfrey: “The firm makes a (often quite substantial) profit-sharing contribution to associates’ 401(k)s and has a generous 401(k) matching program.”

V&E: “I receive several custom Vineyard Vines ties each year. It is just a token gift, but for some reason, I get immense pleasure out of wearing them and reminding people that the firm gave it to us.”

Weil: “A paid day off to do non-legal volunteer work.”

Williams & Connolly LLP: “Healthcare is 100% covered for associates.”

Multiple firms: Breast-milk delivery program for traveling mothers.

Multiple firms: Ramp-up program following parental leave through which parents work a reduced percentage of their schedule (e.g. 75%-80% of schedule) for full compensation.

Conclusion

In the end, the most important consideration for many lawyers when choosing a law firm to work at is the amount of money they will be paid. And for individuals with student loans, it is especially important that they earn the most cash possible to devote additional funds to student debt.  However, some law firms offer certain perks which can be more valuable than earning more money in many instances.

Use this article as a model for the types of perks your law firm should offer. Also, it doesn’t hurt for you as a manager to ask both associates and partners what perks they may like. To know this may, in the long run, make the difference in your future associate hires.