Three Ways to Attract Superior Associates Other Than Salary Hikes

Competition is fierce as ever among global law firms wishing to entice top-quality law school graduates. A base salary of $180,000 for first-year associates certainly draws attention. Much of that attention is coming from general counsel within the Fortune 100 concerned about fees. Savvy law firms will use this debate to bolster alternative methods of recruiting top talent while appeasing their discerning clients. Here are three ways to attract good lawyers while improving client satisfaction:


  1. Develop a superior training curriculum. Young lawyers know they are expected to deliver excellent work but may be unsure as to what industry or functional area will suit their talents. Smart law firms offer training and mentoring early on to help associates find their niche. Firms which offer robust, on-going business development training reap additional advantages as they spot and support rising rainmakers early on and lay the groundwork for succession planning. Robust training refers to leveraging external or internal coaches solely devoted to business development instruction that facilitates value creation for clients. In order for business development guidance to be effective, it should not be an add-on task for an already busy marketing manager who has no professional services sales experience.
  2. Create a rewards program for innovating client service. Big Four accounting firms have harvested many great ideas from young managers which directly help clients and create solutions for entire industries. Most of these firms have formal “ideas programs” in place and offer bonuses as well as increased visibility for staff accountants who show true business acumen in serving clients. Sophisticated law firms reward the best and brightest by recognizing strategic ideas as well as billable hours.
  3. Offer a great work environment. A healthy work environment encompasses more than casual dress and elaborate off-campus parties. Law firms with lower turnover rates and a viable path to partnership will ultimately attract and retain the best talent. Is the word on the street about your firm encouraging? Is leadership transparent? Are efforts made to assign meaningful work beyond the mundane? Is your firm family-friendly and does the firm support employees in times of illness or crisis? Happier employees will stay longer and serve your clients better. Many questions are asked by corporate counsel when buying legal services. Many factors are considered by law firm candidates when choosing where to start a career. It is in your firm’s best interest to have smart answers to all of these questions.​

Brenda Pontiff, managing principal of Partner Track Academy, provides coaching to associates in Big Law. She also re-engineers professional services marketing departments with a focus on increasing the sophistication of staff to support business development and client retention. Follow her on Twitter @PartnerTrackA.