6 Benefits of Outplacement: When Doing Good is Also Good for Business
Despite all your efforts to hire attorneys who are the right fit, nurture their development, provide mentoring and growth opportunities, and help them lay tracks for a long and successful career with your organization — sometimes, for multiple reasons, things just don’t work out, and the time comes for an attorney to depart. Maybe their passions grew in a direction that didn’t have a home with your firm. Or perhaps your organization has shifted its focus over time, and an individual’s talents no longer align with your firm’s strategy. Or maybe all come to agree that they simply weren’t the right fit for your team after all.
In any event, it’s a simple fact of doing business that sometimes your talent will move on. How this reality is handled can have a profound impact on your firm’s health, reputation and prospects for future success. Offering outplacement support is an excellent way to handle departures in a way that supports not only the attorney who’s leaving, but also your firm’s remaining attorney talent and ever-growing alumni network. Time and again, all of us at NB&A have seen the value of outplacement in our years of work with law firms and their attorneys. Here are six reasons outplacement deserves a spot in your portfolio of talent development programs.
1. Retention of valuable attorney talent. Keeping talented attorneys at your firm requires an investment in their growth, success and job satisfaction — and a perceived lack of career opportunities is the main reason employees leave a job, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey. When you include outplacement as part of your firm’s career counseling resources, it sends a clear message to your attorney talent that you’re committed to supporting their careers — regardless whether they’re with your team for the long haul. This message has a profound positive impact on morale and engagement across your firm. Attorneys take comfort in trusting that their law firm is invested in their long-term professional success, no matter where that leads them.
2. Reputation management and growth of alumni base. A recent survey by industry experts found that exiting employees are more motivated to speak highly about their former employers if they receive outplacement assistance — and we at NB&A have observed this phenomenon first-hand when coaching transitioning attorneys. Reputation management has always been important for law firms, but it’s even more critical today, when a bad online review or a scathing tweet can potentially impact the prestige of your firm in the eyes of employees, potential employees and even clients.
3. Referral pathways for potential future attorney talent. You rely on positive referrals from your clients to get new business — and the same should be true for finding new talent. When an attorney exits, they can remain a valuable source for recruitment of future attorney talent — by referring good talent or speaking highly of their time at your firm — if you’ve maintained a collegial relationship. Outplacement support is a powerful way to maintain that bond of collegiality.
4. Sources of future business. The American Bar Association puts the number of attorneys at over one million in the United States alone. Yet despite our massive numbers, the world of legal practice can be a surprisingly small one. The chances of crossing paths in the future with a former colleague are quite high — and if you’ve supported that attorney’s transition with outplacement, that next encounter is more likely to be a positive one. In addition, with the current trend of many attorneys transitioning to in-house legal departments that routinely rely on external law firms for support, departing attorneys are a potential source of future business for you.
5. Risk reduction. Attorneys may at times be litigious — so stepping carefully with HR matters is important. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that outplacement reduces the risk of litigation when an employee departs, and can offer significant tax benefits by lowering unemployment insurance premiums.
6. Powerful statement about your firm’s values. If you enjoy outdoor recreation, you may be familiar with an old scouting rule: always leave a campsite in better condition than you found it. The same should be true of relationships. Attorneys who leave the firm — regardless of the circumstances of their departure — are your alumni, and you want them to leave feeling enriched by their experience. Outplacement is an ideal way to ensure that your relationship with alumni concludes on a positive note. Simply put, you’re conveying that, no matter how long they’re your colleagues, you have their backs, will invest in their future growth and wish to maintain lasting, healthy connections.
Regardless of the length of an attorney’s tenure with your firm, you’ve built a relationship. Ending a relationship well — cordially, with mutual goodwill — is important for both ethical reasons and your firm’s success. In fact, I’d encourage you to shift your perspective and look at a departure not as an end to the relationship, but as a shift in the nature of an ongoing, dynamic, mutually beneficial relationship. Your alumni reflect your firm’s prestige and values, and can be a rich source for future business. You dedicate extensive time and resources to invest in your attorneys’ careers when they join your firm; outplacement is an opportunity to invest in their continued success, as well as in your own organization.