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December, 2022
December, 2022 | Article

TLOMA 2023 Conference and Trade Show

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December, 2022 | Presidents Message

Presidents Message

Hunter, Mark 10may19
Author Mark Hunter

The last few months have been hectic for so many of us and TLOMA has been no different, ensuring we provided our members with educational content and networking events while bringing together a leadership team of new board and committee members for 2023.

As a member-driven organization, we are only as good as the engagement that each of you provides. I want to thank all of you for your continued support and participation. 2022 was once again a start-and-stop year but we were able to move closer to our goals of in-person events, more time to connect, and opportunities for people at all stages of their career.

As we look forward, our SIG leaders have been working diligently to plan sessions for 2023. I encourage you to visit our website to see what we already have planned.

Finally, I would like to thank our members for taking advantage of the membership renewal. If you have not done so already, there is still time to receive a 10% discount if you renew by December 9.

I wish you all the very best for a safe and happy holiday season!

Mark has over 20 years marketing and communications experience delivering strategic advice and operational expertise that guides and supports organizations. He has helped lawyers, engineers, scientists and planners understand where clients come from, why they get selected over other professionals and what they need to do to keep a busy book.

Mark has helped a number of organizations appreciate what differentiates them, how foundational awareness guides good decision making, and how to build a high performing cultures.

December, 2022 | Article

The Importance of Protecting your Mobile Devices

Importance of Protencting your mobile device
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Chernitzky, David
Author David Chernitzky

Cybercriminals are like water. They follow the path of the least resistance. They look for an easy way into your organization, and once it is found, they strike. When the attack economics are in their favour, they scale up the operation. They rinse and repeat. But when the cycle ends, the search for a new soft underbelly resumes. They then look for new techniques, vulnerabilities, and business modalities they can exploit.

For the past decade, businesses have ramped up their investment in traditional cybersecurity solutions. The solutions have been focused on and designed to protect devices, networks, and employees in the office. The office was declared a "secured perimeter," and any device connected to the network had to be verified and approved. External traffic to and from these devices was also monitored. All to ensure that an office is a safe place. 

But over the last few years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a monumental shift in how and where we do our work. Employees today work from anywhere. They are using any device, connecting to any network, and adopting any application that makes their tasks more manageable. And in this context, in the last two years, we have realized how critical mobile phones have become for our workforce productivity. 

Today mobile devices mirror your corporate data onto a smaller form factor and hold the keys to your corporate kingdom. From replacing passwords with 2-Factor Authenticating Apps to enabling Office365 access and more. These devices have become both keepers of sensitive data and enablers of identity and access to additional data not stored on the device. They are now, de facto, a part of your core technology ecosystem. And as such, it must be protected. 

Why do you need a mobile security solution? 

According to the Verizon 2021 Mobile Security Index, "70% of organizations adopted BYOD policies to support the distributed worker." 

In plain language, your business data is viewed, accessed, downloaded, and shared on mostly unprotected and unsecured devices. 

These devices can be infected with malware, phishing for credentials, leaking information externally, spoofing authentications, and spying on. In some cases, unsecured devices even led to ransomware attacks. Without a proper solution, an attacker can lurk without interruptions or the possibility of being discovered. 

According to Check Point 2021 Mobile Security Report, "Almost every organization experienced a mobile-related attack in 2020, with 46% of organizations having at least one employee download a malicious mobile application."

Today unprotected mobile phones are fertile ground for attackers. It is their latest path of least resistance.

Another problem is that Small and Medium Businesses rely on their IT provider, internal or external, to protect their business. However, most IT providers are spread thin on maintaining IT systems properly and usually do not have the focus nor expertise to secure mobile devices properly. As a result, most businesses have a blind spot that exposes their mobile devices to cyber criminals. 

What does a good mobile security solution look like?

Before we explain what a good security solution looks like, it is worth noting that the passcode or password you have on your phone is not considered a mobile security solution. The same goes for a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution. MDM has some features that sound like they are security-related; they are not. MDM deals primarily with policies and compliance but does not have preventative and detection technologies to stop cybersecurity attacks. 

You should look for a solution that provides 360 degrees of protection against all attack vectors. Insist on a solution that protects the device hardware, the Operating System, the applications, and the network/connectivity layer. 

