IT MAY be as simple as giving departing lawyers promotions if you want to stem the flow of bright young things leaving for London and overseas, some law firms have found.
As Australian and New Zealand law firms try to retain their talent, particularly at the two to five-year level, they are developing creative new strategies that might keep them where they are. Lured by opportunities overseas, most firms across the Tasman are naming retention as their most pressing issue. Some firms, however, think they may have found an answer — a new level of hierarchy between solicitor and senior associate.
According to New Zealand firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts’ human resources manager Linley Bell, the new level senior solicitor, created this month, is about putting more promotions in the levels of promotion.
“This is for people who we would like to grow though the ranks and probably become partners at some point, but they are not at the level where they can take on the responsibility of being a senior associate yet. Senior associates … are seen as being on the path to partnership, you are pretty much running your won practices and things like that.”
She rejected the suggestion that is about making the climb to partnership harder so that further pieces of the pie were taken from current equity partners.
Bell noted that a lot of people don’t want partnership but want an alternative to being solicitor. She argued that it’s about giving solicitors further incentives to stay with the firm.
Australian firm Thomson Playford, which has offices in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, has also created a new leadership position, what it terms Associate. The new position will form a “valuable stepping stone” for recently admitted lawyers, the firm said.
Thomson Playford executive manager human resources, Amanda Bald, said the new position would create a smooth transition for lawyers looking to move into more senior leadership positions in the firm. “The traditional career path for lawyers has been from solicitor to senior associate to partner,” Bald said.
“For many lawyers just two or three years in practice, a senior associate appointment can represent a major jump in terms of added responsibility.”
The position is also useful for lawyers going on secondment, said Bell. “We often have people away on secondment and if they are called senior solicitor it is useful in the secondment structure because it gives them the respect that they rightly deserve and it makes people realise that they are specialists in their areas of law,” she said.
Minter Ellison Rudd Watts has just made 11 promotions to the senior solicitor position.