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LegalTech Advice
Feb 17, 2022

How to Solve the Legal Talent War (Hint: It’s Not Money)

Nnamdi Emelifeonwu
Founder and CEO

The Talent War within Law

The growing talent war has taken over headlines in the legal industry, and the signs point to no immediate end in sight. 

It’s a candidate's market right now - with salaries for NQLs soaring, lawyers who are happy to work long hours will be compensated nicely. 

However this begs the question, why are law firms having to pay more for top talent? Are lawyers looking for something more than a big salary? Spoiler alert - the answer is yes.

Why is there a legal talent war, and what’s causing it?

In a recent survey of 3,000 young lawyers (‘young’ being under the age of 40) by the International Bar Association, 54% of respondents reported they were ‘likely’ to move to a new workplace, and a whopping 20% are thinking about leaving the legal industry entirely. Why is this the case? 

More than 60% of young lawyers cited a lack of work/life balance as a major concern, and a further 40% believe legal technology and AI are critical to their future within the profession. There’s a clear correlation between a lack of technology and long working hours. 

Lawyers spend 90% of their time in Microsoft Word or Outlook, most of which is spent on understanding, drafting and reviewing legal contracts. Despite lawyers spending so much of their time with these contracts, a recent global survey by Ontra found that 64% of respondents at corporates believe routine contract work ‘hurts employee morale.’ 

With this wide range of concerns, it’s clear that throwing money at the problem is not the solution.

How can law firms attract and retain talent?

Legal Cheek reported that since February 2021, the base salary of a Newly Qualified Lawyer has increased from £87,000 to £107,000 in most Magic Circle law firms. The lure of higher salaries is certainly a contributing factor for young lawyers who are firm-hopping, but looking at the data, increasing wages is a temporary band-aid over an underlying issue.

Lawyers want a better work/life balance - so how can law firms address this now to future-proof the retention of their top talent?

Prioritise employee well-being

Law firms are known for their impeccable client services, going above and beyond to deliver customer satisfaction. Treating your employees like customers is a great technique to improve well-being and talent retention. Here are three initiatives from successful businesses that law firms can adopt:

  1. Implement satisfaction surveys - What better way to find out what makes your employees tick than asking them directly?! Implementing employee satisfaction surveys gives your staff a structured forum to voice what matters to them, and the opportunity for your business to see what’s working and what could be improved. 
  2. Prioritise mental health - Mental health is often overlooked compared to physical health, however just because you can’t see it, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Leaders should encourage their teams to monitor and care for their own wellbeing, and create an environment where they don’t feel afraid to ask for help. Small steps, like encouraging regular work breaks or taking time off to reset, can make a huge difference. Proactivity, not reactivity, is crucial in combating employee burnout and preventing the development (or worsening) of other mental health conditions.
  3. Enable flexible working - Studies have shown that employers who adopt a flexible working model end up with more productive employees, who are sick less often and happier in their work. One thing the pandemic has proved is that (most) legal work can be done from anywhere, so consider making hybrid work the norm in your organisation.

Address company culture

‘Company culture’ is a broad term, but largely refers to the attitudes and behaviours of a company and its' employees. Nearly half of all female respondents in the IBA survey raised concerns over their firms’ failures to address toxic workplace cultures.

Making sure diversity and inclusion are on your firm's agenda should be a priority. While company culture should be addressed at all levels of seniority, setting the precedent needs to come from the top.

Innovation, innovation, innovation

According to a LexisNexis survey, 66% of lawyers feel that they’re under too much time pressure to proofread properly when drafting and reviewing legal documents, with 33% admitting to skipping it all together!

Whilst most legal organisations have onboarded technology to consolidate law firm data, improve access for clients and manage cases for in-house teams - solutions that help solve the pain points lawyers face day-to-day are often overlooked.

Harness legal technology (such as Definely 👀) to unlock friction-free working for lawyers. Removing bottlenecks helps lawyers to optimise their time whilst drafting and reviewing contracts so they can focus on the value-adding work that matters to them, and their clients!

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Save time hunting down definitions and references and focus on work clients value

Save time hunting down definitions and references and focus on work clients value