  • The solution needs to defend against all types of modern attacks. Prevent malware from infiltrating the device by detecting and blocking the download of malicious codes. Ensure the device is not exposed to compromise with real-time risk assessments detecting attacks, vulnerabilities, configuration changes, and advanced rooting and jailbreaking.
  • Risk visibility is also crucial. Without a complete view of your organization's mobile security posture, you will not be able to mitigate risk and accelerate remediation effectively.
  • Do not let the solution restrict your technology. Scalable and fast deployment that supports every device type, operating system, and device ownership model (company or BYOD) is a must.
  • Security solutions can become an annoyance when they get in the way. Good solutions have minimal impact on the device's usability, user experience, data consumption, and battery levels.
  • Mobile devices are hybrids. They store both corporate and personal information. Make sure the solution you choose ensures that data is kept private from everyone, especially when the device belongs to an employee. If the solution you intend to implement doesn't follow the privacy-by-design principles, it is not the right one for you. Privacy is paramount when it comes to personal mobile devices.


Last but not least point, it is not all about technology. You should choose the best technology on the market; however, the technology without experts that can set it up, configure and manage it properly and consistently with the right dedication and focus is as good as a brick.

Before you decide on a solution, consult with cybersecurity experts who can recommend the solution for your specific business needs. It is quite affordable nowadays and can bring great ROI to your business.  

David brings 20 years of experience and dedication to Armour Cybersecurity. He served as an officer in the elite technology unit of the Israeli Defense Forces intelligence corps for 12 years, with a deep focus on cybersecurity. He has also held subsequent leadership and operational roles in Canada, Europe, and around the globe at companies like Amdocs and NCR. 
 
David’s passion and no-nonsense approach has helped him earn his clients’ respect, a black belt in Okinawan Goju-Ryu karate, and countless extra miles on his road bike. 

December, 2022 | Article

7 Steps To Follow To Create SEO Content For Your Law Firm's Website

SEO Content
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Annette Choi
Author Annette Choti

In the modern era of ubiquitous technology and social media, lawyers are presented with a myriad of new opportunities to reach their target audience. It is not uncommon to see that lawyers are not leveraging their law firm website to the fullest extent, which limits their ability to reach prospective clients. For this reason, translating website traffic into real clients is often an arduous task. Using SEO effectively can help overcome this limitation by allowing lawyers to become more visible and authoritative across search engines.

7 Steps to Creating SEO Content for Your Law Firm Website

While there is no one-size-fits-all for creating SEO content for a law firm website, there is a tried-and-true process for creating content that attracts visitors and generates revenue for your business. Having spent years working with lawyers to improve their law firm SEO, we have boiled this process down to a 7-step framework. When implemented strategically, these 7 steps can have a major quantitative impact on your business.

1.  Identify Relevant Topics

Regardless of whether you are just beginning your SEO journey or are a seasoned content writing maestro, identifying topics does not always come easily. It can be difficult to assess the type of information that prospective clients are looking for online. This, in fact, is the foundation of your content strategy: what questions are prospective clients asking and how can we most effectively answer these questions?

In order to engage prospective clients, you first must be relevant. To be relevant, you must create content that resonates with your ideal clientele’s struggles, challenges, and most common dilemmas. When brainstorming ideas, consider the three primary components of effective content:

A Note on Evergreen Topics

When navigating topic ideas, it is important to consider which content will be continually relevant over weeks, months, and even years. Evergreen content is that which will remain fresh and pertinent long past its date of publication. With time, evergreen content will continue to attract audience attention and generate traffic, making it incredibly essential for SEO purposes.

For law firms, evergreen topics are oftentimes broad industry concepts that may be confusing for prospective clients. For example, the topic “how is property divided following a divorce?” will be much more relevant long-term than a commentary piece on a recent political event.

2.  Utilize Keywords Effectively

Once the topic has been identified, it is time to start building content. Keywords are the pillars of good content, allowing the user to identify which web pages will answer their question most effectively. In essence, when a user searches your keyword or phrase, your webpage will appear in the list of results, indicating that your content is relevant to their query. Keywords are important, as they are one of the primary factors that Google looks for when ranking your web page.

