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High rates vs quality of life

Posted by: Laurence Simons 11/09/15

Here’s the scene: Sitting at your desk one day, working hard as a coffee turns cold on your desk, you hear a knock on the door. In walks an associate who wants to speak to you. The problem is that they are unhappy and want to create a better work/life balance for themselves. This is not an unheard of or unacceptable request, and you hardly need an in-depth analysis of their life to decide whether you should entertain it. But what, exactly, do you do?

Some large law firms in Canada and the US think they have found the perfect solution. The approach they are championing is offering newly created, non-partnership track roles. But what are these and why are they becoming so popular? Well, these are associate roles which, though still engaging in legal work, include no management of staff or business development duties – and usually start at half the salary of others with the same level of experience in the firm.

In a climate where we know that long hours do not necessarily equal productivity, yet do usually increase healthcare costs and attrition, is this method really going to keep talent secure within these firms? Let’s face it, employee benefits such as total flexible working are still far off for most places of work, but are increasingly acknowledging the need to fit around employees than ever before. And a rigid, badly paying position with little to no chance of career development – although convenient for now – is not enticing enough to keep any firm from potentially losing their candidates.

So, is there a happy medium? It’s difficult to say. But one thing is for sure – if you are serious about winning in the war for talent, you will see your hires’ desire for “quality of life” as important, and not something to be punished for.