Minimizing Law Firm Turnover: Building Attorney Loyalty with Practice Management Technology
Attracting quality attorneys is a time- and cost-intensive process for firms. Top talent looks for a firm that is not necessarily cutting edge, but certainly not lagging behind the legal technology adoption curve. This new talent pool is expecting their future firm to equip them with tools that make communication and collaboration easier, and provide flexibility. Once you have hired a good candidate, you want to do everything possible to ensure their success. While practice management tools are probably not the first solution that comes to mind for reducing law firm turnover, they can be very effective tools in convincing attorneys to join and stay with your firm.
What’s the average law firm retention rate?
High turnover rates are standard in the legal world. Millennial and GenZ attorneys, in particular, are highly mobile. According to the American Bar Association, law firms lose 15 attorneys for every 20 hired — and more than half of those departures are unwanted by the firm. Over the six years ending in 2018, the average annual attrition was 18%.
Attorneys of color had a five-point higher attrition rate (22%) than non-minority attorneys. Surprisingly, given the well-known challenges for women in law, attrition rates were similar for women and men.
To reduce law firm turnover, it’s imperative to understand why attorneys leave and then take steps to address their concerns.
How to manage employee turnover and retention with innovative legal technology
Your firm will never be able to prevent all departures, nor do you need to. For instance, if you have a culture mismatch, both you and the attorney are better off if they leave. But there are many common issues that firms can minimize by adding time-saving legal practice management technology.
Attorneys are well aware of the benefits of legal technology. Indeed, a lack of it is one of the reasons often cited for attorney departures.
Here are four examples of how investing in practice management technology leads to lawyer retention and firm loyalty.
1. Practice management technology keeps your attorneys from burning out
Attorney burnout is a considerable problem and a notable contributor to law firm attrition. Lawyers often suffer from anxiety, depression and alcoholism, resulting from their high-stress work environments and long hours. Most lawyers continue to work long after leaving the office and often either don’t take vacation time or spend that time working.
The amount of time lawyers — particularly lawyers at larger firms — must invest in their careers also results in high divorce rates, further adding to attorney mental health issues and burnout. And lawyers also frequently miss out on meaningful family activities (e.g., birthdays, sporting events, etc.), straining family relationships.
Although work-life balance has been a mantra for many years, many attorneys still struggle to find it. So, they look to find it outside of their existing firm. Will practice management tools completely solve these problems? Naturally not. But they can help to reduce burdens on already stressed attorneys.
Consider how many hours attorneys have to spend on ‘non-billable’ administrative tasks in a given day. Surveys of firms and attorneys suggest that, on average, only between 30 and 60 percent of an attorney’s daily time is billable, creating additional stress for attorneys with high billable hours requirements.
Enter practice management technology, which provides many ways to reduce an attorney’s overall workload and, correspondingly, stress. Automated calendar management tools reduce attorney time spent managing dockets; document automation tools reduce attorney time spent on drafting and revision; tools like client portals streamline communication.
2. Practice management technology gives your attorneys more flexibility
Lack of flexibility is another common reason for law firm turnover. Attorneys are just like everyone else. They have family issues that require their time and attention and that don’t always conveniently arise outside of regular business hours (much less normal law firm hours). Lawyers who feel they can’t arrange their schedules and workloads to accommodate issues in their outside lives will look for a better situation.
This past year accelerated an existing trend in law toward remote work arrangements. COVID lockdowns forced firms to shift rapidly to telecommuting for all employees, not just attorneys. And they had to rely on cloud-based practice solutions to make this happen.
Cloud-based practice management technology gives a firm the luxury of letting its attorneys and staff work from anywhere at any time. Added flexibility can not only reduce stress on attorneys, but it can also lead to increased productivity, both of which help reduce attrition.
3. Practice management technology helps your attorneys feel more integrated
Attorneys are also more likely to leave a firm if they feel out-of-the-loop on firm performance and strategic planning. A lack of access to firm financials is a common concern raised by departing attorneys who take lateral positions at other firms. Integrated PM tools allow firms to provide on-demand firm information through configurable dashboards while tailoring that information appropriately to every user.
With more information, attorneys feel more invested in a firm’s future.
4. Practice management technology allows you to be more competitive with attorney salaries
We would be remiss if we did not address salaries. Attorneys do make moves for higher compensation, but compensation alone is rarely the cause for a move. For attorneys who make lateral moves, salary differentials are just reflections of other issues at firms.
The solution is a simple set of equations. Practice management technology use equals increased attorney productivity and efficiency. Increased productivity equals more revenue. Increased efficiency equals higher profitability. Finally, more distributable income coming into the firm equals more money for everyone at the firm.
Happy attorneys are loyal attorneys
Practice management technology can streamline your practice, leading to higher increased attorney efficiency, collaboration and more time spent on billable tasks, with more of the attorney’s time left for themselves. They can also provide your attorneys greater flexibility, making it easier for attorneys to deal with their life outside the law firm. And they can help you achieve one of every firm’s primary goals – increased profitability, which the firm can share with attorneys.
Make your attorneys’ lives simpler, less stressful and more rewarding, and you will find their devotion increase accordingly.
AbacusNext can take your firm to the next level of productivity, efficiency, profitability and loyalty. We will help organize your team, identify billing opportunities, provide accounting solutions, streamline case management, help you get paid, and more.
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