Hiring for a Law Firm: How to Attract and Retain the Best Staff for Your Law Firm
8–10 minutes to read
Hiring for a law firm is make or break. Your law firm’s staff can determine the trajectory of the firm’s success.
So how can you best manage the weight of the responsibility that comes with attracting and retaining the best staff for the firm?
It begins by accepting the idea that hiring for a law firm is an investment that will pay off with the growth of your firm.
Yes, hiring and onboarding can be expensive. The average cost to hire a new employee is estimated to be upward of $4,000.
But, while this process requires time, effort, and a good chunk of change, it can save you all of these things in the long run, too.
While hiring a new employee for a new position can be pricey, replacing an employee that leaves with someone to fill the role can be worse — ranging from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary. This makes both attracting the right candidates to your firm and retaining the best employees within your firm key components in your strategy.
Reframing this mindset from a high-cost investment to a high-value investment is an essential first step to attract and retain the best staff for your law firm.
In this article, we’ll break down hiring for a law firm into bite-size steps that you can implement in your own firm. The end result will be a cohesive and efficient team that propels growth.
- Hiring for a Law Firm: Implement Great Culture
- Hiring for a Law Firm: Foster Accountability
- Hiring for a Law Firm: Align Around a Shared Mission
- Hiring for a Law Firm: Create Growth Opportunities
- Hiring for a Law Firm: Next Steps
Hiring for a Law Firm: Implement Great Culture
You’ve heard this buzzword when hiring for a law firm — it’s one of the most used in the hiring industry overall today. Culture.
In some offices, “culture” looks like ping pong tables and massage chairs. But the companies that prioritize these commodities over real values and performance metrics are totally missing the mark.
Because of this, many law firm owners blow off culture as some fluffy, ambiguous thing — when your company culture is actually the one factor that will set you apart from other firms.
Quality company culture increases employee engagement and decreases turnover. In fact, 32% of job seekers that left a job within 90 days cited company culture. Furthermore, one-third of job seekers would pass up the perfect job if the corporate culture was a bad fit.
So, if you want top legal talent to choose your law firm over your competitors, you’d better take a serious look at developing your firm’s culture.
If you shift the focus to a values-driven idea of what culture at your firm should look like, you’ll have everyone on board. Take into account what works at your firm and what doesn’t. Create core values as guidelines to structure company culture around.
From here on out, all policies, new hires, and current team members should align with the culture and core values you’ve established. Make sure you are also a representation of the culture you preach.
As a leader, you’re setting a standard for your firm’s culture, and you can’t let anything that doesn’t meet that standard fly. For example, when hiring for a law firm, settling for a talented individual who doesn’t quite mesh with your culture is not worth the risk — eventually, this can lead to stunting your growth.
Established culture provides a blueprint for consistency and accountability within your firm. As legal marketing expert Harlan Schillinger puts it, culture is a tactical approach, and it shows through everything that is done by everyone in your firm.
A starting point for developing a team culture that attracts and retains the best candidates is establishing core values.
Core values are the central driving forces behind any team. They’re not just arbitrary words and phrases though — in order for them to be effective, they must be values your entire team abides by on a daily basis. To help get you started, here are the core values we have at Crisp:
- Vested in client success
- Results driven
- Solution focused
- Team first
- Better than yesterday
- Take ownership
Hiring for a Law Firm: Foster Accountability
Accountability is by far the most critical aspect of creating a successful strategy when hiring for a law firm. Why? Because even the best growth strategy in the world will fail if no one is held accountable for it.
At its core, accountability means making commitments and keeping them — but it is also about clear follow-through, ownership, and measurable goals. In a fast-paced environment, it’s easy to say you’ll do something, then move on and forget. Unfortunately, you’ll never meet your goals if this is the case.
Accountability accelerates performance. Use accountability measures to combat inefficiency and lack of commitment to your goals. Set regular meetings, reminders, and deadlines help to hold yourself and your team accountable. Establish accountability partners throughout the firm by pairing different team members together and empowering them to encourage each other to meet their goals.
Setting goals for yourself and your team is the surest way to push your firm in the right direction. Goal-setting provides clarity — if you don’t set goals, you won’t know what you’re working toward.
Our best tip for setting goals is to use SMART goals. If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s a way to set goals you can actually reach. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound:
Identify the critical results your firm needs to achieve. Consider the behaviors and factors that will contribute to that end goal. Then, break larger goals into smaller, more manageable goals.
