5 Training Tips for Law Firm Talent Retention

The image shows a computer keyboard and a mouse. On a sticky note resting on the keyboard are the words, "Employee Retention. Reward. Motivate. Retain." The image accompanies a story on law firm talent retention.

Law firms are struggling to recruit and retain talented employees. They aren’t alone, of course. The Great Recession has been mind-bogglingly extensive in its impact. According to a recent Aderant survey, “Talent Retention” leaped ahead of all other major concerns at law firms, even far ahead of cybersecurity. As AttorneyAtWork.com put it, “For talent retention to rank above cybersecurity, which is always top-of-mind, indicates that keeping good people is harder than ever for firms.” How do you boost your law firm talent retention?

Often, law firm training is seen as a time-suck, especially in an environment that measures minutes by dollars. But what if training was the key to law firm talent retention? Here are 5 training tips that can improve your firm’s talent retention.

1. Train New Hires, Don’t Throw Them into the Deep End

New hires to your law firm cannot be expected to contribute to firm productivity on Day One. If you throw your new hires into the deep end without any training, they will drown… and then they will leave your firm.

In a recent panel hosted by Savvy Training & Consulting, Dan Bressler, Senior Technology Coach at Nelson Mullins, explained how his firm protects new hires during their initial training: The first thing they teach new assistants and administrators is how to put an out-of-office alert on their email, explaining that they are in three days of training and unavailable. Once the training is complete, that new employee removes the out-of-office alert, and also better understands all the requests and expectations streaming into their in-box. 

When you take time to train new hires in the “law firm way,” you show them that you care about their long-term experience.

2. Use Your Help Desk as a Barometer of Satisfaction and Productivity

Do you have a Help Desk? Or a person who serves as your go-to resource for tech questions, ranging from “How do I use Word Styles?” to “I think I clicked on a scam email!” That person is certainly aware of how productive and satisfied your employees are feeling.

The truth is, most people want to be productive and contribute to something greater than themselves. When they feel thwarted by your firm’s technologies (think of all the platforms on which you expect mastery), then their productivity plummets, as well as their morale.

Ask your Help Desk and your tech gurus what kinds of questions they are getting from people, then solve the most common challenges with a few helpful trainings. Not only will you immediately boost productivity and morale, but your Help Desk and tech gurus will have more time to work on the firm’s strategic initiatives.

3. Offer Training Experiences on Skills People Actually Need

Perhaps you’ve gotten this far in the article and you’re patting yourself on the back because you offer regular trainings to your employees. Fantastic! Now, take the next step and ask yourself if you are providing the targeted learning opportunities that each employee actually needs. Yes, this is more work than a one-off lunch-and-learn on Word Styles. This approach requires assessments of each employee’s skills, then customized trainings to take each person to the next level of productivity. (A robust learning management system loaded with training content makes this task a snap.)

How does this help law firm talent retention? Imagine how demoralizing it is to be offered trainings on skills you have known for years. Imagine how empowering it is to know that your firm is willing to invest in tailored learning experiences that provide professional development and also contribute to productivity. When you invest in your people, they feel valued.

4. Reward Learning and Productivity Advancements

In the Savvy Influencer Panel mentioned above, all the panelists and participants were envious of the relationship established between the training and HR departments at Eckert Seamans. Not only did the Learning and Development Manager, Carla Healy, provide bonuses for employees who tackled extra learning certifications, but the Chief Human Resources Officer, Myra Kilgore, included learning expectations in annual reviews. 

When you set high expectations of your employees, make sure you give them the resources and incentives to achieve those goals. In general, if you’ve hired the right folks, most people don’t shy away from high expectations unless they are completely unable to reach them due to a lack of skills or training. Also, people need to be rewarded for being productive members of your team.

5. Teach Soft Skills that Create a Positive Workplace for All

Finally, make sure that all people in your firm feel valued by their co-workers and managers. As we published last February in an article titled, “5 HR Training Trends for 2022,” you need to make sure that your work environment is positive for all. 

“Prospective hires, employees and customers will make decisions based on whether the company took real, concrete steps, reporting on their successes in a verifiable way. Organizations will need to enhance education, institute accountability, diversify leadership and recruitment and implement steps to screen bias out of existing processes and systems. Among the biggest opportunities will be for organizations to leverage an elevated culture as a cornerstone of innovation, problem-solving and collective intelligence through diverse, cross-functioning teams.”

These human skills – soft skills – are trainable! And whether you offer soft skills training due to your state’s compliance laws, or you are more proactive and require soft skills training above and beyond your what the law requires, this type of training makes a positive impact on culture. And that makes a positive impact on law firm talent retention.

Culture of Learning Builds a Positive Feedback Loop

Employees know when their employer cares about them. And while you may be old enough to remember those bygone days when you could grind your associates and paralegals until they snapped, those days are gone. There are a dozen law firms in your city alone that would happily take your exhausted employees and give them the lifestyle and workplace changes they now demand. 

However, if your law firm invests in training that drives personal satisfaction, mutual respect, and professional advancement, you will boost law firm talent retention. With that human resources advantage as your foundation, productivity and profitability also flourish.


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