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The Problem

A 2022 report by The Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center and the Thomson Reuters Institute asked associates what they liked best about their law firms. While 9% listed compensation and benefits as the top factor, the report said more selected their colleagues (30%), law firm culture (22%), quality of work (21%), and flexible work practices (20%). This Successful Firm Project Playbook Event examined five ways firms can evolve to attract and retain top talent and improve firm profitability.

Meaningful Steps

Offer hybrid work environments.

Embracing a hybrid work environment gives firms a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid or remote work structures – firms of all sizes must develop and implement a policy that makes sense for their people and their teams. Firms can begin by eliciting feedback from their employees, and prioritize giving attorneys and staff the technical support they need to successfully work remotely. Measure productivity through the lens of efficiency rather than billable hours alone. Firms that engage in meaningful work and convey the value of that work to their clients illustrate that how teams conduct their work is more meaningful than where they conduct it. 

Prioritize firm culture.

Intentionality is the backbone of a strong firm culture. Successful firms help team members build relationships with one another and value the unique contributions of all members of the firm. Build a firm-first mentality among firm employees. Firms can begin by changing the way they view staff and administrators – instead of categorizing them as non-attorneys, recognize the value they bring to your firm as revenue enablers.

Select and implement the right technology.

The future of technology for successful law firms lies in automation. Selecting and committing to the right practice management program allows firms to streamline processes, create more efficient workflows and alleviate a burden traditionally reserved for staff. As a result, a firm’s most valuable asset – its people – have more time to bring value to their clients. While automation allows attorneys to complete tasks more efficiently (and ultimately decreases their billable hours) it does not devalue the product, nor should it decrease attorney compensation. 

Focus on process improvement.

Successful firms work to understand a process before implementing any changes. Firms can begin by spending time with the people who do the work; together firm leadership and staff can identify issues and map out a process for improvement. Once changes go into effect, continue to involve the people who will be a part of the change; give them an active voice in the process and value their feedback along the way. Combat any resistance to change by showing the impacted party why your firm is turning to a new process and how the changes will positively impact the entirety of the firm. 

Explore compensation models.

Firms with an eye on the future are taking steps to structure compensation plans in a way that promotes mentorship, shared work, leadership development and a firm-first mentality. Changes to longstanding compensation plans begin with incremental steps that allow firms to migrate the compensation model from what it is to what it will be. 

What Our Attendees Shared

We lost a really good candidate because another firm offered her fully remote and we don’t even have a hybrid option.”
“We have been recruiting [in East Coast cities] and hybrid work feels like table stakes – it’s almost not even a question with candidates now. They just want to know how many days they get to work remotely.”
"The thought to change case management software is one thing that nobody wants to do, but in doing so, it will allow you to grow. It will be painful, but it will position the firm for growth."
"I fully agree that fixed fees and efficiency are the future, but the comp model built around billing hours has to go away."

Subject Matter Coach
Debbie Foster, Affinity Consulting

Debbie Foster is a nationally recognized thought leader on people, efficiency and innovation in professional legal organizations. Her 20+ years of experience, combined with a mix of strategic management and strong leadership skills, has enabled Debbie to develop a unique ability to work with law firms and legal departments to help them navigate the ever-changing legal services delivery landscape. You can watch the full playbook event here.