Using keywords effectively can be difficult, however, and many people fall into common SEO pitfalls when it comes to keyword utilization. When using keywords in your content, consider the following:

There are a plethora of online tools available to help identify which keywords will be the most relevant for a given topic. Google Trends provides information on the most trending current searches on the Google platform, while Answer the Public is a fantastic tool for understanding what users are organically searching. These tools, among others, can be beneficial when developing your initial keyword strategy.

3.  Format Properly to Improve Readability

Search engine optimization is a complicated, multi-faceted process that goes beyond written content. Many times, formatting is an overlooked aspect of this process. It is important to note that on-page optimization must be tailored to search engine crawlers and prospective site visitors alike. To accomplish this, consider the following:

It should also be noted that formatting for simplicity and clarity is often a valuable strategy. Using fonts that are easy to read and limiting the use of color in your text can be helpful. Moreover, when formatting content, be sure to consider how the web page will appear on mobile devices as well as standard computers and laptops.

4.  Understand Word Count for Different Types of Content

We often encounter questions regarding whether or not word count is important for SEO. The answer is undeniably, yes. Typically, the optimal number of words that should be included in a piece of content depends on the purpose of the text. Evergreen content, like service pages, perform well when they are between 500 and 800 words. Blog posts, on the other hand, should hover between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Naturally, social media content should be kept shorter, between 300 and 600 words to ensure that the text is shareable.

5.  Leverage Ingoing & Outgoing Links

Links are a key component of an effective SEO strategy. Ingoing links, which are backlinks from another website pointing to your web page, bring more authority to your site. Having high quality ingoing links from trusted, well-ranking web pages can be a major ranking factor for your law firm website.

Outgoing links, which are backlinks found on your own website that point to other web pages, also operate as votes of trust for other sites. Leveraging a few, strategically placed outgoing links on your law firm website can help improve your search engine rankings.

6.  Prioritize Originality

The importance of prioritizing originality when creating law firm website content cannot be under-emphasized. This is for two reasons, which can be summarised as follows:

Original content can be an overview of established legal topics, new takes on relevant legal issues, or your professional opinion on a particular topic. All in all, crafting written content that reflects your law firm’s culture and ethos is a more effective approach than regurgitating information from other web pages on your law firm website or from your competitors’ websites.

7.  Promote on Social Media

  • Meets demand: to ensure the greatest return on investment, it is necessary to find a topic that is of-interest to the widest possible audience. There are several factors that influence demand, including geographic region and customer demographics, which must be accounted for when generating content ideas. If your law firm already showcases content on its website, take note of which topics generate the highest amount of traffic.

  • Demonstrates expertise: for a topic to be effective, the audience must glean insight and knowledge from the content. Consider the type of questions that your current and prospective clients are asking and answer these questions concisely within your law firm website content.

  • Matches intent: Search intent becomes increasingly important as users become more and more reliant on mobile devices. With mobile device users, intent can be broken down into four categories: learning, going, doing, or buying. As such, your content will be either informational, navigational, transactional, or local.

  • Moderation: overusing your keyword or phrase will signal to Google that your content is unreadable and, in the worst cases, spam. “Keyword stuffing” is a major issue that can result in your web page being ranked lowly or even removed altogether.

  • Organic use: ensure that your keywords appear logically within your text. Forcing keywords into sentences where they do not make sense is a fast way to signal to Google that your content may not add any real value to users.

  • Readability: finally, utilize keywords strategically within different parts of the content. Consider using a keyword once within a heading, in the introduction of your text, and in the URL slug and meta description, for instance.

  • Headings: using headings frequently throughout a text is a valuable way to break up the content and increase readability. Headings also provide an opportunity to utilize keywords for the back-end of SEO.

  • Concise paragraphs: readers and bots alike are less interested in consuming a large wall of text than they are smaller, more concise paragraphs.

  • Bullet points: another way to break up text and increase readability is by using bullet points and numbered lists.

  • Search engine crawlers do not view duplicate content favourably. In fact, Google has made it clear that duplicated content is not considered quality content on their platform. Google’s algorithms eliminate duplicated content immediately, making it important to produce original and unplagarised content.

