The Hidden Costs of an Empty Legal Technology Seat

It’s no secret that most decisions come with a cost. So it might not be a surprise that there are hidden costs of an empty legal technology seat while you search for the perfect hire. The process of hiring a new legal tech employee can be strenuous, taking hours of effort that you may often feel could be better spent elsewhere. It generally costs 2-3 times the average salary of the role you want to fill to hire someone new. With that much on the line, how do you make the most of your time and money while trying to make the right hiring choice?

Although some employee turnover can’t be helped, it is very expensive as you not only pay the costs associated with hiring, you also pay the cost of being without that employee while you hire. Make your action plan for bringing a new legal IT employee on board as cost-effective as possible by taking all costs into consideration.

The Cost of Being Without an Employee

Law firms are not alone in their efforts to hire the “perfect” employee, but often these unicorns simply don’t exist. A hiring manager can become so focused on a certain skill, degree, background, or experience level, that they miss the smart, capable, and fast learning legal tech candidates right in front of them. Meanwhile, your law firm is losing money and taxing your other employees the longer you go without someone in that critical role. While this is an easy trap to fall into, there are some costs to consider when you’re waiting for that perfect candidate:

  • The cost of the person who fills in while the position is vacant can be high, especially if you aren’t using a contract-to-hire arrangement. While the individual can help you out in the short term, you’ll need to start all over again getting the next person up to speed when you finally hire.
  • You may have an employee willing to step up to perform that vacant job on top of their own. While this can work in the very short term, this individual can often feel underappreciated and burnt out, leading them to decide to leave your firm.
  • If the position is left completely vacant and no one handles the tasks and efforts, you’re losing 100% productivity for as long as you’re without someone in the role.

When you’re looking for a c-level hire like a CIO or CTO, the cost of being without that individual has compounded since this individual sets the direction for your information technology department and must be aligned to other departments as well. Getting the right person on board is essential, but being without someone in that role for too long could do significant damage to your law firm.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t hire carefully—having the right person on your team can be the difference between success and failure—but sometimes hiring someone with potential makes better sense than waiting for unattainable perfection.

The Cost of the Hiring Process

Law firms can’t afford hiring mistakes, and the time it takes to sort through resumes, set up interviews, conduct phone and in-person interviews, and wait for HR to approve the person can be just as costly. While it may seem like you’re adding to your costs, hiring a staffing firm to help with your search can actually be a great investment. Not only can a recruitment firm do the legwork (so you can stay focused on your own workload and priorities), they also may be better connected to the legal technology professionals you want to work with. Recruiters also have time to seek out legal IT and e-Discovery professionals who might not be looking for a job but are willing to make a career change when the right opportunity comes along.

For a c-level or director-level opening, a retained search may actually be your best option for quickly finding the best hire. Dedicated efforts from seasoned executive recruiters specialized in the legal technology niche will do the searching, selection, and background checks for you, so you’re only meeting the best-qualified candidates from both a culture fit and technical perspective.

When it comes to filling an empty seat on your legal technology team, some costly aspects of the hiring process can’t be helped. But you can control the amount of time and effort you spend, protect your law firm’s bottom line, and save your law firm’s technology team from burnout by making a good investment in a staffing firm and recognizing good (while imperfect) talent when they walk through the door.

We’d love to ease the burden of hiring when it comes to your law firm’s legal technology team. Learn more about our services and reach out to begin a conversation with an account manager.

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How to Retain Top Legal Technology Employees

6 strategies for retaining employees [text over a work from home desk set up]

Legal technology professionals ensure law firms remain secure, competitive, and efficient—and they’ve completely revolutionized the legal industry. But what happens after you fill your legal technology roles? In today’s market, retention is just as—if not more—important as making a smart hire. As the uncertainty caused by the pandemic subsides, recent surveys have shown between 25-40% of employees are considering leaving their job within the next year, at least in part, because employee expectations for work-life balance and remote work options have shifted dramatically. The following recommendations will help your firm avoid the losses associated with filling an open position so you can instead focus your energy on taking advantage of the latest legal technology trends to serve your clients.

1. Stick with Remote Work & Flexible Hours Options

Work-life balance perks are among the top concerns of technology candidates in the legal market today. They want the option to work remotely—at least a few days a week—to flex their hours, and to take sick and family leave, among other benefits. If you weren’t planning on continuing your pandemic-created remote work policy, we urge you to reconsider. 42% of employees in a recent survey said they would quit if their company didn’t offer remote working. Offering hybrid or fully remote work options will help you to stay competitive with other law firms. Ensure your employees feel empowered to take advantage of your policy and that there aren’t any unwritten cultural norms, pressures, or biases holding them back.

