A consistent question I receive from practice owners and professionals is, “How do I keep good associates?” Lawyers and other professionals come and go, and no law firm or profession is immune from this trend. Young professionals seem to hop from firm to firm, or want to strike out on their own, once they get a bit of experience under their belt. When you are training new associates, ideally, you are training them to be experienced, self-reliant, and productive–in other words–the kind of professional that could leave your firm and start their own practice. The attributes that you want your associates to have are the same attributes that make them ready to practice on their own.
So, how do you keep good
attorneys or any employees for that matter?
There is no magic bullet or sure-fire way to retain talented employees,
but there are things that you can do, beyond paying a fair salary, to encourage
your employees to stay.
1) Open Communication and Teamwork – Let your associates
know that they can come to you with anything.
Foster an environment of open communication and working as a team. Make clear that they can come to you with concerns,
problems, or even if they make a mistake.
You can work together to find a solution.
2) Be a Mentor – In addition to imparting knowledge in your
field of practice, instill your own core values in your employees. Show them how you care about and value your
clients and your employees. Show, by example,
your values of honesty, trust, dedication, and perseverance, or whatever your
core values may be. You can also
encourage your associates to take on more responsibilities and try different
tasks. Then you can show them patience
and trust when working with them in these new areas.
3) Get Feedback – Ask your staff how you are doing as a boss
and listen to what they have to say.
Value their input, because they are part of a team. Then implement changes based upon their
input. If you foster an environment of
trust, employees will be more likely to share this kind of constructive
4) Create a Positive Environment – Again, this positive
environment starts with your positive outlook and attitude. Have a bit of fun or show your sense of humor. Show gratitude for and appreciation of your
employees. Bring in lunch or dessert
once a month. Celebrate employee
birthdays or work anniversaries. Engage in team building activities.
5) Talk about the Future – Many professionals are reluctant
to follow this advice, but it is important.
If you don’t share enough about what you see as the future of the firm,
and how that associate fits into that future, you will likely lose that employee
to a better offer or their willingness to risk starting their own practice. Don’t keep your staff wondering or guessing
about the future. Share your vision with
them and let them know you would like them to be a part of it.
Finally, it all starts with
hiring the right person, i.e., an associate who is a good fit for your firm. A
person who is solely interested in making a buck is not likely the person who
will stay and is not likely a person whom you would want to stay in your
firm. So, choose carefully.
Deanna Brocker is a NC licensed attorney and owner in The Brocker Law Firm, P.A. She represents attorneys before the State Bar on grievance matters, and also counsels attorneys on ethics matters. She previously served as Assistant Ethics Counsel to the NC State Bar for over 10 years. View complete profile