  • As previously mentioned, garnering ingoing links on your written content can have a good impact on your search engine rankings. To earn these links, it is essential to produce high-quality, authoritative content. More often than not, this coincides with originality. If your content is original, other websites will be more likely to cite your web page as an authoritative source in the industry.

As the population becomes more and more reliant on social media for news and information, it is essential to leverage these platforms to your advantage. Many lawyers disregard the power of social media, missing out on the critical opportunities that it provides. Marketing your content across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok not only increases brand recognition, but enhances your brand’s reputation. Moreover, the likes, comments, and shares that your content earns can signal to search engines that your content is useful to your target market. 

Consider Contacting an Experienced Marketing Agency


Crafting high quality SEO-friendly content can be time-consuming and difficult, requiring hours of work and consistent dedication. For this reason, understanding the quantitative impact of this effort is imperative. Fortunately, optimizing your content for search engines has the potential to attract wider audiences, thereby generating revenue for your law firm.

When adopted to suit your law firm’s needs, these steps can increase the number of prospective clients who visit your website and improve your visibility across major search engines. To learn more about how we can help create SEO-friendly content for your law firm, consider contacting Law Quill today.

President and Owner of Law Quill, Annette Choi, has over the years, not only developed legal experience but also digital marketing experience by working with some of the largest digital marketing agencies in the United States.

Annette has provided digital marketing services to hundreds of law firms and written over 3 million words of online legal content for hundreds of law firms throughout the United States & Canada. She has been honored to be a keynote speaker and featured in several podcasts and publications as a digital marketing expert for attorneys over the years.

Annette is also a weekly columnist to the prestigious Above The Law website, as well as Attorney At Work, and also is the host of the Legal Marketing Lounge Podcast. 
December, 2022 | Article

Automate office tasks and save time (without spending an extra dime)

Automate office tasks
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Colin_Pearce
Author Colin Pearce

The tools I’m talking about in this article are available within the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem. You can find them at office.com. There are many different programs out there that can help your firm, but we want to cover a few things you can do right now to automate tasks and save yourself some time.

If you’re spending a lot of time on repetitive tasks, there may be some things you can automate.

Outlook/Inbox tasks

Forward and file emails based on sender or subject. For example, we have invoices automatically forward to our accounting system, and then file them automatically.

Store attachments to specific places. If you need to distribute information to the same people on a regular basis, you can automate that.

There is a feature called Public Folders where you can monitor all your correspondence by matter.

There is a My Templates feature within Outlook to create automated emails.

You can use Outlook Polls, for example for conflict checks.

Using Microsoft Power Automate and Excel, you can create a journal of all your email correspondence with a given party. This can help with billing time, for instance.

Management tasks

There is really an unlimited scope here, but for example you can give certain people “approval status” using SharePoint, so that they can formally approve documents. You can have “time off” approvals to go through SharePoint.

Intake tasks

You can use Microsoft Forms for intake questions, and that information can be populated in an Excel spreadsheet. You can also use automation to send automatic email replies to clients or potential clients.

Social media

You can use Power Automate to monitor tweets and create a log or a database within Excel. You may have instances where you want to aggregate all tweets about a given matter.

Microsoft Bookings

I could not live without this one, I use it all the time. This is a service that is an alternative to Calendly. It can be used for clients and/or for internal purposes. You can limit the times of day you are available, someone can choose a time and set a meeting with you. It can automatically send a Teams video meeting link to that person.

SharePoint/OneDrive

SharePoint is good for sharing documents and collaborating with outside parties. OneDrive is useful for sharing documents with your internal team. OneDrive also has an excellent “request a file” feature where you can ask any party to upload a specific file.

Microsoft Teams

Teams has many possibilities for automations as well. It’s more than just video meetings. You can create groups, and chat within those groups. You can create wikis. For wikis, you can put in information that is relevant to a given matter or project.

Head to office.com, take a look around and see what’s available to you to help automate tasks and save time at work.

Feel free to download my slides from the webinar we held on this topic, or watch my 8-minute video recap.
Colin is founder and CEO of Inderly - IT for Law Firms, serving clients across Ontario. Colin enjoys figuring out how to make business technology work best for each unique situation.
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December, 2022 | Article

Professional Development Best Practices: Building Your Team's Tech Skills

Appara for TLOMAToday
Dan_Palmer
Author Dan Palmer

Here’s how you can keep your law firm competitive by investing in your employees.

