Retaining talent at Partner level

10 Feb 2015

Recruitment in any sector can and always should be about retaining excellent members of your existing staff, as well as looking externally to find new members of the team. That is never more true than at partner level in legal firms, where employees have been trained over several years to reach a position, fighting off stiff competition.

The risk for legal firms is that once an employee has made it to partner level, they leave the business and take their expertise elsewhere, just at the point where they were starting to be in the best possible fee-earning position.

The reasons for partner-level employees moving on from your firm after reaching that level are of course varied. However, in our day-to-day interactions with partners we believe we’ve identified a handful of key factors. Familiarity with these elements may well give you a better chance to retain their employment for many years to come.

Further growth

Progressing beyond partner can of course be extremely tough, even for the most qualified and highest performing. Sideways movement into other partner roles may seem attractive at this point in their careers, so it is important they are shown that the opportunity for growth is still there.

Engagement with both equity partners and the managing partner is a must and the option to further their career through membership of external bodies, legal or local, could also be encouraged. It doesn’t pay for firms to have employees whose careers aren’t growing, so give serious thought to enabling partners as much as possible – keeping this growth heading upwards will have tangible benefits in the short and long term for both parties.

Increasing input

As partners become more and more established, it is natural that they will want to have an increased say in the business, potentially as they move towards equity or managing partner level. Consider broadening their responsibilities into areas that reach further than their day-to-day roles, expanding their knowledge base and their ability to contribute to the team.

Ensuring that you take note of partner input and feedback in the day-to-day running of the business helps them to see how valued they are by the company, reaffirming your interest in having them involved at the very top level. Talk to partners regularly, gain their feedback on business issues and make sure you act on promising suggestions; there’s benefit for both the firm and the individual.

Complete fulfilment

The recurring thread throughout these three pieces of advice is a focus on good communication with your partners; making sure you understand what a ‘good day at the office’ means to them.

In that vein, try to make sure your partners’ work commitments are in areas that satisfy them most, encouraging them to get involved in other areas where they may add valuable input. Do they want to be more involved with recruitment, for example, or with the progression of those at the firm on training contracts or still completing qualifications?

This type of investigation does not just lead to the partner feeling more satisfied but also to increased working levels, as the partner gets more and more involved with the work they most want to be involved in.