The legal industry is notoriously difficult to break into as an aspiring lawyer. Even after securing that crucial first job, progressing up the ladder in a law firm can be an arduous journey—while reaching the partnership realm comes with its own challenges.

Amongst a crowded and competitive market space, law firms face a tough job in recruiting the right candidates from the industry’s elite talent. In a period of uncertainty, with firms operating in an increasingly tumultuous environment, it is more crucial than ever for firms to attract the best talent to lead them through such challenging times.

A law firm’s short-term profitability is influenced by the quality of lawyers it attracts, but a law firm’s long-term profitability is driven by the quality of lawyers it retains.

Whilst reputation and big salaries may be enough to attract the best talent into your law firm; retaining these individuals can be tricky. If a partner or associate is excelling in their field, they instantly become hot property. A decent salary, generous incremental pay bumps, and bonuses certainly carry some weight in regard to staff retention, but the generations that are entering the workplace today have a new perspective and a different set of priorities.

Let’s take a look at some of the areas that law firms can address to avoid being swept up in a crisis.

Culture Matters

Peter Drucker, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of modern business management, has shown us that 85% of an employee’s engagement is influenced by the environment in which they work. An engaged lawyer is a more effective lawyer and more likely to stay at your law firm. Law firms need to focus on creating better and more progressive workplace ecosystems that enable staff to thrive and develop.

Quality & Diversity of Work

Ultimately, when I ask lawyers why they decide to stay and build their careers at a particular law firm, it comes down to the quality and diversity of work. A big challenge for firms is keeping staff perpetually engaged. Offering them a stimulating workload with clear opportunities to develop skills and with scope to progress, will inspire associates to grow in the same direction as the law firm.

Feedback is also key. Adequate skill development needs to be nurtured and this can only happen if there is a meaningful and continuous flow of feedback to help your people hone their skills.

Alternative Career Paths

While associates still widely aspire to gain the coveted partnership status, many are looking to other career paths and law firms would be wise to offer a variety of opportunities as a way of retaining top talent. Business strategy, knowledge management, HR and the emergence of innovative technology roles offer dynamic opportunities for associates who are disillusioned with the never ending stress of climbing the partnership ladder.


A 2018 Gallup study, found that only 30% of U.S. employees agree that they receive regular recognition for doing good work. Employees that do not feel adequately acknowledged are twice as likely to start looking for work opportunities outside of your organization. This is especially true for high performing employees. Law firm life can be fast-paced and often very pressured, and making sure that you are taking time to acknowledge and recognise people, should never drop down the list of priorities.