Integrating lawyers: how to retain lateral partners and associates

Integrating lawyers - how to retain lateral partners and associates

Something’s not working in the legal industry. Firms just  can’t seem to hang on to lateral hires. The problem isn’t in  the hiring process, it’s in the way firms go about integrating lawyers.

Low retention rates linked to poor lawyer integration?

In Decipher’s Global Lateral Hire Risk Mitigation Study, they focused on the Am Law 200 to identify, evaluate and address the risks associated with lateral hires. At a glance, it looks like firms are prepared to integrate lawyers. Most have plans for partners before they join, and others are able to create integration plans within a month of a new hire starting.

But retention statistics just don’t agree: 30% of lateral hires leave within five years. And with a cost as high as 200-400% of annual compensation, it’s no wonder firms are taking integration seriously.

Firms taking integration seriously

Dorianna Phillips is Director of Lawyer Recruiting at Stoel Rives. She’s a great client, with a real passion for improving employee integration. She believes that a fundamental shift is required to boost retention rates.

All too often, firms take on new hires and separate onboarding and retention management into two separate processes. “After 3-5 days of  inductions and IT setup, the ‘onboarding’ stops and the ‘retention’ starts. Unfortunately, retention activities often only occur every 3, 6 or 12 months, by which time it’s too late to change first impressions,” she explains.

“So many firms bring in new hires, give them some training, and then hope they’ll stay,” she says. “We shouldn’t be hoping they’ll stay, we should be ensuring they’ll stay. And it really isn’t that difficult – you simply need to give them access to the right people, tools and processes to ensure they feel valued over the long term.”

So what does a complete integration plan look like for a lateral hire joining your firm? And what can you do to start the retention process from day one?

Integrating lawyers is a long-term play

Making time to schedule employee integration activities over months, or even years, shows that your organization really cares.

“Sometimes, especially when people are busy, they forget the power of a simple act of kindness to a new hire. All the HR team needs to do is find a way to remind them just how important these little things are – and that’s what an employee integration process is designed to do.”

Here are some of the things we have seen successful firms do when integrating lawyers:

  • Connecting new associates with mentors and coaches who can provide guidance and support. In the case of lateral partners, a peer liaison is a great resource for learning how to deal with key stakeholders and highlighting any unspoken rules.
  • Ensuring that the relevant people make time to introduce themselves to the new hire, ideally in person or over the phone.
  • Scheduling regular coffee breaks with co-workers to help the new recruit build relationships.
  • Inviting new recruits and their partner out to lunch or dinner with senior stakeholders.
  • Ensuring they’re invited to join relevant interest groups, as well as any diversity and inclusion committees.

This level of support helps new hires feel more at ease and gives them confidence in your firm.

Integrating lawyers: take it to the next level with vi

The simplest and most effective way to generate  results is to simplify and automate processes. And when it comes to integrating new hires, this idea holds up, especially in busy law firms.

In Dorianna’s case, her team used to manage their firm’s employee integration process in Excel: a highly manual and time-consuming process.

vi’s Employee Integration and Retention solution enables HR teams to create new integration programs in a third of the time previously required. The software makes the entire process much easier to manage and measure. “It saves us a ton of time, which equates to dollars. It also improves the employee experience, keeps our firm happy and healthy, and increases productivity,” explains Dorianna.

And that’s what we’re all about at vi: keeping your people healthy, happy and productive by giving them a great employee experience. It’s time to stop losing good people to poor employee experiences.

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