The legal industry is undergoing a long-overdue sea change. Law firms large and small are adopting innovative new technologies at a rapid pace, using AI, cloud-based software, and automation tools to mitigate staffing shortages, reduce administrative bloat, and better meet client demands. At the vanguard of this movement are forward-thinking firms staffed by young, ambitious lawyers, paralegals, and support staff who see technology as not the future, but the present. Meanwhile, a number of legacy firms are being left behind, betting on tradition rather than innovation.

While the Canadian Bar Association’s Code of Professional Conduct was retired in 2009, it still serves as a useful guidepost for law firms seeking to engage in best practices. Chapter 2 of the Code of Professional Conduct, “Competence and Quality of Service”, explains that lawyers owe their clients “a duty to be competent”. This duty includes “serving the client…so as to provide a quality of service at least equal to that which lawyers generally would expect of a competent lawyer in a like situation.”

In sum, Canadian law firms have an ethical obligation to their clients to be tech-savvy. It’s also just good business: Statistics show that every dollar invested in legaltech results in at least $4 in ROI.

If your staff aren’t tech-savvy, your law firm risks losing clients and revenue to more prepared competitors. That’s why focusing on technology skills training is every bit as important for law firms as continuing education in law. Here are some of the ways law office administrators and managers can help promote tech literacy in the workplace.

Foster a Culture of Teamwork & Change

One of the best things you can do to help your team upskill is create a company culture that encourages professional development. To help your team improve their technology skills, you’ll want to create the kind of culture where change is good, where teamwork trumps office politics, and where learning is a sign of strength rather than weakness.

Lawyers are avid readers and learners, but they may be hesitant to talk about professional development with their peers. As a law office manager, you can foster a culture of teamwork, change, and skills-building.

Align Individual and Organizational Priorities

There are two types of motivation: Extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation involves offering rewards that are external to the person in question. This could be things like hockey tickets, a raise or bonus, or an extra week of vacation. Some sort of external factor is motivating the person to learn new skills.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is internal to the person in question. An intrinsically-motivated staff member will want to learn new skills because they find the activity of learning to be rewarding in and of itself. They don’t need some sort of external motivating factor because they’ve created their own motivation for themselves.

When you can align your organizational priorities with the individual wants and needs of your staff, you can leverage your team’s intrinsic motivation and encourage them to develop new skills without needing external reward.

A great way to incentivize professional development among your staff is to give your team members the opportunity to develop new skills they’re already interested in learning. Maybe your paralegal wants to learn web design to further her volunteer work with local charities. Perhaps your receptionist has always wanted to be a better public speaker. When your staff have an intrinsic motivation to learn a new skill, they’ll be more likely to see their courses through to completion – and they’ll feel compelled to develop a higher level of mastery over that skill.

Schedule Dedicated Pro-D Days

Skills development can often fall to the bottom of a law office’s priority list. Client matters feel more enticing, and it’s easier to justify working on billable matters than non-billable tasks.

But eschewing professional development opportunities to prioritize client work instead doesn’t prevent the flow of client work from continuing to come in at the same rapid pace. Instead, it simply puts your staff further behind on professional development and makes your firm less competitive.

Plus, staff members can often feel reluctant to set aside time for professional development when they know that everyone else in the firm is focused on boosting their billable hours.

Prioritizing professional development is often a matter of logistics. If your firm can schedule a dedicated Pro-D day once per month (or quarter), for instance, it’ll be easier for your staff to keep their skills sharp. Scheduled professional development time also sidesteps the problem of peer pressure. If everyone is working on professional development activities at the same time, then no one falls behind anyone else.

If All Else Fails, Skills Bonuses Don’t Hurt

It may sound crass, but sometimes the best way to incentivize professional development is with good, old-fashioned bonuses.

A skills bonus is a great way to recognize employees who take the initiative to improve their skills. It’s also a great employee retention move. These bonuses are usually offered to employees who are thinking of moving on but becoming more proactive in your employee retention efforts can help you to reduce hiring expenses (hiring costs can easily exceed 30% of an employee’s salary) and preserve your team’s expertise. By spending some of that money on skills bonuses instead, you can trim your hiring budget while retaining your top talent. Plus, by providing a monetary incentive for your team to build their skills, you’re giving them a reason to make themselves more valuable to your organization.

