Creating ‘a great place to work’ is a key element of talent attraction and retention. Julie Harrison explains the challenges and provides a taster of her session at the LMS annual conference on 27 April

According to research conducted in December 2015 by Otterburn Legal Consulting, the top issue facing firms was the attraction and retention of key talent. In light of this, and considering that the core service provided by law firms is delivered by its people, it is crucial that leaders and partners within law firms seek to understand how to create a ‘great place to work’ for their people.

What does ‘a great place to work’ mean?

There are a number of challenges around that. A great place to work for whom? And how do we understand the different motivators for different people? Younger fee-earners no longer appear to want what we wanted when we were their age and are asking for a different working environment – how can we manage that? Partners now consider retirement in their early 50s and we lose their experience and wisdom from the firm – how can we retain that knowledge? Requests for flexible working mean that the culture of the firm may well be changed because people are not in the same working place at the same time – how can our culture be maintained? Firms need to understand these (and other) issues and develop responses to them.

The impact of leaders in a firm

In research conducted by Dan Goleman in ‘New Leaders’, it was found that between 50 and 70 per cent of variances in organisational climate can be explained by differences in leadership style – in other words, the behaviour and style of leaders create what it is like to work in a firm. Certainly, firm-wide talent development initiatives and communication programmes can play their part in creating a great place to work, however, by far the biggest impact on people’s engagement and motivation is the style and behaviour they experience from their immediate leaders and managers. The leaders of a firm need to understand they power they have and develop the skills and styles of behaviour to motivate and engage with the different people in the organisation.

The challenge

And the greatest challenge of all? Achieving the necessary changes through busy professionals in an environment with pressure on hourly rates, the seemingly inexorable commoditisation of legal services, changes in technology, new business models, and competitors who pay very different salary levels. How do you get them to give it the attention and skill it deserves, so that you continue to motivate and retain your key talent at all levels?

Julie Harrison will be presenting a plenary session on creating a great place to work at the Law Management Section annual conference on 27 April 2016.

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Julie Harrison

Specialising in professional service and large corporate businesses, Julie develops senior executives, leaders and their teams to achieve and lead effective change

julie harrison

through leadership development, executive coaching and senior team facilitation.

Formerly a change director at a top 20 law firm, Julie led the successful MBO of a legal services business. She uses her practical experience and expertise to enable businesses to lead successful change.

Julie is a frequent speaker and the author of several reports and books on leadership.