The best candidates are never easy to find. Especially in a global landscape where 'The Great Resignation', employee burnout and hybrid working are making working environments more complex.
To help firms better attract and retain the next-generation of lawyers, and give them a competitive advantage, we interviewed a group of up-and-coming lawyers* to find out what means the most to them.
1 Firms must support trainees in realising their ambitious goals
Eighty-three percent of the young lawyers we spoke to said that career progression was "very important" to them. Not only are development paths, clear KPIs and formal training opportunities vital, so too are mentorship programmes. Where young lawyers are increasingly joining firms virtually, it’s critical that organisations find the right balance between virtual and in-person learning opportunities.
"Being mentored clears out the vagueness of procedures, clients' requests, and lengthy research; [my firm] has introduced me to the importance of consistent one-on-one coaching."
Mohamed Safwat, Marghany Advocates, Egypt
2 Young lawyers love flexible working, and expect it to stay
Most respondents revealed that remote working benefits them when it comes to mental and physical health and increased productivity. However, as firms adjust to hybrid models, they should beware of unwittingly isolating young professionals from colleagues and networking opportunities. Hybrid working has also tipped the scales when it comes to work-life balance, leading to burnout. If firms are to attract and retain young talent, they’ll need to demonstrate their commitment to employee wellbeing.
"The new generation of lawyers is very different from past generations. [We're] more focused on healthy workloads, flexible working, and innovation."
Gabriel Frati, Lobo de Rizzo Advogados, Brazil
3 A sense of belonging is essential to longevity
Camaraderie is critical for a young lawyer’s desire to stay with their employer. This stems from a firm’s culture that promotes teamwork and social inclusion, and an environment that values workers regardless of their age or experience.
For many, diversity and inclusion policies contributed to the feeling that their employers took belonging seriously. And, as one young partner pointed out, diversity matters not only to staff but increasingly to clients, many of whom will expect the law firms they retain to reflect their own values and practices.
"The people who you work with can make or break your experience at a firm. Our jobs as lawyers are challenging enough, so I would not want to be somewhere where there is added stress from a hostile work environment."
Divya Shahani, Miller Thomson LLP, Canada
4 The latest technology will help minimise stress and frustration
The shift to hybrid working has accelerated the need for law firms to digitise operations. Some may feel that as long as an IT setup does not impede day-to-day work or services to clients, it's good enough. But law firms can't afford to shelve innovation. A progressive attitude to technology and innovation would not only help you remain competitive, but also enhance the employee experience by streamlining time-consuming processes. A clearer alignment between new technology and a firm's strategic goals may bridge the gap between the necessity of innovation and lawyers' enthusiasm for it.
"A thoughtful and progressive outlook on new technology and innovation is important to staying competitive and to facilitating an effective work-from-home policy."
Justin Sallis, Lathrop GPM, United States
5 Strong ethical standards will attract the best candidates
Young lawyers want to work for firms that align with their values. Employees are less tolerant of employers whose ethical stances could be called into question, and candidates are more likely to turn down job offers if they sense that a prospective workplace will not empathise with their personal stances.
"As lawyers, we have an immense impact on people's lives. Our conduct must be in tune with high ethical values to fulfill our responsibilities towards society."
Matilde Carvalho e Cortinhal, Abreu Advogados, Portugal
This is particularly true for young lawyers who expect employers to be more active in the fight against climate change, and more responsive to demands for diversity and inclusion. Law firms that fail to meet these expectations risk being left behind in the race for the best young candidates.
"It is very important to me to work in a place that engages in sustainable, environmentally solid projects for my generation and the generations that follow."
Pamela Martinez Ornelas, Gonzalez Calvillo SC, Mexico
In a time of significant workforce upheaval, law firms are competing on multiple fronts to attract and retain young recruits. Good employers are expected to be sensitive towards work-life balance, ethically minded, culturally close-knit and technologically capable. The rewards for fostering an environment like this are considerable — research consistently shows that a happy workforce is a productive workforce. And, as young lawyers have made clear, camaraderie and togetherness go a long way towards cultivating a commodity recruiters simply can't buy: loyalty.
* This research was conducted by speaking to young lawyers from Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Philippines, Portugal, United States and United Kingdom.