When I ask law firm leaders about their talent strategy, I often get the response, “You mean our recruiting?” or “You mean our professional development?” Going into 2013 without a firm understanding of talent strategy makes as much sense as the Harbaugh brothers coaching the Super Bowl without a playbook. So what, exactly, is “talent strategy”?
Talent strategy is deliberately choosing a set of activities that align a firm’s most valuable resource – it’s people – to create a competitive advantage.
“Talent” refers to every individual employed at a law firm- not just the lawyers. Here are 20 questions law firm leaders need to ask in 2013 to begin integrating talent strategy as a component of their firm’s overall strategic vision:
Recruitment, Hiring & Onboarding
- Has the firm conducted a sufficient analysis of internal human capital (roles, functions, locations, emerging talent demands, expected turnover and vacancies)?
- Does the firm have an accurate assessment of future client demand and the talent required to meet those needs?
- Does the firm have a competitive and clearly defined answer to the question “Why should I work here?”
- Is the firm’s interview process objective and aligned with its strategic objectives?
- Does the firm have an effective, uniform onboarding process for new hires that uses metrics to track performance?
- Does the need exist for alternative staffing structures, and if so, are they maximizing value and delivering cost savings to clients?
- Do the firm’s work structures optimize productivity, innovation and efficiency?
- Does the firm’s performance review process and promote accountability, continuous improvement and behaviors that promote firm goals?
- Does the firm have realistic and challenging performance goals, including requirements for billable hours and investment time?
- Do the firm’s associates receive adequate coaching, mentoring, and/or sponsorship?
- Do the firm’s lawyers receive adequate training on business development, practice management and the business of law?
- Are partnership expectations clearly communicated to associates and partners?
- Do new partners have strategic personal plans to help them understand and surpass ownership expectations?
- Does the firm skillfully and effectively address instances where lawyers no longer satisfy the firm’s partnership requirements?
- Does the firm effectively develop high potential future lawyers for the next level of their career?
- Does the firm have a clear succession planning process/protocol in place?
Retention, Motivation & Engagement
- Does the firm examine, understand and deliver, within reason, what lawyers want from their firm and work environment?
- Does the firm solicit regular feedback from lawyers about retention, satisfaction and engagement (i.e. via interviews, surveys and focus groups)?
- Is compensation reflective of fair market value and competitive relative to peer firms?
- Does the firm meaningfully engage with alumni?
Unlike in the Super Bowl, there are no “Hail Mary” passes or shortcuts to developing a competitive talent advantage, but asking these questions is the first step toward developing a comprehensive talent strategy that will position your firm for success in 2013 and well beyond.