Technology has rapidly changed the legal landscape, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the law firms that embrace this change will maintain competitive advantages over technology laggards. That’s why a coordinated effort to improve your entire firm’s technology skills can make your organization more competitive, more productive, and more resilient to market changes. But not all professional development initiatives mean an organization-wide change. Even small changes can add up to significant advantages in the marketplace.

Dan Palmer is a Vancouver-based corporate tax lawyer and co-founder of records management and document automation platform Appara. For more information or to start a free trial, contact sales@appara.ai.
December, 2022 | Article

For crying out cloud: how cloud-based document management is the future of filing

For crying out cloud
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Advanced Logo
Author Advanced PR

With flexible working becoming a standard of the new normal for business and more digital practices and markets, law firms are juggling the need to adhere to strict data protection regulations and client care compliance with a workforce and client base that is looking to seize the opportunities given to them by technology to progress matters anytime, anywhere.

Unfortunately, many firms are hampered by the fact that they’re still relying on an on‐premise legacy document management systems or a network folder structure and the use of additional collaboration tools or separate client portals. As a result, a lot of accountants are struggling to access business and client documents.

This issue would be resolved if firms moved away from on‐premise servers to a cloud environment but many simply do not fully understood the operational, cost, security and maintenance advantages of doing so.

How the cloud benefits firms

Firms will benefit from a move to the cloud now because being able to access files remotely using any device will have an immediate impact on the productivity of accountants who are working from home.

The right document management system lets users quickly search, save and share client files, provides document audit trails from creation to disposal as well as version control management. It will also provide email filing - a great time‐saver and means that users can always rely on the fact that there’s a single complete electronic version of each client’s file. Remember too that today’s systems provide an intuitive user experience that leads to quick adoption.

A cloud‐based document management will also, of course, eliminate the need to connect via existing systems. Meaning that you don’t have to rely on your own, most likely smaller servers and people can connect from anywhere. As a result, documents can be accessed much more quickly and reliably.

It’s also important that cloud‐based document management provides advanced, high‐level security that in a lot of instances is much more robust than the on-premise measures many firms are currently relying on. Cloud‐based DMS also undergo extraordinary resilience testing so that they are always available in a crisis. This mitigates a lot of risk, as well as taking care of a lot of disaster recovery and contingency planning.

About NetDocuments

You can trust NetDocuments to remove the barriers to efficient document management and transform your documents into an efficiency engine for collaboration, productivity, and growth – without limitations or restrictions.

With NetDocuments you get market-leading features in a document management solution, including:

  • 24/7 access from anywhere
  • Security and compliance through the Cloud
  • Business transparency with NetDocuments Analytics
  • Customizable flexibility with purpose-built add-ons
  • Scalability through open APIs and integrations with multiple applications

As a NetDocuments worldwide Platinum Partner, Advanced are accredited to deliver, train, and support NetDocuments. As a first step, we will advise and support you in selecting the document management functions that can deliver exactly what you need.

Following implementation, our training team can deliver tailored onsite, remote, or online training sessions to ensure smooth user adoption. And you will always have access to our ISO-accredited support team who are available 24/7/365 to ensure on-going ease and efficiency.

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Our press team, delivering thought leadership and insightful market analysis.

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December, 2022 | Article

Talent War: How professional service firms can recruit & retain top talent in today’s overheated labor market

Talent war
Gerlach, Michael
Author Michael Gerlach

How can law firms and accounting firms navigate today’s choppy labor market by recruiting and retaining top professionals without breaking the bank?

A tight and overheated market for employees is impacting a wide array of industries across the nation, and that is especially true among professional service firms like law firms and tax & accounting firms. Not surprisingly, this tight labor situation in the professional services industry is a top concern for firm leaders and will likely impact how firms conduct their business going forward.

In a two-part blog series, the Thomson Reuters Institute speaks to Michael Gerlach, Partner and Business & Professional Services Senior Analyst at the tax, audit and consulting firm RSM. In this second part of our interview, Gerlach offers his insight on the overheated labor market for law firms, corporate law departments, and accounting firms, and what those organizations can do to win this war over talent.

