Interviewed by Bradley Collins, CEO, LegalTechTalk
Hi Caroline, what are some of the things law firms are doing to attract and retain top talent?
There are of course various strategies to attract and retain talent. This is a highly competitive market to get into and once you are in, it’s a competitive landscape. It would be wrong of me to not mention competitive compensation at the top but you know, whilst more money (let’s be honest that is what we mean when we say competitive compensation) can equate to more happiness and so perhaps attract talent, there was a study published in 2010* that concluded that after about $75,000 a year, your happiness levels off, even if your income increases. So the offering to the incredible talent in our industry must be so much more.
Top talent wants to thrive, wants to develop and wants to work somewhere that is aligned with their own values. Empowerment, flexibility, autonomy and to be a high performer – tell me a single person who in this industry doesn’t want that! Firms are therefore needing to offer skills development, innovative working practices, psychologically safe workplaces and a purpose driven business strategy.
I also fundamentally believe that people want to see themselves in others, the need for role models and genuine diversity. Real action and commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity are so important and our young talent in particular have highly attuned radar when the words don’t meet the actions in the space.
What kind of culture do you believe is required at law firms to enable maximum productivity across the board – and how has this evolved post-pandemic?
As Simmons & Simmons’ Global Head of Wellbeing it perhaps comes as no surprise that I believe a wellbeing culture is essential. Within the legal profession, at all levels from lawyers to business services, there are high standards for excellence and with that comes pressure. Most of us are likely to say that we work well under pressure and that we need some form of stress to perform at our best. But, when that pressure develops, it can begin to affect our performance and wellbeing. Critically for me, wellbeing is about ensuring that we have the culture and the necessary structures in place to support the work our people do. Because when supported they’re developing and thriving within their careers – which is why the key word and ambition underpinning Simmons’ entire strategy is ‘thrive’. There is a very clear relationship between a thriving lawyer and a high performing lawyer and therefore, wellbeing is key for productivity. And has this evolved post-pandemic, undoubtedly. During the pandemic we were told to look after ourselves and protect ourselves. And it also created a shift in people’s expectations about what they do and how they manage their lives – it pushed our industry on and we are having conversations now that, at a guess, we would not have been having for another 10 or 15 years.
What else can law firms do to create a more inclusive and welcoming workplace for young professionals?
So I would say listen and when I say listen, I mean empathetic listening. The trainees and apprentices starting today, will be the partners who will be leading the firm when I retire – they are our succession plan and building the next generation law firm means we must listen to that generation.
*Kahneman D, Deaton A. High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. PNAS. 2010;107(38):16489-16493. doi:10.1073/pnas.1011492107
Partner, Real Estate – Global Head of Wellbeing
Simmons & Simmons LLP