Why is employer branding important for law firms?

The topic is ubiquitous: talented lawyers and legal professionals are being sought everywhere. Many companies – whether law firms, legal departments or administration – need reinforcement. But what to do in the "war for talent"? In this article, we look at employer branding for law firms and discuss the reputation of the legal profession.

Publication Date
Why is employer branding important for law firms?

Note: Employer branding is the solution for individual recruitment problems of individual law firms. However, it is also conceivable that problems do not lie solely with the firm itself. We therefore also ask:

Does the legal profession have a reputation problem? More on this below.

What is employer branding?

At its core, it is about a law firm's brand as an employer, i.e. the attractiveness of the workplace.

Through successful employer branding, law firms design appealing workplaces and are perceived as desirable employers. Competition has long been taking place here. Law firms market their brand – whether consciously or not – to the target group of (potential) employees.

Employer branding is not just about external communication and appearance (new employees). It is also about the internal organization, the values and the lived culture in the firm. Poster-like employer branding campaigns can solve short-term recruitment bottlenecks, but they do not help in the long term.

Fancy benefits and high salaries are good: The central element of an employer brand is the culture that is lived every day.

Why is this so important for law firms?

In the external relationship: Legal advice is a personal service. Clients choose real experts. They choose lawyers whose expertise they trust. The know-how and skills of the lawyers are therefore the capital of the law firms.

Regardless of whether it's a large law firm or a organisation, without a qualified team, the firm simply lacks an offering.

Internally: Constant changes in the team are exhausting. Onboarding takes time and sometimes also nerves. New employees do not immediately achieve the productivity of longstanding employees. They need patience and attention. In the meantime, this can be a burden instead of a relief. On a personal level, too, every change is a risk: It doesn't always fit at the level and another change is necessary.

Well-functioning teams, on the other hand, achieve successes that seemed unattainable.

What are the financial consequences of poor employer branding?

Poor or missing employer branding results in a lack of visibility or a lousy employer image. This has financial consequences for affected law firms.

  1. Higher recruitment costs: Law firms with a bad reputation have a harder time attracting qualified applicants. Consequently, more financial resources have to be invested in recruitment activities (e.g. advertisements, job fairs, recruitment agencies).
  2. Increased turnover: dissatisfied employees leave the firm. Each churn incurs costs for processing, rehiring and training new employees. Long-term employees are extremely valuable.
  3. Longer vacancies: Positions remain unfilled for longer due to the firm's poor reputation. In the classic "billable hour" model, this leads to lost revenue or to already well-utilized employees having to fill the gaps.
  4. Lower productivity: A negative employer image impacts the morale and commitment of the workforce. Dissatisfied or demotivated lawyers are less productive (billable).
  5. Worse business results: Employee satisfaction often correlates with client satisfaction. As a result, the bottom line suffers.
  6. Higher salary costs: In order to convince qualified candidates to work with them or to retain existing employees, law firms with a poor employer image are forced to offer higher salaries or additional benefits.

4 Steps to a Successful Employer Brand

Understand Your Brand‍

Before you strengthen your employer brand, you need to know how your brand is doing. The easiest place to start is in your own company: ask employees about their satisfaction and where they see potential for improvement. The perspective of former employees or candidates is also interesting: What are their impressions, wishes and expectations?

Define the Value Proposition‍

What distinguishes your firm from others? Is it the work culture? Is it career opportunities, continuing education, compensation, or something else entirely? These offerings form the central promise of the firm.

Communicate the Brand‍

Once the value proposition has been defined, it can be communicated internally and externally. As in marketing to clients, it is also worthwhile to develop a communication strategy and to proceed in a structured manner.

Use all channels – website, social media profiles, events and face-to-face conversations. Don't forget: Include evidence of the claimed promise in key messages. Evidence promotes the credibility of the promised performance.

Live the Brand‍

A promise is only as good as its implementation. Living up to a corresponding culture is often difficult – especially if a cultural change was necessary. But: Empty promises do lasting damage. It is much easier to squander trust than to regain it. Delivered promises, on the other hand, create credibility and trust. The effort is worth it.

Also note: In an age where information is available online, false promises or exaggerated claims are quickly debunked.

Practical Tips for Employer Branding

Employees as Brand Ambassadors

Encourage employees to share their experiences at the firm. Include their stories and careers in your communications. This way, your firm provides authentic insights into your work culture.

Events and Workshops‍

At events or workshops, potential candidates can get an idea of your firm. The large law firms in particular have invested a lot in this regard in recent years. For example, they actively approach students, invite them and position themselves as attractive places to work early on.

The days when Big Law could wait for the best graduates to line up at their door and law firms were spoiled for choice are over.

Feedback and Continuous Development‍

It is important to obtain feedback on a regular basis. This requires appropriate processes. For example, a personally conducted and well-structured exit interview is mandatory. This uncovers potential problems and promotes the chance that the paths will diverge amicably.

Leverage Your Website

A career section on the website is the best place to communicate the value proposition. Here, your firm can effectively explain the benefits you offer. It can show what career opportunities are waiting for employees.

List the benefits comprehensively and shows the everyday life of the law firm authentically. In addition to testimonials, good visual material from the real day-to-day work at the law firm helps to create valuable trust.

Does the legal profession have a reputation problem?

Your law firm invests a lot in employer branding and still has trouble finding qualified lawyers?

Attractive Alternatives and New Values

Then perhaps the problem has another cause... For a long time, becoming a lawyer was the ultimate goal in a legal career. Many law firms feel that this view has changed. What are the possible reasons?

  • Workload: The notoriously long hours and high stress factor in many law firms can be a deterrent.
  • Competition from in-house positions: Companies offer stable working hours in in-house legal departments.
  • Changing values: Younger generations often have different professional values and priorities.
  • Changing career paths: Not all young lawyers today aspire to partnership in a law firm.

The fact is that many law firms are complaining about recruitment problems and the in-house legal teams of companies are growing. At the same time, the number of members in the Swiss Bar Association is also rising. So there are obviously still young law graduates who are not deterred by long working hours or stressful bar exams.

What can the legal profession do?

Companies offer their employees attractive benefits and invest in employee satisfaction. The lawyers in the in-house legal teams also benefit from this. Jobs in administration are very attractive for certain people. At the same time, at the law firms, everyone fights for themselves.

What is forgotten is that the community of law firms collectively affects the reputation of the legal profession.

There are many reasons to invest in the reputation of the legal profession at the industry level. The legal profession has a large, influential industry association. As an organization with many small members who cannot afford expensive employer branding measures, there is definitely an interest in working on the general reputation of the profession for them as well.

There would certainly be appropriate measures to promote the image of the profession. A sensible and sustainable campaign would enhance the reputation of the legal profession among talented young lawyers.

The legal profession has many positive sides. It would be wrong to withhold these from the next generation. And finally, it's pretty cool to be a lawyer ;).

How HeadStarterz Can Help!

We are experts in branding and work with law firms and other companies in the legal industry. For us, marketing is not just about communicating with clients. We always understand brands and their target groups comprehensively. We support companies in the development of an employer branding strategy and implement it effectively.

Of course, we also support bar associations in the development of image campaigns for specific job profiles. :)

Interested? Feel free to contact us by e-mail: hello@headstarterz.com