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Firms look to nontraditional incentives to attract, retain talent

By: JESSICA STEPHEN//September 19, 2013//

Firms look to nontraditional incentives to attract, retain talent

By: JESSICA STEPHEN//September 19, 2013//

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Traditional employee offerings such as 401k, health insurance and vacation time might not be enough anymore.

Firms now are turning to nontraditional incentives to not only attract new employees, but retain the ones they have.

At Quarles & Brady LLP, those offerings include a combination of flexible scheduling, wellness programs, charitable contributions and partner mentoring.

“We’re trying to attract and keep the best and the brightest,” said Nancy Peterson, a partner at Quarles and chairwoman of the firm’s legal personnel committee in Milwaukee. “My charge is looking for professional development opportunities from the time attorneys walk in the door until they retire.”

handshake-hireTechnology has made offering incentives such as flexible scheduling easier, said Bruce Wichmann, firm administrator for Axley Brynelson LLP.

“With everything from laptops to iPhones and iPads, pretty much you can set up shop anywhere,” he said. “Since the new generation of attorneys is more prone to work at different hours and different locations — they may not be an 8 to 5 lawyer, but they’re the ones working late at night or early in the morning — it offers more flexibility.

“And I think firms have to be able to adjust and allow that these days.”

Offering attorneys room to grow, is another essential incentive, Peterson said.

Quarles provides partners a two-year program that includes classes to help them understand the expectations of their new roles. This year, the firm also teamed up with the University of Notre Dame to develop a mini MBA program.

“We felt that the partnership and our ability to serve clients would be enhanced by offering essential classes to our newest partners,” Peterson said.

Both programs are meant to help attorneys grow not only as litigators and legal practitioners, she said, but also as professionals tasked with developing the business side of the firm. It’s had the added benefit, Peterson said, of attracting lateral talent.

There’s even been a trickledown for new associates.

In addition to providing mentors for the firm’s newest members, Quarles & Brady developed QBU, a three-day, university-inspired training program to help less tenured attorneys develop their legal practice and professional skills.

There’s also a program called QBU Jr., which teaches associates, who have two years of experience or less, everything from writing skills and emotional intelligence to how to advise clients and keep partners informed.

The goal with these incentives, Peterson said, is to help attorneys maintain their professional path while making room for life experiences and family.

New parents can participate in a part-time “ease back in” program, which allows attorneys to work for one year at reduced hours.

And the company’s healthy living program, which includes in-office team health and fitness challenges and online nutritional information, allow attorneys to accumulate points they can use to reduce health care costs. The firm also reimburses employees for health club memberships.

“It’s just looking at the whole person,” Peterson said, “and wanting people to feel valued both as lawyers and as whole people. And it’s really key to retention.”


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