As a whole, corporate legal departments have long provided superior work-life balance when compared with the Biglaw lifestyle.
But even with an increasing focus on benefits other than compensation in the industry, a new survey suggests that corporate law departments are not immune to a downward trend in workplace satisfaction.
Here, we share some steps for your department to consider in light of this data.
The 2022 Future Ready Lawyer report from Wolters Kluwer reveals that 86% of legal departments reported experiencing “very” or “somewhat significant” impacts from the Great Resignation — and that 70% of in-house lawyers are likely to leave in the coming year.
The latter statistic puzzled many industry watchers — including our own CEO.
“If 70% of lawyers are moving, where are they going?” Trista Engel wrote on LinkedIn.
“Are they taking the leap with other companies? Taking a break altogether? Taking interim positions to test a new company before committing? This should be eye-opening for any in-house leader hoping to avoid serious churn.”
Tend to Your Career Paths
One step legal department leaders looking to retain their current attorneys can take is to place a greater emphasis on career advancement — investing both time and money in the development of those attorneys and strengthening the case for a particular department to be a long-term home.
Only 39% of corporate attorneys believe their organization does a “very good” job of delivering on these goals, according to the report.
This might look like, for example, demonstrating a high level of confidence in an attorney’s capabilities by assigning that attorney to a specialized, complex project that is best suited to someone with knowledge of the inner workings of the corporation — the type of project where good in-house counsel can shine.
Legal departments interested in this approach might consider an alternative legal services provider like Paragon, which provides interim in-house counsel to major companies like Apple and Dropbox.
ALSPs can alleviate some of the pressure that comes with staying on top of today’s workplace demands, allowing permanent in-house counsel to focus on the most pressing, most intricate matters their team is facing at a given time.
Communicate and Listen
Regular reevaluations regarding compensation, benefits, and potential promotions or other leadership opportunities can give this strategy an extra boost by demonstrating a concrete investment by the company in the well-being of its legal team — in or out of the workplace.
Additionally, legal department leaders should keep an open mind when it comes to internal culture — especially when it comes to remote work.
“The pandemic changed how and where corporate lawyers work,” Wolters Kluwer reports. “69% expect to work remotely from home all or part of the time going forward.”
Allowing for greater flexibility in terms of work environment is another way organizations can not only align their policies with attorney expectations, but also show concrete investment in the well-being of a company’s legal department.
Focus on Tech
Of the challenges currently faced by corporate legal departments, the most pressing may be the acquisition and implementation of new technology.
While the focus is often on technology’s ability to help a department meet ever-increasing demands and complexity, less attention is paid to its role in retaining lawyers and staff.
That may be a mistake.
According to the Wolters Kluwer report, 87% of in-house attorneys say it’s “extremely” or “very important” to “work for a legal department that fully leverages technology.”
The majority of attorneys expect their in-house legal departments to find ways to use new technology — including process automation and artificial intelligence solutions — to decrease the impact of increased demand on the well-being of in-house counsel.
And fully leveraging technology to aid in-house attorneys doesn’t just mean investing in new tech, journalist and legal industry consultant Richard Tromans writes in the Wolters Kluwer report.
“It’s vital that firms — and clients — do not see tech in isolation,” he says. “No more than a company that makes cars should see welding machines in isolation from the processes, raw materials and skilled people needed to make the ‘production line’ effective and efficient.”
While the report focuses on lawyers, its lessons for leadership and management can apply across industries. Read the full report here.