Mentoring is not, primarily, about the teaching of skills. The mentor is
meant to provide guidance and advice, not necessarily strict training. It is as-
sumed in firms today that the training will be provided by a number of pro-
fessionals, mentors, and others, from project to project. In fact, one of the
greatest benefits to a larger firm is that often the associates are exposed to a
number of professional staff from all levels on different projects. Since each
supervisor will perform tasks and projects in different ways, the training it-
self is varied and associates will eventually develop their own style. But su-
pervision is not mentoring. Mentoring involves guidance, â€śshowing the way of
the worldâ€ť to the younger professional. The mentor should provide experi-
ence and encouragement and should work to develop the interpersonal skills
of the protĂ©gĂ©.10 The mentor is above all intended to be a background or a
voice to which the professional can turn to on a variety of issues, not just a
single question on a particular project.
Quality of Life Issues
It is no secret that professional services firms expect a great deal of sacri-
fice from their employees. In turn, those employees are compensated ex-
tremely well with pay packages, perks, and benefits. However, quality of
life issues often are raised within firm surveys as a top five issue with
which professionals have problems. The long hours and the travel time are
difficult on young families and often lead to defections from professionals
looking to have a life, not just earn a living. The strongest weapon that a
firm has concerning quality of life issues is the group input panels dis-
When the non-equity professionals are listened to through these groups, it
provides a cross-section of opinion on whether the quality of life at the firm
is suffering. This validates that a problem is real and not the product of one
or two malcontents. At the same time, it also ensures that the problem, once
260 Attracting and Retaining the Best Professionals
identified, is dealt with on an ongoing basis between the group input com-
mittee and the leadership of the firm.
Debriefing the Recruiting and
At some point on an annual basis, it is important that the recruiting process
as a whole be reviewed separately by the hiring committee and by the man-
agement committee of the firm. This is a step in the recruiting and retention
process most often overlooked, to the detriment of many firms.
The hiring committee should undergo a detailed analysis, concentrating
on certain, quantifiable metrics: how many candidates were considered,
how many were interviewed, what was the acceptance rate, and how much
money was spent per candidate on a pro-rata basis. These and other metrics
help the committee determine where the money and time should be spent
in the next year â€™s recruiting, and eventually the goal is to have most of the
inefficiencies of the process eliminated. Keeping a running total of five
years of rolling budgets is particularly helpful, as these can be charted
against firm growth and the professional services economy to spot trends
that can be anticipated for the next year. The data collected by the hiring
committee should then be passed on to the management committee, along
with any recommendations that the hiring committee has for changes to the
The management committeeâ€™s review should be more in line with this sec-
ond, five-year review of the hiring committee. The management committee
should be able to take the 10,000-foot view of the recruiting process in gen-
eral to determine:
â€˘ Are we getting the people that we need?
â€˘ Why are certain people accepting, and why are certain people rejecting?
â€˘ Once we recruit a new employee, what is the average length of tenure?
â€˘ What do exit interviews indicate are the top five reasons people give
â€˘ Are there trends that we, as a firm, have not yet identified?
Professionals by their very nature can have difficulty in actually â€śrunning
their business.â€ť Professionals would often rather be providing client services
than be involved in the day-to-day details of operations. However, there are
numerous opportunities for the firm to obtain objective data that affects not
Professional Staff Recruiting and Retention
only its present, but also its future. The key is to institutionalize the processes
and put the effort in on the front end to make sure the processes are correct
and that each step gathers data that can be used to analyze what the firm
does correctly and what the firm does incorrectly.
If the recruiting and retention process concentrates on obtaining objec-
tive criteria at every level, the management committee should be able to ag-
gregate and report on all of the information and determine whether there
are underlying problems in the firmâ€™s culture, compensation structure, or
workload that indicate a wrong path.
â€śAn Insider â€™s Guide To Interviewing: Insights from the Employer â€™s Perspectiveâ€ť
(National Association for Law Placement, 1666 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite
325, Washington, DC 20009; 1996).
â€śAttorney Recruitment and Retention: A Showcase of Best Practicesâ€ť (National As-
sociation for Law Placement, 1666 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 325, Wash-
ington, DC 20009; 1996).
Ida O. Abbot, Esq., The Lawyerâ€™s Guide to Mentoring (National Association for Law
Placement, 1666 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 325, Washington, DC 20009;
Arnold B. Kanter, The Essential Book of Interviewing: Everything You Need to
Know from Both Sides of the Table (Times Books/Random House, 1995).
H. Anthony Medley, Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed (Ten
Speed Press, 1978, revised 1984, 1992).
1. The scope of this chapter is limited to the recruitment and retention of profes-
sional employees, that is, individuals with the education and attendant licenses
to deliver the core services of the firm, whether the practice of law, account-
ancy, investment banking, or others. Excluded from this chapter is the recruit-
ment or retention of support staff and back-office functions. Those processes,
equally, and in many cases more, important to the operations of a firm, are re-
served for other chapters.
2. The names of these categories were chosen by the author, and certainly each
category has numerous synonyms. None of the categories are intended as slights
to any particular classificationâ€”in fact, each is wholly necessary to the success-
ful functioning of a professional firm. And, contrary to the beliefs of many pro-
fessionals, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for any one individual to
perform adequately in more than two of these categories.
3. Terms used in this article that denote industry-specific terms, such as associate
or partner, ref lect the author â€™s background as a lawyer but are not meant exclu-
sively to ref lect law firms, either big or small. The concepts can be equally
262 Attracting and Retaining the Best Professionals
applied to accounting firms, investment banks, and other professional services
firms. The reader is encouraged to substitute his or her own industry terms (such
as principal, manager, managing director, or others) where appropriate.
