As lawyers are increasingly lured to other firms with promises of a better work/life balance or career advancement, firms need to do more to avoid the high cost of losing their lawyers. Briana Everett reports
While not necessarily looking to move firms in the short term, many Australian lawyers are constantly on the lookout for career advancement, business development or relationship-building opportunities and will jump at an offer that comes their way.
As a result, J Legal private practice manager Dezz Mardigan says law firms are continually at risk of losing staff despite a stable legal recruitment market. And the cost is huge.
"The statistics show, across various sources, that you're talking about losing 150 per cent of whatever that person was making," says Mardigan.
"There's a lot of energy, time and money that goes into training that person, inheriting their skills and you've got lost productivity if that person leaves - you've got to find out where they left off. You're losing time and money."
Emphasising how retention methods for one firm may not work for another, Mardigan says law firms need to improve their branding, advertising and communication to attract and retain the appropriate people.
"[It's about] branding not only for attracting clients but for attracting candidates," she says, adding that firms need to look at themselves from an outsider's point of view. "Therefore the message needs to speak to, 'Why this firm?'"
According to Mardigan, firms need to demonstrate to candidates what they will get out of working at their firm - such as greater exposure to complex and more engaging work or a better work/life balance - and deliver that promise.
"A loss of 150 per cent of someone's salary comes to any firm which does not take the time to invest in retention," she says. "Specifically, when it comes to partners, [while] retention may not be an initial worry once a partner is hired, a sure way to lose someone is to promise something and not deliver on it."