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PD ‘critical’ for retention

Smaller firms need to be prioritising retention and professional development in order to compete for talent amid the Great Resignation — or risk losing their best and brightest to BigLaw firms.

user iconLauren Croft 03 November 2022 SME Law
PD ‘critical’ for retention
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To combat the war for talent, Brisbane-based law firm Results Legal has provided its younger lawyers with a “grow-your-own” mentorship program, which has resulted in an 82 per cent retention rate in the last 12 months.

As a result, two young lawyers — Leona Adams and Nicholas Boyce — have recently achieved principal status in just six and a half years, which is almost half the time typically expected. 

Results Legal managing director Karl Hill said it’s in every law firm’s best interest to prioritise its young talent as it can have a significant impact on employee technical capabilities as well as smaller firms’ ability to innovate and grow.


“As a business, Results Legal allows people to excel and be supported to achieve their full potential. With a growing business, there are a lot of opportunities, and our first preference has always been to fill those opportunities from within. This has created a performance culture where people know they will be rewarded and promoted based on how good they are, not how long they have been in the seat,” he explained.  

“I believe that consciously developing a team that lives our values, understands our clients’ needs and meets our high-quality standards has contributed to our strong growth trajectory and bottom-line success during the Great Resignation.”

In terms of best practice for boutiques and SMEs moving forward, Mr Hill was adamant that having a structured program with a “clear focus on mentoring, professional development and career progression” is key.

“The elements of this program should include a career roadmap, success profiles for all roles (including the next role team members are aiming to be promoted to), individual development plans, regular mentoring and feedback sessions, a structured training and professional development program (incorporating personal as well as professional development), peer learning opportunities, and a regular performance review and development planning cycle,” he told Lawyers Weekly.

This type of program has meant that junior lawyers have regular check-ins — and end up achieving their professional goals faster — something new principal Ms Adams has experienced for herself.  

“Normally, you’d go through an annual review cycle and set and forget goals. At Results, we regularly check in on how everyone’s going and progressing [in] their development. We hold ourselves to account in achieving our goals,” Ms Adams said.

“Everyone has a role to play in delivering results for our clients — from operational, paralegals to the junior solicitors and partners. It’s a team approach.”

Mr Boyce has gone from graduate to principal in just six and a half years — and said that mentorship had made all the difference.

“The mentoring I’ve received has been exceptional. The regular and detailed feedback from a technical perspective is something I don’t think I would have received at a larger firm. As a junior lawyer in a large firm, you may see a principal once a month,” he said.  

“At Results, the principals were accessible to me, and I believe this was instrumental in the development of my skills, confidence and clarity of career progression.”

The issue of staff retention is particularly important for boutique and SME firms, Mr Hill submitted.

“It’s essential for mid-tier firms to offer opportunities at an early stage in a lawyer’s career. To allow them to be client-facing and go to court — opportunities they may not get at some of the larger firms — enables them to develop their people and technical skills. It’s a huge motivator, promotes innovation and really contributes to a dynamic, client-focused workplace culture,” he said.

“More than ever, people want to work at a firm that aligns with their values. They want to make a real difference and meaningfully contribute to client matters.”

And with a high turnover of young lawyers in the profession, “continuous improvement” has never been more important for juniors looking to succeed long term.

“One of our values at Results Legal is continuous improvement. I’m really passionate about the development of our junior solicitors. It can be daunting when you’re starting out to run a file load. I’ve been through that and really want to support our junior solicitors and develop their technical expertise,” Mr Boyce said.

“There’s a high turnover of young lawyers in our industry — and it’s because they’re not getting the support and mentoring they need to succeed.”

Mentoring and professional development will continue to be critical moving past the Great Resignation, too.

“Almost all good staff are heavily motivated by career progression. There is no swift career progression without a strong focus on professional development. It is critical. The best way to develop more junior staff is to have a genuine commitment to mentoring and a culture of continual improvement,” Mr Hill added.

“Good staff retention and strong professional development ultimately make firms more successful (and more profitable). They also contribute to a more positive firm culture and better outcomes for the client.”