Retaining Legal Talent

Panel Speakers Info & Links:

Johanna Carlsson (Head of Legal at Klarna)

Graeme Barron (VP, Head of Legal at GWI)

Natalie Salunke (General Counsel at Zilch)

How do you go about retaining legal talent in this current market?

Natalie Salunke: This might be controversial, but I don't believe we should be obsessed with retaining talent solely for the sake of retention. While it's important to keep the best talent, sometimes the best talent is also the most ambitious and may need opportunities for growth that your organization can't provide. Therefore, the key is to create an environment in which they can thrive while they're with you, and hopefully they'll stay because it's a great environment.

I believe that it has become more common for people to change roles every couple of years. Therefore, we should view having someone for a couple of years as a success. We should be comfortable with the fact that people want to change rather than trying to keep them for as long as possible. In some cases, keeping people for too long may not be the best thing for the team. A fresh injection of talent can be quite beneficial.

Transparency is Key

As a leader and coach, it is crucial to know your team members as individuals, including their motivations, career goals, and how you can help them achieve success. By facilitating honest conversations, you can determine if a team member is committed for the long haul. Transparency is key: they should be open about what they want, and you should be transparent about what you can provide. If you see a gap on the horizon, you may need to acknowledge that the person could outgrow the organization. The goal is to maximize the value of each team member while they are with the organization.

In addition, helping team members achieve their goals can contribute to your legacy. When people move to different places, your reputation can still live on through the impact you had on their success. However, there is currently an issue with the expensive talent market, particularly in the UK. Junior lawyers are expecting salaries that match those of more experienced lawyers, but this bubble must burst at some point. It is important to focus on the positives of your ecosystem and to try to align people's desires and abilities with the team. There are more business opportunities available now, and it may be possible to move into different lateral roles that are not necessarily law-related. While it may not be for everybody, it is worth considering how you can sell what your organization has to offer.

Johanna Carlsson: People move more quickly now than ever before. When it's time to leave, it's up to them to decide, and there should be no hard feelings about that. However, it's important to ensure that those who remain with the organization feel connected and integrated into the business so that they can contribute as well as possible.

Company Culture

When I joined Klarna, I found that we were having too many meetings. We would spend a lot of time discussing business planning and personal matters, and I felt it was a waste of time. However, over time, and especially when Covid hit, I realized that our meeting culture was crucial. It helped us build relationships and stay connected, even when we had to meet virtually.

It's important to give people the opportunity to develop in their professional roles, whether they are lawyers or not. Otherwise, they may leave for a more exciting opportunity elsewhere.

However, a paycheck should not be the only decisive factor in staying with an organization. There should be other reasons to stay. For me, it's the opportunity to develop relationships with great people every day. We also have team building activities such as puzzles and online games, allowing us to have fun with colleagues even if they are located in various offices or remote home offices. This helps to increase efficiency and allows us to reach out to those we have worked with before for professional advice. Building a strong culture is also important for speeding up communication around work topics.

Let Go Of Things Beyond Your Control

Graeme Barron: It's important to avoid getting too hung up on things beyond your control. While there will always be roles that pay big bucks, often salaries are determined by bandings within the organization or external factors. So, if someone has an offer of £250,000 to become a privacy lawyer, that's great, but it's important to be transparent about other opportunities available.

Instead, focus on creating an environment that's enjoyable to work in and helps individuals grow as lawyers. Offer high-quality work and tailor it to the way your lawyers want to develop. Don't worry about competing with other offerings in the industry. Be open with your team and expect that they will move on to develop new skills.

Create an environment where they can enjoy their work and do a good job, and if they choose to move on, bring in new energy to the team. Don't get too worried about things beyond your control.

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