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How to Attract and Retain Legal Talent

In today’s competitive legal landscape, law firms often struggle to retain top talent—especially when it comes to associates. On average, law firms lose three associates for every four they hire1. This is a serious problem as insufficient staffing can prevent firms from fulfilling their client obligations in a timely and efficient manner. 

The first step towards retaining legal talent is understanding the change in post-pandemic priorities for many associates. By adjusting your firm’s policies and values, you’ll be more likely to keep those talented members of your team you worked so hard to recruit.

With that in mind, here are four effective recommendations for recruiting and retaining the best legal associate talent in 2024.

#1: Offer Flexible Work Options

It’s been widely acknowledged that the pandemic fundamentally changed how companies and firms do business. In the face of lockdowns, law firms were forced to take their operations remote. While public safety measures have relaxed since the height of the pandemic, the majority of young lawyers still want the option to work a hybrid schedule. Agree or disagree, many star associates have found that working from home can slash commute times, improve work-life balance, and enhance productivity for those associates who are self-motivated with a strong work ethic. 

Here are some statistics showcasing this trend:

  • Since 2021, lawyers have started ranking flexibility over pay as a leading factor they’d consider when taking a new job.2
  • 50% of legal hiring managers report that a strong candidate would deny a job offer if it didn’t include hybrid work options.3
  • 44% of surveyed lawyers would change jobs if a new employer offered them a greater ability to work a hybrid schedule.4

Failing to provide flexible work arrangements can limit your associate talent pool significantly and increase your chances of turnover. That’s why it’s crucial to adjust to the current associates’ expectations and offer maximum flexibility wherever possible.

#2: Update Your Technology & Include It In Your Associate Marketing Pitch

Most top-tier firms have invested heavily in the technology to facilitate flexible work arrangements. Nonetheless, firms should market this information to potential lateral associate hires to demonstrate a sustained commitment to supporting a hybrid work environment now and in the future.

In addition to facilitating hybrid work schedules, law firm software can also automate repetitive tasks that would distract from more interesting and meaningful work and contribute to their sense of burnout. 

Most importantly, an up-to-date tech stack can make your firm more attractive to Millennial and Gen Z associates. These digital natives are quickly becoming the largest swath of legal job seekers, and they have little patience for inefficient systems. 

#3: Personalize Your Recruitment Efforts

Many law firms aim to attract new associates by posting job listings online and attending job fairs at prestigious law schools. However, one of the best strategies to produce a steady flow of top lateral law firm associates is to select a couple of legal search firms located in specific geographic areas of interest and build close, strong relationships with those search firms.  

You can exponentially enhance your recruitment process by partnering with an experienced legal recruitment company. Investing the time to discuss your culture, core values, practice area highlights, growth plans, and hiring parameters with select recruiting firms will pay dividends down the road. The best “fit” of the associates introduced to your firm will most likely be found through this personal and professional outreach on your firm’s behalf.

#4: Strengthen Your Training, Development, and Mentorship Programs

Hiring new associates is only half of the equation—you also want to ensure they stay at your firm for a long time. Associates leave firms for a variety of reasons: lack of mentorship, burnout, and failing to see a promising future at the firm are just a few.

Since associate turnover can be quite expensive, it’s much more cost-effective to invest in your associates. 

The following types of programs are examples of ways to potentially keep your associates  satisfied and intellectually stimulated: 

  • Exceptional training – Taking the time upfront to properly integrate new associates will ensure they thrive at your law firm. You can also use this time to learn more about an associate’s long-term goals and develop a plan for them to achieve them while piecing together a team of future law firm leaders.
  • Professional development opportunities – Ambitious associates want to know they have a real future at your firm. By investing in their professional development early on, you can assure them that they do. Professional development programs can help your associates advance their skills and carve out clear career paths at your firm. Successful examples of these programs can be found at many leading law firms across the nation. These may include: 
  • Advanced legal workshops – These workshops provide a platform to delve deep into specialized areas of law.  Led by industry experts, these workshops provide extensive learning opportunities to equip attorneys with the skills they need to grow professionally.
  • Cross-functional training – Lawyers often work in multidisciplinary teams. Cross-functional training programs that bring together lawyers, paralegals, and support staff to foster collaboration. This synergy can lead to more efficient and successful client outcomes.
  • Business development workshops – For lawyers aiming for partnership or a more significant role in firm management, business development workshops are essential. These programs teach lawyers how to attract and retain clients, negotiate deals, and develop a book of business.
  • Mentorship – Young associates are often eager to learn from established law partners. By setting up a formal law firm mentoring structure, experienced lawyers can pass on their expertise to younger associates, facilitating strong relationships and boosting morale.

    As with professional development, many top law firms focus heavily on mentorship. In many of these firms, the program pairs junior associates with tenured attorneys and has them meet regularly throughout the year. Their mentorship program employs both one-on-one and pod structures. 


According to a senior associate, mentorship programs don’t have to be overly formal to yield exceptional results.5 In addition to instilling legal expertise, mentors can coach their mentees on balancing the demands of their personal and professional lives, hone their authenticity as attorneys, and embrace a holistic approach to their careers. This advice can keep hard-working associates happy and help them combat burnout.


If done right, these programs can help your legal talent visualize fulfilling futures at your firm for years to come. 

Attract and Retain More Legal Recruits With a Personal and Professional Touch

Offering flexible work schedules, updated tech stacks, training and development, and mentorship can help you entice more legal applicants to your firm. So, now that you know how to recruit lawyers, why not start the process today? 

The most effective and professional way to hire top legal associate talent is to work with a stellar legal recruiter. If you want to access legal talent efficiently, E. P. Dine can help. With nearly 50 years of experience, we’ve helped countless law firms connect with lawyers and make lasting matches. 

Our recruiters have access to a vast network of contacts, have deep relationships with the AmLaw 200 and high-end boutique law firms, unparalleled market knowledge, and the collective expertise of the most experienced recruiters in the business. Let E.P. Dine help your firm turn lateral hires into your law firm leaders of tomorrow. 

Reach out to E. P. Dine today to learn more about our legal recruiting services. 

Sources

1ABA Journal. Law firms lost 15 associates for every 20 they hired, NALP Foundation study finds.

https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/law-firms-lost-15-associates-for-every-20-they-hired-study-finds

2Legal Cheek. Flexibility trumps pay as lawyers top priority, research shows.

https://www.legalcheek.com/2021/11/flexibility-trumps-pay-as-lawyers-top-priority-research-shows/#:~:text=Breaking%20the%20figures%20down%20further,annual%20survey%20of%20legal%20professionals.

3CLOC. 2023 Hiring and Salary Trends for the Legal Field. 

https://cloc.org/2023-hiring-and-salary-trends-for-the-legal-field/

4American Bar Association. Where Does the Legal Profession Go From Here?       

https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/law-practice-division/practice-forward/2022-practice-forward-report.pdf

5Latham & Watkins LLP. A Community of Mentors. 

https://www.lw.com/en/people/admin/upload/SiteAttachments/PDJ-FourthQuarter_21-p63.pdf

At E.P. Dine, we are committed to delivering content that is not only relevant and insightful but also rooted in professional integrity and expertise. To achieve this, every article published on the E.P. Dine blog undergoes a meticulous review process by qualified professionals with deep knowledge and experience in the legal field and legal recruitment.

David Walden

Co-CEO

As Co-CEO of E.P. Dine and leader of the Law Firm Practice Group, David is a premier legal career strategist and search industry expert to law firm executives and partners throughout the United States. His clients, among the world's finest law firms, engage him when seeking the highest standard of excellence in their search efforts and hiring initiatives.

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