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Historically treated as an afterthought, firms are investing in compensation packages and prioritizing professional development for business services professionals.

In an ALM article, ‘The Other Talent War: Professional Development Isn’t Just for Lawyers Anymore,’ Calibrate’s Managing Director of Talent Management Consulting Haley Revel spoke to the drivers of the culture shift taking place in the legal industry in which firms are raising the profile for professional staff by eliminating the term “non lawyer” and providing competitive compensation packages for business services professionals.

The broad embracement of this new mindset across the industry has led to strong demand for a more deliberate staff-side talent strategy in many firms, affording Calibrate the opportunity to create a new Talent Management consulting division devoted to this practice.

We’ve seen a shift of law firm leaders realizing you need business professionals to run the firm like a business rather than just the partners running the firm.

This realignment of perspective has also arisen the need to reimagine the traditional firm hierarchal structure to more equally compensate business services professionals, who are unable to share in the equity profits of the firm due to U.S. regulations and therefore require more robust benefits and salary to reflect their contributions.

When you think about leadership of law firms in this country, it’s hard to make someone an equity partner if they are not driving revenue with clients. If there is more success, their bonuses are bigger, but a lot of time, firms are going to invest that in associates and partners because they don’t value them the same. It’s a mindset shift for leadership to truly see the value of business-minded people.

Many firms have remediated this misalignment of compensation by redirecting equity partner profits to create more competitive salary packages for professional staff, noting that profit shortfalls are partially due to “investments in business infrastructure.”

Revel notes that law firms will feel economic ebbs and flows, but would lower the need for layoffs if they hire proactively by identifying the skills they currently have in each department and assessing the skills they are in need of.

If you understand the skills that someone has, not just the role that they are in and the department they serve, why not offer those people the opportunity to upskill or reskill?

A recent study from Georgetown University Law Center and the Thompson Reuters Institute directly reflects the influx in demand for specialized staff roles, noting significant growth in full-time staff from 2017 to 2021 in areas such as talent (4.6%), operations (3.9%), and executive management (2.9%).

Revel asserts that the increase in demand for professional staff is heavily driven by legal marketing departments as these were the first business professional teams to gain the attention of firm leadership and have been largely in demand over the past ten years.

Of our operational functions, marketing is one of the more advanced operations … because of the thought that goes into developing client relationships. Marketing tends to have more influence in how the business is run.

In all, the long overdue prioritization of professional staff by firms continues to shift the traditional structures of the legal ecosystem and will require firm leaders to closely review and revise their talent management strategy for professional staff, especially as it relates to compensation and professional development opportunities.

Let’s Connect

To learn more about how Calibrate can help you develop a Talent Management strategy that will support your firm’s financial objectives while increasing and maximizing team performance, please reach out to Haley Revel, Managing Director of Talent Management at Calibrate.