4. These bonuses can be substantial. A bounty of $5,000 or $10,000 (and some-
times more) for recruiting a lateral hire is not uncommon.
5. One excellent resource is An Insiderâ€™s Guide to Interviewing: Insights from the
Employerâ€™s Perspective (National Association for Law Placement, 1666 Con-
necticut Avenue, NW, Suite 325, Washington, DC 20009; 1996).
6. Attorney Recruitment and Retention: A Showcase of Best Practices (National
Association for Law Placement, 1666 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 325,
Washington, DC 20009; 1996).
7. Nor is it a secret. In larger cities, the vast majority of new hires at professional
services firms can tell you almost to the penny what each of their friends and
associates is earning at a firm across town.
8. Not all lateral moves are related solely to an increase in compensation. In fact,
numerous firms hire lateral employees from high-paying, but difficult, firms,
for a lower salary. The lateral often makes the move for quality-of-life reasons
or for the opportunity for advancement.
9. Ida O. Abbott, Esq., The Lawyerâ€™s Guide to Mentoring (National Association
for Law Placement, 1666 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 325, Washington, DC
10. See note 9.
Taking Care of Business
D. MICHAEL MCDOWELL
To live through an impossible situation, you donâ€™t need the reflexes of a Grand Prix driver, the
muscles of Hercules, the mind of Einstein.You simply need to know what to do (next).
â€”Anthony Greenback, The Book of Survival1
Successfully developing and delivering professional services present a unique
combination of challenges and opportunities. Meeting these challenges and
seizing these opportunities depend on the personal abilities of the profes-
sionals involved and the relationships they maintain with their clients. Expe-
rience, expertise, and reputation all play a part in the professional services
firmâ€™s ability to build and sustain a successful practice.
If success were solely a function of personal and professional capabilities,
all highly skilled professionals in practice would thrive. Clients would f lock
to them. Unfortunately, itâ€™s not that simple. There are countless examples of
well-qualified law firms, medical practices, advertising agencies, public rela-
tions specialists, and accounting firms of every size that have failed to sus-
This chapter focuses on important issues affecting the successful develop-
ment and delivery of professional services from a strategic management per-
spective. It offers a systematic approach to success that can be applied and
sustained across a broad spectrum of professional services businessesâ€”large
and small, for-profit, and not-for-profit.
This chapter describes how a professional services firm can move from
simply thinking strategically to becoming strategic in the manner in which
the firm develops and delivers professional services and why becoming
266 Services Delivery: Taking Care of Business
strategically managed is more critical than ever before as the marketplace
becomes increasingly competitive. This chapter looks at developing a culture
that embraces strategic management, which in turn ties together the busi-
ness continuum of the firm, including the administrative, operational, and
service and business development activities.
Overall, the chapter addresses these questions:
â€˘ What are the characteristics of a strategically managed practice?
â€˘ How does strategic management drive process improvement?
â€˘ How does process improvement lead to the successful delivery of ser-
vices or, in other words, the sustainable success of the professional
Why This Topic Is Important
The United States continues to move toward an economy based on profes-
sional services. Manufacturing jobs are being replaced by service jobs at a
very high rate. This growth in the service industries is fueled by a number of
â€˘ The barriers to competitive entry are minimal.
â€˘ Initial capital commitments are less than in manufacturing-based
â€˘ Advancements in technology have enhanced the professionalâ€™s ability to
â€˘ Experience is no longer the dominant characteristic of a successful pro-
fessional that it once was.
â€˘ The growing senior segment of our population has increased the de-
mand for professional services.
But with growth in the professional services industries comes a remark-
able increase in the risk of failure. Professional services firms are under
greater pressure than ever before and have no choice but to:
â€˘ Differentiate themselves from their competition.
â€˘ Understand the expectations of their target market and adapt to meet
â€˘ Deliver clearly demonstrated value.
â€˘ Increase the quality of their services while not increasing the price.
â€˘ Shorten their service delivery time.
â€˘ Accept less client loyalty, greater client turnover, and unprecedented
scrutiny of the underlying profitability of the firm.
Therefore, the case is made in the sections that follow that the successful
delivery of services and development of your client base is a continuous pro-
cessâ€”a never-ending cycle of embracing change that is an innate character-
istic of a strategically managed culture.
Improvement Is Not
Possible without Change
Strategic management systems are about process improvement that drives
change within the business environment. Creating a strategically managed
environment depends on it. Success today does not guarantee success tomor-
row. In extraordinary businessesâ€”those that succeed and sustain their suc-
cess for yearsâ€”new beginning points instantly replace end points and the
process starts anew.
To understand this concept, ask this question, â€ś What is the firmâ€™s value
objective as a professional services practice?â€ť Is it net income? Earnings per
partner? Market share? Number of constituents served? This isnâ€™t a restate-
ment of the mission of the organization. Itâ€™s a definition of what drives suc-
cess (for the firm, and for the clients) and how it is to be measured. Once
defined, the value objective can be measured over time. Exhibit 12.1 demon-
strates this concept.
Components of the current state include:
â€˘ Management style/culture
â€˘ Professional resources
â€˘ Range of services
â€˘ Market share
â€˘ Strategic planning/budgeting
â€˘ Compensation structure
â€˘ Quality of client relationships
â€˘ Information systems
Exhibit 12.1 demonstrates that today this organization has delivered
$150,000 of net earnings per partner, in a firm where net earnings per part-
ner is the professional practiceâ€™s value objective.
Once the value objective has been defined and measured in todayâ€™s terms,
the critical question is not, â€ś Where are we?â€ť Rather, it is, â€ś Where do we want
to be?â€ť In value objective terms, â€ś What is the targeted, desired future state?â€ť