Hong Kong Lawyer

November 2017

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November 2017 • PRACTICE MANAGEMENT 執業管理 L aw firms invest a significant amount of time and money in recruiting and training people and it makes sense therefore that they should seek to protect that investment by retaining those people. On the other hand, they should not shirk from ceasing to employ people who are not able to perform at the required level (or choose not to do so) or who do not fit in with the Firm's ethos and culture. Hence retention needs to be balanced alongside the strength that comes from having a collaborative, like- minded group of people willing and able to perform at an appropriate level. There are many issues that complicate the retention of people. One is the changing expectations of the group known as "the millennials" – broadly a group now between 20 and 30 years old. This group has different expectations than the generations before them. For example: • They see a job as an opportunity for growth, development and advancement rather than as a life time commitment – and they are quicker to change jobs when they feel their expectations are not being met. • They value having a manager who will invest in their development and provide a clear career path and direction. • They want interesting work that meets their development needs and are disinclined to spend time on routine work. • They want a level of openness about the direction of their group and involvement in terms of contributing ideas. • They want to be listened to even if their ideas are not adopted – with feedback as to why not. While most professional people of any generation might be seeking growth, development and advancement, past generations were inclined to see the need to "move up the ladder" and accept that their early years might be more learning at the routine level. Millennials want to see progress from the start and will move on quickly if it is perceived to not be happening. Put another way, retaining millennials will not work if they are put in a room doing boring tasks and having little or no participation and involvement in their work group. They don't want to run the business from day one, but they do want to feel involved in it and be given the opportunity to contribute, learn and grow. A second issue that is important generally, but particularly relevant in law firms, is the gender issue. This centres around the fact that the proportion of women entering all professions is high, now higher than men in many countries but the drop out rate is also very high. The Hong Kong Law Society has reported that in 2016, 60 percent of entrants to the Hong Kong legal profession were women but they constitute only 27 percent of law firm partners. This has changed little over a generation. Throughout the world organisations of all types (including governments) are seeking ways to increase the retention of women into their senior ranks but it is proving to be a struggle. Rightly or wrongly women generally still have the main child-caring role at home as well as other household duties. The role of a partner in a law firm carries with it many duties outside normal working hours such as client meetings, client engagement deadlines, business development activities and internal meetings. Many of these events have unpredictable finishing times which is an added complication. Many women feel that they cannot play the same role, and add the same value to the firm, as men and choose, therefore, to leave the legal profession well before they are on partner track. Some firms have tried work sharing schemes and this has been PRACTICE MANAGEMENT 執業管理 Talent Retention and Succession Planning By Alan Hodgart Hodgart Associates Ltd. www.hk-lawyer.org 73

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