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When you think about evaluating the success of your law firm, you likely analyze client numbers, client outcomes, and/or law firm profit, but have you considered the impact employee satisfaction may have on your practice? Check out this post to learn more about how employee satisfaction may impact your firm’s bottom line.
The most obvious measurements of a law firm’s success are actual numbers that can be readily evaluated. For example, many firms consider metrics such as hours billed to measure attorney productivity and success. Firms often advertise positive client outcomes and use this as a benchmark for how the law firm is performing. Some firms focus more heavily on client numbers and profits to measure success. However, less tangible and more infrequently evaluated metrics can also impact a law firm’s overall growth potential.
In this post, we are offering a bit more insight into how employee satisfaction may be impacting your law firm’s growth.
The Role of Your Team
A law firm is more than just the managing partner(s). From the newest associate to the longest-tenured attorneys, a law firm needs dedicated legal professionals to effectively manage client matters. Moreover, most seasoned attorneys will readily admit their support staff, from paralegals to secretaries, receptionists, and runners, are the backbone of a law firm’s day-to-day operations. From fielding client calls to filing pleadings, proofreading documents, and more, many attorneys could not manage their practice without their help.
However, as crucial as a law firm’s team is to long-term growth and success, many employees are not happy. A quick Google search will yield numerous articles about attorney burnout, dissatisfaction, and general unhappiness. For example, in 2015, a Chicago Tribune article reported statistics indicating just 44% of big law lawyers were happy with their careers, and only 68% of public interest lawyers were satisfied with theirs. Likewise, it is not difficult to find tales of legal support staff who have been at the receiving end of an unhappy attorney or two that negatively impacted their morale.
Despite the oft-discussed dissatisfaction in the industry, however, employee satisfaction can play a key role in your law firm’s overall growth. One 2015 study out of the University of Kansas found a positive association between increased employee satisfaction and subsequent company performance.
If you are not convinced, know that this study is not alone. In five other studies cited in this article from Glassdoor, you can learn more about the relationship between employee satisfaction and business performance.
Ways Employee Satisfaction Impacts Law Firm Growth
Even if you accept that there is a link between employee satisfaction and business performance, you may be wondering how satisfied employees impact your law firm’s growth. We have some answers for you.
Increased Engagement & Improved Performance
Have you ever called a business and had an unpleasant experience with someone who answered the phone? Perhaps they were rude, abrupt, or simply seemed to not care about your question. This could just be a sign of a bad day but is also frequently a symptom of dissatisfied employees.
When an employee is happy and enjoying their work environment, they are more likely to provide better, more positive interactions for customers – your clients. Your clients are going to have more confidence in your firm and a more positive experience when they feel like your firm cares about their legal problem and is interested in helping. Remember, when a client needs a lawyer they are often being impacted by a stressful, unfamiliar situation and want someone who can reassure them. A happy employee is better able to put their mind at ease.
Likewise, satisfied employees are generally better employees in that they are more likely to be engaged in their work. Data indicates that higher employee wellbeing is associated with higher productivity.
Engaged employees tend to be more likely to take ownership of their tasks and perform better by taking greater care to deliver high-quality work products that are more likely to help your firm ultimately achieve positive outcomes. This is not to say a satisfied employee will never make a mistake. However, it does mean that you are less likely to experience mistakes that are the result of inattention or otherwise being disengaged from work.
Word of Mouth Advertising Benefits
According to some reports, more than half of employees who are proud of their company are engaged. Employees who are pleased with your law firm or otherwise proud of your contributions to the community are more likely to recommend your practice to people in their network who need an attorney. These employees are more likely to speak positively about your practice when talking about their work environment, which increases goodwill and positive sentiments about your practice in the community.
However, dissatisfied employees are less likely to share positive insights about your practice with their network. They may stay silent when someone is looking for a lawyer or even recommend a competitor. Also, while they are likely not ill-intentioned, they may vent their frustrations about work to their friends and loved ones, which can negatively impact how others perceive your practice.
Attract (and Keep) More Talent
Millennials, and now Gen Z, are increasingly present in the workforce. Thus, it is important to recognize that the mindset with which these generations approach the workplace often differs from those generations who came before them. For example, five years ago, research showed that quality of life mattered so much to millennials that they would be willing to take an average pay cut of $7,600 to improve their career or find a better work-life balance or corporate culture.
The legal industry is notoriously slow to change, and some may argue that (at least for big law firms) prestige and money still outweigh culture and quality of life. However, more experienced attorneys have noted that it is no longer big news when someone leaves a firm. The practice of “firm hopping” in the early years of a lawyer’s career is not new anymore. A niche industry of helping lawyers find alternative careers has developed. Meanwhile, thousands of articles have been written about why younger workers now value corporate culture above many other factors that traditionally drove recruitment.
Thus, in an industry frequently plagued with dissatisfaction, a law firm with happier employees and a forward-thinking culture is more likely to attract young, promising talent than a firm that does not prioritize employee satisfaction and engagement. In turn, these new, energetic employees can help your law firm grow well into the future.
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
Employee satisfaction has been shown to impact business outcomes. Thus, if the majority of your team is dissatisfied with their work, your law firm’s growth is likely suffering. By prioritizing employee satisfaction, you can help set your firm up for more growth and greater success in the years to come.