3 Employee Retention Strategies for Law Firms

As a busy lawyer, the last thing you want to hear is that one or more of your valued employees is resigning. Sudden and unexpected resignations can be disruptive and create situations where you and your remaining staff members go into reactive mode. You know this isn’t ideal for retaining clients and representing them in the best possible ways.

But, you may also be thinking that it would be relatively easy to replace employees since you’ve been able to do it in the past. Besides, it’s impossible to please everyone and you can’t expect every employee to stay forever, right?

What if I told you that those assumptions are exactly why you’re having problems retaining your best employees? Your employees need to feel appreciated and valued to stay put. While that can mean different things to each of your employees, certain employee retention strategies appeal to the majority.

Onboarding and Professional Development

When employees join a law firm, they want reassurance that they’ll be supported, professionally. They also want room to grow and advance in their careers. Having an onboarding plan in place for each staff position can help you check off several boxes when it comes to training and development.

First, onboarding acclimates new staff members to your firm’s culture and the position. It’s a great time to set expectations for the job and also find out what your new employee expects. Second, you and your new staff member can start talking about professional goals and what type of support and resources your employee will need.

A good onboarding process can make new employees feel welcome, communicate they’ll be supported in reaching their goals and overcoming challenges in their work, let them know how they’ll be a valued contributor, and set the overall tone for their professional relationship with your firm.

However, the process of supporting and refining an employee’s professional goals doesn’t stop once onboarding is complete. Professional development is an ongoing process that affirms the employer-employee relationship is more than transactional. It’s about each side investing in the other – your firm invests in developing the skill sets and ambitions of your employees, while the employee turns around and uses those skill sets and ambitions to help your firm get better. Remember that professional development can include formal and informal attributes, including mentorship, courses, and stretch assignments.

Telecommuting and Flexible Work Options

Showing that your firm values work-life balance and employees as people with lives outside of the office goes a long way. Offering telecommuting options a few days a week for those who have a longer commute into the office can help alleviate stress and travel expenses. A shorter workweek, such as four or three days with longer hours, appeals to some employees. Also, letting employees know that taking accrued vacation or personal time off is encouraged and the norm, rather than promoting working at all costs, helps sends the message that employees’ personal and mental health is valued.

While work should be a priority, encouraging or even forcing employees to work when they’re sick can send the wrong message. Even if it is unintentional, this type of norm lets employees know that their well-being and needs come second to the firm’s. It also communicates that employees are unappreciated. Constantly working extra hours without compensating for it with an extra vacation day or additional pay is another norm that communicates employees and their efforts are unseen.


While it should go without saying that a competitive recognition and rewards program is necessary for employee retention, some employers still develop the attitude that employees are lucky to have a paying job. The reality though is that in today’s labor market, employers have competition for the same quality talent. Paying market or above market wages and offering a solid benefits program is the bare minimum for retaining today’s talented employees.

Although not every employee will be motivated by a more attractive salary and benefits package, not paying enough or offering good benefits can create additional strain and stress in your employees’ lives. Recognizing staff members when they do a good job, reach a professional milestone, or work hard on a new case or one of your firm’s initiatives is also critical. Let your employees know they and their work is appreciated. Express your appreciation often and take the time to check in with each of your staff members periodically to see how they’re doing and if they need help or additional resources. Get to know your staff as people first and workers second.

Want more information on how to keep your best talent from walking out the door? 

Listen to Episode #2 of Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor, “Employee Performance: How To Improve, Track, And Measure The Quality Of Your Workforce.”

In this episode of Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor, Jay and I discuss:

  • The 10 Toxic Thinking Patterns and their function in your law firm
  • 3 Key Questions for all employees: Can they do the job, Will they do the job, and Will they do the job to your specifications
  • 5 Steps to Human Decision-Making Theory
  • What differentiates the Real Talent Hiring assessment from the DISC, Kolbe, Meyers-Briggs and other assessment tools
  • The weight to be given to an Assessment versus other screening/hiring data
  • The interplay between Actions and Results in employees
  • Creating sustainable change over time
  • Coaching to optimize performance