With smaller recruitment budgets and smaller budgets for staff extras, there’s no doubt that smaller firms like Murrell Associates can’t compete on salaries or financial rewards with large firms. We are a specialist corporate and property firm with 11 fee-earners and we’re based in Truro and Bristol. However, being smaller and specialist gives us scope to attract good candidates through the non-pecuniary things that we offer. The challenge is finding the right candidates who identify and appreciate those things.
To candidates who have an entrepreneurial streak and technical expertise, we offer a collaborative culture and an approach that allow them much greater control over their day to day life – we don’t monitor every aspect of a person’s work time and the firm isn’t run as a series of teams within teams. This gives our people greater scope to develop their own specialism and career and a better work-life balance through more flexibility and through working with other people who have made similar choices about their lives. Large degrees of client contact and involvement for our fee-earners leads to more responsibility at an early stage and the chance to get in-depth training with specialist in their field for our junior staff.
As a small firm, succession awareness amongst the senior staff means that staff development and having a good team to hand the firm on to has a greater importance and is central to the business’ strategy. From the candidate’s point of view this provides ample opportunities for progression and also ensures they take on the job of ensuring that they are ‘skilled up’ to take on the mantle of running the firm – through developing business and marketing skills, financial skills and learning which advisors to pick and rely on.
The challenge for us is finding candidates who are willing to make that step out of a large firm to give life in a small specialist a go and who have the right mindset and skills. We’re meeting this challenge in a number of ways: by training our own solicitors (we’re one of the few small specialist firms who offer training contracts); increasing our profile in the legal profession through networking etc. and through working with a recruitment agent who knows our firm well. Our recruitment process is quite informal and typically involves a number of meetings and calls with the candidates so we really get to know each other.
As for our retention, we have a good rate of retention amongst our fee-earners. Rebecca Dixon, a property solicitor says: “The reason I like being here is because the firm is so progressive in terms of understanding that I’m not just a solicitor who churns out chargeable hours. I’m also a mum (so balancing home and work is a daily challenge) and I also have ambitions of my own for my career and life in general. The firm recognises and rewards the non-chargeable work that I do in terms of marketing, training and know-how. There is also no office politics – being in a small team means we are all aware of how matters are progressing and we’re all very client-focussed. It’s a great environment to work in.”