We’ve seen an increasingly significant number of mid-level legal professionals (3-5 years’ PQE) leaving private practice to join multinational companies (MNCs) in recent years.
Tracy Tan, Senior Consultant from the Legal & Corporate Secretarial division at Robert Walters Malaysia, says that this can often be attributed to a few main reasons.
Why legal professionals make an early exit from private practice
Overly rigid & structured career progression
Some private practice firms can have an overtly hierarchical structure, with promotions skewed toward tenure instead of merit. This often is demotivating, which leads to many lawyers burning out early.
Archaic professional environment & culture
There can also be a lack of autonomy and flexibility within the corporate culture and this means that junior lawyers are not empowered nor trusted with more important tasks, exacerbating the burnout.
Limited professional recognition during junior years
Junior lawyers in private practice often do more back-end work which leads them to receiving limited client-facing exposure. Additionally, there often isn’t proper structure or recognition for fee apportionment exercises.
The future of private practice – the way forward
To retain their top mid-level talent, private practice firms should rethink the way they work to promote a better working environment. Some suggestions include:
1) Building a culture of empowerment
Give capable junior lawyers more relevant responsibilities and a chance to shine. Setting up support departments that are independent from the partnership/lawyers such human resources (HR), admin as well as marketing and business development can also help allow junior lawyers to focus on their main work.
2) Emphasising meritocracy
Base promotions on performance as opposed to tenure and implement clear guidelines on promotion requirements. This will give junior lawyers a clear vision of their career path, encouraging retention.
3) Implementing open-door policies
We also encourage private practice firms to foster open communication and shift the focus away from seniority only. Cultivating an environment built on trust, respect and cooperation is crucial to improving retention.
Retaining your top talent requires a holistic, long-term strategy. As the forerunner within legal and corporate secretarial recruitment, Robert Walters Malaysia partners closely with both private practice firms and MNCs to help them build a strong, sustainable strategy to attract talent.
For an in-depth discussion on your hiring and talent management needs, feel free to reach out to Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org.