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Purpose vs pay: How can law firms communicate who they are beyond salary

According to The Times, more than 500 commercial law partners moved between firms last year, with international firms, particularly those from the States driving up salaries for London-based firms looking to compete. The majority of those look to be lateral hires, with existing partners moving into partnership roles, vs vertical hires, with people stepping into partnership. In the five magic circle firms alone, 18 hires were made last year at partner level.

With pay packets rumoured to be around $20m at the top end, the reality is many firms can’t compete with this. So the next question is if they can’t compete on pay, can they compete on purpose, and how do they communicate this?

Making a difference

Take private client lawyers as an example; they have the ability to change the course of someone’s life and be a huge support in times of high stress and crisis. In a different vein, those practicing around sustainability, whether that’s through climate litigation, energy or real estate can and are having a huge impact on the future of our planet.

Many lawyers got into law to change things for the better, whether that’s for people or for the planet. Firms looking to attract new talent should consider how they can harness this and remind potential candidates of their will to change the world.

Supporting local communities

Looking across regional firms you’re unlikely to find many partners with a $20m pay packet, however you do tend to find many more who are interested in and engaged with their local community. Regional firms and regional lawyers, whether that’s in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield or beyond, tend to be proud of their heritage, and how it sets them apart – and they want to celebrate and support their communities as a result.

Firms that host workshops with up-and-coming entrepreneurs, sponsor local sports teams and events and offer support to local universities are signposting that they truly care about their communities and the people in them.

Regional communities are closer knit, so when you’re looking for your next hire, being activity involved not only in the local business community, but the wider community is key. It may feel like a “softer” comms tactic, but it shouldn’t be underestimated.

Encouraging autonomy

According to a 2023 survey, more than half of partners have a career ambition to set up their own firm, as they believe it would give them a better quality of work, and improved work:life balance. While not everyone can set up on their own, firms that champion autonomy and entrepreneurial spirit will appeal to a wide range of partners.

How does your business model allow for autonomy? Do current partners feel the benefit of this autonomy and how? Producing ‘day in the life’ style content, whether through a publication or hosted on your own website is a great way to communicate the real-life experience of your current lawyers and weave in key messages that may appeal to talent.

Communicating your purpose

Whether it’s autonomy, community initiatives or the desire to truly make a difference that sets your business apart, communicating your point of difference is key. The essence of your business should shine through everything you do. A comms team that understands this and can provide strategic advice on campaigns to launch, messages to promote and stories to tell can be crucial when it comes to setting you apart for potential candidates. Or, you can rely on a $20m salary to attract top talent…the choice is yours.

To read more about PHA’s work in the legal sector, click here.

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