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How Will the Great Resignation Affect Legal Departments?

June 2022
By Axiom Law

Most legal departments have more work than they know what to do with, yet attracting and retaining talent has never been more challenging. Reframing the “Great Resignation” as the “Great Reflection” can help legal departments better strategize and bolster recruitment and retention efforts.

The media attention the Great Resignation has garnered in recent months is warranted. The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the employment market, and talent across all industries are experiencing burnout and leaving their jobs at unprecedented rates.

Axiom and Above the Law hosted a webinar featuring a panel of Senior Client Advisors at Axiom to discuss the Great Resignation and the impact it’s having on legal departments. Senior Client Advisors at Axiom utilize both their in-house and law firm experience to help optimize legal departments, assist with budget constraints, and strategically tailor legal department training and development needs, succession planning, and in-house engagement and retention efforts. The webinar’s panelists included:

  • Zach Abramowitz (moderator), CEO, Killer Whale Strategies; Investor in Legal Startups
  • Laura Yens, Senior Client Advisor, Axiom; Founder & Managing Partner, Padrona Payments; Former GC, Lending Tree
  • Charlie Sandel, Senior Client Advisor, Axiom; former GC, American Eagle Outfitters; Regional General Counsel, Levi Strauss & Co.
  • Susan Jacobson, Senior Client Advisor, Axiom; former GC, Paylocity; DGC, Cardinal Health

The Great Resignation: Fact vs. Fiction

There are conflicting data causing some to question the legitimacy and gravity of the Great Resignation. Some reports demonstrate the labor participation rate is steadying out after declining at the height of the pandemic. However, McKinsey & Company recently published alarming data which should pique the interest of hiring managers.

According to survey results published in September 2021, 40% of employees across all industries reported they are at least somewhat likely to leave their current job within the next three to six months. An astounding 64% of those who were at least somewhat likely to leave their current job shared they would be willing to do so without another job in-hand, and 64% of managers expect voluntary turnover to remain elevated or increase.

What’s happening is a massive change in talent behavior: The market is opening up in terms of options because fewer legal professionals are limited to working in one particular place.

Companies that have been able to empower remote workforces have been better able to retain their talent. Those that have tried to bring their talent back to a traditional office setting haven’t found resounding success.

“I think the Great Resignation is fact,” shared Yens. “I have a client whose attrition rate has historically stayed around two to four percent. In 2021, their attrition rate jumped to 20%, putting a tremendous strain on those who are still there.”

Resignation as a Symptom of Reflection

Reframing the Great Resignation as a symptom of reflection can help legal departments better understand what will keep their talent engaged and retained.

The pandemic created an opportunity for lawyers to question whether their jobs are fulfilling and whether they’re happy with the work they’re doing. Many who have left their jobs have done so not only to pursue more flexible opportunities that afford them more balance in their personal lives, but also to find opportunities they find more interesting.

According to McKinsey & Company’s report, 45% of those who left their jobs did so to care for their families. While many are pursuing remote opportunities for this reason, some miss the in-person interaction they get from working in an office. Therefore, continued flexibility is key.

What’s the best way to attract and retain legal talent?

Although much of what attracts attorneys and keeps them engaged is similar to pre-pandemic times, it’s imperative to consider what’s changed and is currently most appealing. This includes:

  • Ensuring the work is strategic, interesting, and enables career development
  • Offering a competitive salary
  • Allowing flexible work schedules
  • Fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts
  • Offering sabbaticals, which give lawyers the opportunity to recharge

An equally important but often overlooked way to keep lawyers engaged is to craft a department-specific mission statement. One of the pitfalls of remote work is the potential for talent to miss out on feeling as though they’re part of something bigger, but engaging them in the process of creating a mission statement can help resolve that issue. You can view five steps legal departments can take to create a mission statement to better engage their teams now.

Utilizing flexible talent can also help alleviate some of the burden placed on the remaining legal team. In addition to helping manage workload, on-demand lawyers can help with risk management and talent management, too. You can learn more about how flexible legal talent can benefit legal departments during the Great Resignation and beyond and steps for integrating on-demand talent into your legal team easily.

View a recording of the webinar here, or contact us to learn how to become an Axiom client or lawyer.


Posted by Axiom Law