Thomson Reuters Institute: When we hear about how professional service’s leadership and its role in talent recruitment and retainment, we often hear that clear communication to middle management and all staff members is a key ingredient in success. How do you view the role of communication in this area?

Michael Gerlach: All firm leaders need to look at communication as a key component of not only going out to campuses and recruiting, but it’s also important for re-recruiting everybody that’s already in your firm. How do you continue to make them feel confident with your leadership and that you’re making the right decisions?

I think many less-experienced professionals are demanding full transparency in communication — and there’s definitely more transparency that can be made than has been the case historically within professional service firms — but there should be boundaries as well. I think communication is critical, especially as it pertains to retention, but I also think there is a process that firms have to go through to identify how far that transparency will go.

Thomson Reuters Institute: Certainly, some areas of communication are more fraught with challenges than others, is that correct?

Michael Gerlach: Sure, compensation becomes a huge transparency question, right? I know that’s where a lot of younger professionals want that transparency to come out. And clearly, one of the best ways to offer transparency around compensation is to bring the numbers out to the forefront and let everybody know what everybody’s being paid. Of course, that brings about a huge legal risk for most firms because there are going to be gender and age pay gaps evident. Whether these gaps are intentional or not, they’re going to be there — and I think firms are trying to protect themselves from that. So, compensation is one area of transparency that firms are going to have to consider very carefully.

Also, I think it’s vital to keep everyone on the same page as far as what a return to the office means. What exactly does remote work mean? The more upper management partners can communicate down to their teams, the more their teams are going to feel comfortable.

Thomson Reuters Institute: Speaking of fraught communication, recruits and younger professionals have certainly stressed the importance of work/life balance and flexible work schedules, often with a remote component. How should firms handle those conversations, especially if the employee is nervous that the direct supervisor may not be happy to discuss this?

Michael Gerlach: I think we should do a better job at identifying who should be involved in these conversations. Not every attorney or a manager at a law or accounting firm should be having those conversations. As we noted in our most recent Middle Market Business Index special report, going back into an office can be disorientating for employees who have not set foot in their company’s building for months.

Firms need to identify individuals who have the ability to understand perspective, who have the ability to be empathetic with the staff because they’re coming in with different issues than we’ve ever faced before.

Firms need to provide those supervisors with the resources to be able to drive those conversations. Or else, you’re going to lose employees if they feel you won’t address those issues.

Thomson Reuters Institute: You mentioned earlier a firm’s return-to-office plan. How much of that plan needs to be focused on recruitment and retaining talent? And what are the key factors that definitely need to be considered when firms are doing any such planning?

Michael Gerlach: That’s a wide-open box right now, especially given the continuing arc of the pandemic. I think every firm has different policies, and every firm wants something different. I think some of the difficulties you run into involve consistency across all levels.

If you’re a firm that has 12,000 employees and you’re asking all of your staff — that is, everyone below manager — to come back to work, that means about two-thirds of the firm will be coming back to the office. But what are you doing at the manager, senior manager, and partner level? Are you requiring the same from them? And if not, how can you explain that to both recruits and existing talent?

I think one of the key factors is to have consistency across the firm. All employee levels need to face the same expectations. If managers are asking their senior workers to come in and work from the office three days a week, then managers need to be there three days a week as well. And that may be difficult because, typically, a manager has a lot more flexibility in their schedule, and they may have never been operating three days a week from an office.

They have to recognize, however, that now we’re operating in a different time. We need to figure out what these return-to-the-office requests look like, especially to recruits and younger professionals. Most importantly, professional service firms across all industries need to get buy-in from everybody about who is going to be in the office, who is going to work remotely and how much, and what is expected of employees now and six months or a year from now.

How firms address these difficult conversations and how they convey their decisions to their professional workers, especially new and younger employees, will go a long way in determining how successful these firms will be with recruitment and retention in today’s environment.

Michael Gerlach is RSM’s North American professional services sector leader, with more than 20 years of experience serving companies in this sector. His extensive experience as a consultant and partner to law, consulting and executive search firms has helped clients overcome challenges and create solutions. He has effectively advised leaders on best practices and streamlining of operations to maximize efficiencies.
December, 2022 | Movers and Shakers
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