in Careers Advice, Employers

How to Retain Law Staff in a Busy Legal Job Market

How to Retain Staff in a Busy Job Market

With over 11,000 solicitors and lawyers on our books, Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment is usually well placed to see when a firm is doing the right things and when it isn’t. It costs a minimum of £4,000 each time a fee earner leaves a firm and joins another one – not just in recruitment costs but also in training, fee earner hours, administration and the like. Quite a lot of job hunting is done because of current salary levels – this is why the top tip is to pay the right amount!

Here are the top 5 ways of ensuring that your key staff do not up sticks and leave whenever the recruitment wave is on the up (key times of the year are September, January and April-June).

1. Pay them the right amount.
This is the biggest bug bear amongst employees. They read the papers, they watch the news. And they know that the markets are on the up. They also know that your firm is very busy, and when a firm is very busy it means profits and turnover are going up. There is rarely any memory retained about the fact that you kept them on during extremely difficult times a few years ago. No doubt there is a vacancy somewhere on the internet offering money that is off the scale for your firm and no doubt your employees are tempted… Keep track of salaries by reading the job adverts in the back of the Gazette – this will give you a good idea of rates. Greater London levels are at the high end – the North West and North East are still pretty low.

2. Make sure you review salaries and pay.
Even if you don’t increase pay, go through the motions of ensuring that you at least consider reviewing it. Annual or 6 monthly reviews go down extremely well – this is often the only chance an employee has to discuss their income with anyone. Listen carefully, don’t judge.

3. Consider flexible working arrangements.
One of the key reasons for staff seeking a move is to try and negotiate flexibility around other interests and family life. There are some firms out there who are notoriously bad at considering altering hours, increasing annual leave or allowing work from home. You are behind the times – this is now becoming the new norm. 9am to 5pm at most small to medium firms is no longer essential. Think carefully – it doesn’t cost you anything and can score highly in the loyalty stakes.

4. Make sure you have a happy working environment.
We recently had a call from a candidate looking to make a move because the partners at their firm shout at each other (not at the staff). This was making the working environment extremely unpleasant. Listen to the way your staff speak to each other – are there obvious problems? Do team bonding – it doesn’t hurt to go for a drink or a meal every now and again on a Friday night – who knows – you may even enjoy it.

5. Make sure your office environment is nice to work in.
Have a look around your offices – are they nice for your staff to sit in for 7-10 hours a day? Do clients feel comfortable? Do you feel comfortable? When was the last time you painted the window frames? Do you need to make a trip to Ikea for some new chairs?

It doesn’t cost much to improve and just a few small and quick adjustments could save you £1000s in retaining staff.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at