Career Satisfaction: What GCs Can Learn From Our 2016 Survey

CultureFitphoto-Feb16With leadership from Cate Flahardy Communications, we ran our first Career Satisfaction Survey over the past few months. My thanks to Cate, who also edits our eNews and handles our Counsel Q&A. Many thanks also to Anthony Paonita, my editor at InsideCounsel. Anthony kindly published links from my career advice column at InsideCounsel to the survey, which enhanced participation.

And a big thank you to the 223 readers of eNews and Inside Counsel who completed the survey. The response was robust with a nice broad range of experience levels.

In a preliminary question, we asked how long each respondent has been with his or her current employer. Options were: 0 to 2 years; 2 to 5 years; 6 to 10 years; or more than 10 years. There were more responses of 2 to 5 years than any other option, and a whopping 55% of respondents are less than six years with their current company. There is increasingly high turnover and this should be troubling to general counsel. It means companies are losing people just as they are hitting their stride. 

Some of this reflects societal employment changes as a whole. For many reasons, we know that people will hold more jobs during the course of a lifetime versus the norm of previous generations. Merger activity, rightsizings and leadership changes are all part of the new normal impacting turnover rates. But our survey responses indicate that you, as the leader of the law department, also play a role when it comes to retention.

“Intellectual stimulation” and “working with a great team” ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 answers when we asked, “What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?” Of the five options offered in the check-the-box format, “Compensation” ranked a distant 5th. My simple interpretation: If you create a healthy work environment, your lawyers won’t be jumping ship for perceived greener pastures.

The central point for best practices discussion becomes, “What can a general counsel do to create a great work environment?”

Please comment here or email mike@everslegal.com with your practical tips for creating and sustaining a high performing law department with lawyers who have your back and enjoy working for you. If you are not a general counsel, I encourage your replies too. What specific and realistic changes could be made to improve your daily work life? I will talk about those replies and pass along what we have also learned from our clients in my next column.

Meanwhile, this evidence of high turnover cries out for a shameless sales pitch. You want people who will stay with you for more than five years. That starts with recruiting and hiring the right lawyers—those who are already highly successful. Don’t limit yourself to job postings and word of mouth. Ask for our statistics on tenure. We have been placing lawyers with law departments since 1997. Very few of our placements have left within the first five years.

Read the full 2016 Evers Legal Career Satisfaction Report.

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