Burnout among the general workforce—and lawyers especially—might have passed the point of no return. In a recent poll conducted by Monster, 95% of American workers stated they are thinking about finding new jobs, implying a general sense of burnout in the workforce. With the reports from Thomson Reuters suggesting that a substantial majority of in-house counsel experienced a surge in workload over the pandemic, it is likely your people are feeling burnt out too.
With the amount of time it takes to “woo” experienced in-house counsel, increased attrition could result in reduced timeliness, deliverability, and compliance. The good news is that their departure is not a forgone conclusion.
Even if your in-house attorneys are considering changing companies, there are clear actions you can take now to deescalate their workplace stress and reinvigorate your people. Here are a few retention strategies that can make a difference for General Counsel.
Taking Interest in Attorney’s Goals
As a rule of thumb, attorneys are goal-setters. They know what they want to accomplish and what they want from their personal and professional lives. Yes, they want the ability to perform their jobs and pursue their goals without constant oversight and direction, but they, like most people, benefit from some accountability along the way. When law department leaders take interest in those goals, there’s less incentive for them to leave for perceived greener pastures.
Managers should have ongoing communication with their team of attorneys, both at a relaxed interpersonal level and at a performance monitoring level. Showing genuine concern for the well-being of an individual as well as recognition on job performance (think praise and guidance) is meaningful.
One opportunity is during regular check-ins. In addition to covering concerns and obstacles for attorneys’ current bandwidth, you can incorporate conversations about their professional and personal goals.
On a professional side, it’s important to know their goals so you can open doors that contribute to their career growth and passion while also achieving your own legal objectives. Even if you cannot provide direct assistance in their personal lives, acting as a sounding board can help convey your commitment to their wellbeing. By making these points a routine part of your regular conversations, you create a stronger bond with your team members. When attorneys feel your company is engaged in the entirety of their goals, they’re more likely to keep calling your corporation home.
Though some in the industry believe returning to the office is not a deal-breaker for in-house counsel, our view is it does not hurt to hedge your bets in such a competitive market. The traditional appeal of corporate counsel positions has been the work-style flexibility and focus on quality of life. It’s those corporations that continue to offer or expand upon their work-life balance that will minimize attrition in the coming months.
In our own experience, flexibility is a huge component of employee retention. Our own retention rate has far surpassed workforce norms. The median tenure of current Assigned Counsel® employees is 24 years, which we attribute in part to the flexibility we’ve always offered with working hours and location.
Working with Temporary Attorneys
When reviewing in-house counsel workloads over the last year, Thomson Reuters emphasized that the cause of the increase was often from projects and contracts that required both an in-depth knowledge of specific disciplines and a quick turnaround difficult for law firms to achieve. Though workloads were expanded out of necessity, many in-house attorneys are—not surprisingly—running on fumes.
In the hopes of avoiding a sizeable exodus, it’s important for your law department to encourage attorneys to take time to recharge this summer, keeping their workload covered by engaging temporary attorneys in the meantime.
The right legal staffing partner can find experienced attorneys with practice area expertise while maximizing already tight budgets. If you work with Assigned Counsel, you’ll get access to a nationwide network of temporary attorneys—whether you need them in-person or remote, you’ll find assistance fast.
Want help keeping attrition low this year? With access to a wide spectrum of experienced attorneys, Assigned Counsel can help you keep your department running smoothly while you give your people a break.