Instead, firms should attempt to nail down what is genuinely unique about their practice. Too few firms have taken the time to identify what makes them different from firms of the same size around the country. The lack of a unique angle makes it harder than necessary to sell your firm to new clients and new talent.
Why should the best new talent want to work for this firm
When talking about job satisfaction, it is crucial to remember that attorneys are only a small portion of your staff. Employee satisfaction means treating every employee, from the file clerk to the managing partner, with respect. Support staff plays a significant role in keeping a firm running smoothly, and high turnover rates among support staff should be a warning sign that there is something amiss.
Talented attorneys, whether fresh from law school, or those who are making a lateral move, often have several offers before they decide on where to land. If you want to attract the best in the field, you need a reputation for being a great place to work. Take a hard look at what your firm offers new hires. Look beyond just a competitive benefits package, because most firms of a similar size are probably offering a similar package. Believe it or not, many attorneys and support staff are looking at more than the size of the paycheck.
Better job satisfaction has a direct correlation to client satisfaction. Go directly to the source to understand where your firm excels and where it does not. Give a survey to attorneys and support staff who have been at the firm for less than five years. They will provide you with the clearest picture of what they like about the firm and what they wish they could change. The reason for the five year cut-off is that employees who have been with the firm longer than five years are probably so integrated into the firm culture that they can no longer clearly identify what is good and bad about the culture.
The place to start in assuring your firm remains competitive in attracting top talent is the pay and benefits package. Assuming you meet the industry average for salary and benefits, it is time to focus on the harder to define things that are attracting the best of the best in the legal field.
- Firm culture—Beware of toxicity that may have seeped into the firm's culture over the years and address those problems quickly. Traditional firms have a reputation for being money driven with an unhealthy level of competitiveness. Instead, firms of every side need team players, all working toward a common goal of client satisfaction. Satisfied clients are the backbone of a firm's success.
Do not confuse culture with homogeneity. Firm culture is just a definition of what it is like to work for your firm, and diversity is crucial to success in today's environment. The leadership of the firm sets the tone for the culture, and their values and vision will inevitably influence every aspect of the practice.
It is essential to understand the culture of your firm and hire new talent that is a cultural fit for the firm. Firm culture doesn't change quickly, and hiring people who are not a good fit with the established culture only leads to job dissatisfaction.
- Quality of Life—Quality of life ties in closely with firm culture. In the not too distant past, new hires in large firms expected work eighty-hour workweeks as they struggled to climb out of the associate's pool and into a junior partnership. Then the real work began. Now, more and more talented attorneys and legal staff are seeking positions that offer them a chance at a better work-life balance.
Top firms are addressing quality of life issues in a variety of creative ways, including flex-time, the ability to work from home, increased vacation and leave, and health inititatives. Attorneys are giving these initiatives as much weight as salary and traditional benefits. Studies are finding that those with a healthy work-life balance are better and more productive at their jobs, so firms are gaining healthier, happier and more productive employees.
Reputation is everything in the legal field, and it will play a significant role in attracting new clients to your firm. However, reputation isn't everything, and firms are finding that they need to invest more time and resources into marketing.
What does your firm offer clients that they can't get at the firm down the street? A great marketing strategy will target the things clients' genuinely want and how your firm meets those demands. What do clients want in a firm?
- Success—The primary reason clients will use your firm is that they trust your firm to solve their legal issues successfully.
- A personal relationship—Whatever the size of the firm and the client's business, clients want a personal relationship with at least one team member working on their case. Clients also want an open dialogue where they can ask for frequent updates. The days of "let us worry about it," are long over. Today's most successful firms realize that clients want to be kept abreast of what is happening, and they want to be involved in the decision making process about each legal issue.
- Value—The price of services is only a small part of the value model clients are seeking. Clients want assurance that the firm is being efficient in handling their legal concerns, therefore, providing value for their money. Most business clients are willing to pay more for large firms with a record of success in similar matters, but they still want to believe they are receiving value for their money.
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