We’re all about seeking win-win solutions at ESP Legal (we even put it in our values statement), so let us be the first to remind you: offering the option to work remotely is as beneficial for your firm as it is for your technology professionals. In meeting the desires of employees to work remotely, the law firm will also likely experience cost savings by reducing office space and expenses. Some employers are securing and retaining their employees by offering back some of these savings in the form of a stipend for home office equipment and expenses. Communicating clearly about these effective and employee-pleasing benefits will help your retention efforts, and will likely benefit your team when it comes to attracting new talent as well.

2. Offer Childcare and Family Benefits

One of the biggest revelations during the pandemic was that work-life balance is a myth for anyone—especially working women—who were caring for children or elderly family members. As a result, employees are looking for better, more flexible childcare and elderly care benefits from their employers, and some companies plan to deliver. 63% of senior leaders told the Harvard Business Review they plan to increase their company’s existing childcare benefits and 41% plan to newly offer or expand senior care benefits. Childcare and Family benefits can include on-site child care, but also might include a paid membership to an online platform helping an employee find childcare, flexible work hours, new parent support, paid family leave, or subsidized backup care.

3. Keep Compensation Competitive

The Association of Legal Administrators and the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) are great resources for detailed compensation guidelines, and ESP Legal also publishes a free annual salary guide revealing average legal technology and e-discovery compensation trends, including legal technology executive salaries. While not all retention-promoting benefits are strictly compensatory, you’ll want to ensure that, at the very least, you are paying your legal technology professionals a fair wage—especially considering that wage increases are expected after the strong financial performance for law firms in 2020. Offering regular raises and promotions shows your current legal technology employees that you see and appreciate them and it can prevent them from searching for greener (and higher-paying) pastures.

4. Focus on Medical Benefits, Including Mental Health

The cost of medical coverage can vary drastically from one firm to the next and can be a big factor for job seekers. The pandemic also brought to light the mental health crisis in the United States, only made worse by the challenges and stress of COVID-19, and prompted many employers to finally prioritize the mental health of their employees. As law firms look toward their 2022 medical benefits plans, serious consideration should be given to allocating an increased amount of resources for mental health benefits—whether directly through the health plan or as an additional internal benefit.

Baseline medical benefits continue to be important to employees and prospective employees. With ever-rising medical costs, it’s important to compare your company’s out-of-pocket insurance premium with the out-of-pocket expenses generated by some of your competitors’ medical plans. Once you’re confident your firm is offering a solid benefit, leverage your medical plan and promote it to your legal technology professionals in a way that helps them see more tangibly the cost savings afforded by your policy.

5. Train and Mentor Your Team

Gen Z is at particular retention risk as a result of burnout from the pandemic. More so than other generations, they’ve felt unable to contribute ideas and feel less engaged or excited about work. Intentional mentorship programs are one way to help the younger generation succeed, giving them the opportunity to share ideas with someone more experienced, as well as receive encouragement. Paid training and education is a practical and effective retention tool as well. If a legal technology professional is able to grow their skills and receive promotions internally, they are far less likely to look elsewhere for career advancement.

As you look for ways to raise up your employees, especially consider how you are empowering and encouraging your female technology professionals to claim ownership over their positions and grow to become leaders in your technology department. Intentionally providing opportunities for diverse voices to be heard contributes to the overall health and innovation of your Legal IT team.

Developing your management team is also key to retaining your legal technology employees. Managers set the tone for an employee’s experience with your law firm. Make sure you have the right managers in place, and grow your managers’ soft skills and help them understand the culture you want for your firm and legal IT department in order to retain your valuable IT and e-Discovery professionals.

6. Outsource Your Recruiting

One of the biggest reasons law firms lose technology employees boils down to poor hiring decisions. Luckily, this is also one of the most avoidable factors crushing your retention rates. When you solicit the help of a trusted recruitment firm like ESP Legal, you see and interview only those candidates who are going to add value to your team in the long run. We consider things like the alignment of compensatory expectations with what your firm is able to offer, culture fit, and how the long-term opportunities provided by your company might align with a candidate’s aspirations.

In addition, working with a recruitment firm saves you time and speeds up the hiring process, which puts less burden on the rest of your technology department to make up for the lost productivity that results from the open position—thus helping you avoid the pitfalls of losing excellent legal technology professionals to burnout. 

 

When you empower your legal technology employees to succeed, you directly impact your law firm’s ability to thrive in today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving legal landscape. By staying competitive and aware of industry trends, you’ll ensure your firm’s many positive qualities and culture shine through and keep your legal IT professionals committed to succeeding as a part of your team.

If you’re looking for more personalized advice, our ESP Legal account managers would be thrilled to discuss your unique retention challenges and help you find the best solutions.

Get in Touch with an Account Manager

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