For example, an annual goal that will take a full year to achieve should be built up to with smaller, bite-size goals to hit daily, weekly, and monthly in order to stay on track.
Focus on setting a few select measurable goals per team member. Then figure out how you can track them and make the progress public knowledge within the office to boost accountability.
What gets measured gets improved. What gets measured and made public gets drastically improved.
Be aware that accountability requires clear communication from you as a leader. Accountability won’t just develop on its own. It takes time and effort on your part to instill it in the culture of your firm. You are responsible for establishing accountability guidelines and making them available to the team.
A critical part of attracting and retaining the best is holding your team accountable for their actions and their outcomes. But — as this study shows — as the leader of your firm, it’s just as necessary to hold yourself accountable.
Ultimately, holding your team accountable will result in better service to your clients, effective time management, and reaching overall outcomes for your firm. When hiring for a law firm, this is an attractive quality that prospective candidates are looking for — a firm that sets and achieves goals consistently is a place where new employees can thrive and grow.
Accountability — for yourself and your team — might just be the difference between your firm growing or failing. Candidates will certainly notice.
Hiring for a Law Firm: Align Around a Shared Mission
Similar to core values, a mission statement is an important guiding factor when hiring for a law firm. Giving one common mission to a group of people that they can rally around unifies a team and provides clarity. Why do they do what they do every day? To further the mission of the firm.
When this mission is made clear for the entire team, it reflects throughout the hiring process. It provides clarity to any prospective hires into exactly what it is they’ll be doing at your firm.
At Crisp, we’re on a mission to help over 1,000 law firm owners grow their revenues by $1 million ($1 billion impact) in the next five years.
The key in creating a mission statement is to focus on the good you can provide your clients. When the mission is focused less on firm goals and more on the goals of the client, the firm will succeed by default.
Hiring for a Law Firm: Create Growth Opportunities
When hiring for a law firm, showing prospective candidates that your firm empowers all employees with growth opportunities will be your most essential asset. The best and brightest talent is always looking to grow, so if your firm can provide those opportunities, you will stand out from other options that candidates may be considering.
Growth opportunities can be created several different ways. Potential employees look for career growth — opportunities to move up in their field. They also look for educational growth — opportunities to learn valuable skills and further their education.
In fact, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn. And ultimately, businesses with a strong learning culture benefit from employee engagement and retention rates around 30-50% higher than those that don’t.
Providing growth opportunities within your firm might look like:
- Promoting upward career mobility for each position.
- Developing a “career path” that charts promotions and salary increases over time.
- Providing access to a variety of learning platforms and encouraging regular use.
- Giving team members the ability to network, participate in mentorship programs, and attend seminars.
Brainstorming ideas within your own team to develop a plan for growth opportunities may just be your best bet to attract and retain the best staff for your law firm. Asking your team exactly what they would like to see within the workplace means you’re getting your information straight from the source.
Hiring for a Law Firm: Next Steps
With the right tools to attract and retain the best staff for your law firm, it’s time to start creating job postings and making hires.
Keep in mind throughout your hiring process that it takes about eight months for a person to contribute value to your organization, so if you suspect you’ll have different needs down the road, start preparing ahead of time. This is a job that requires patience.
When you’re determining whether to hire a new team member, first consider what needs your firm has. Do you need another lawyer to handle cases? An additional paralegal? Do you need support staff outside of the legal work? Do you have a need for someone who specializes in finance or marketing?
Here are some of the top strategic positions for law firms:
- Associate Lawyer
- Intake Specialist
- Marketing Manager
- Office Manager
- Chief Financial Officer
- Legal Assistant
- Law Clerk
- Court Runner
If you don’t think a typical position will fit your needs, you’re in luck. When hiring for a law firm, you can adjust and pivot for wherever you have a need. Or you can change the standard expectations of any one of these positions and specify in your job description.
Never settle for something or someone that will not fulfill your firm’s needs.
While you’re considering your firm’s needs, take a step back and examine your current team. Would you enthusiastically rehire every person on your team? If not, you might want to either develop an improvement plan for that person, or reevaluate their employment status at your firm.
For more ideas about hiring the right staff and running a successful firm check out our comprehensive guide on all the things you didn’t learn in law school.