Calibrate’s Anna Baer highlights the reasons that law firm marketing coordinators choose to move on from their firms.

As a legal marketing coordinator for four years at two prestigious international law firms, I have had the privilege of working with some of the smartest and highest-functioning people you will ever meet. Since pivoting my career and becoming a legal marketing recruiter, I have had the chance to talk with many professionals who hold the same role that I used to have, and their reasons for moving on to new firms resonate with me. I have uncovered four themes to explore to help understand the mindset of a Marketing/BD Coordinator.

Cultural Mismatch

All can agree that the culture of any workplace influences employees. Genuine job satisfaction is about more than just the work; it’s about culture and personality as well. In fact, in our Calibrate Legal candidate feedback survey from November 2019, cultural fit was the top professional challenge facing respondents. A happy, healthy and positive environment increases employee productivity and retention.

Unfortunately, many junior legal marketers do not take into consideration a firm’s culture at the outset of a new job opportunity, nor do they ask about it during the interview process. Every law firm environment is different. One firm may have an open-door policy with partners and senior marketers, and in others have an environment where coordinators are petrified (prohibited!) to speak to partners or even director-level professionals on their own team.

One thing is true: no one wants to work in a place where they feel excluded and unwelcomed. It’s important to note that employees create the culture. A diverse, friendly, empathetic, caring, supportive and helpful team culture breads inclusivity regardless of individual backgrounds. I did not understand nor value this until years later. We can all do our part individually to engage and assist our colleagues further. If you see someone struggling with their workload, ask, “Is there anything I can do to be helpful?” That simple action goes a long way toward building a collaborative culture resulting in longer tenures of employees at all levels.

Bad Managers

The way your boss treats you is one of the most important factors in employee satisfaction. Lack of formal management skills training is common within law firms which results in bad or mismanagement of subordinates. In my current role where I speak with junior professionals on a daily basis, a regular comment is that their managers don’t take the time to provide critical, constructive feedback or to express appreciation for the work they’ve done. Unmotivated and frustrated coordinators are the effects of bad management, which ultimately leads to coordinators leaving.

One of the ways to avoid this is for managers for provide clarity and guidance on every project. One-on-one discussions, monitoring progress, and providing feedback will result in a more productive employee. Sharing information, including reasons behind each project and its goals will enable coordinators to engage more and manage expectations. Another valuable skill for managers is to understand the team’s strengths and use them in the most effective and efficient way.

Lack of Growth Opportunity

Legal marketing coordinators have told me time and again that they value challenging assignments and are proving to be increasingly ambitious. I spoke to a coordinator recently who said, “I just want to learn something I’ve never done before.” With so many aspects of business development and marketing, there are countless opportunities for coordinators to learn – PR, events, ranking submissions, proposals and pitches, etc. Consider facilitating a coordinator to shadow another team member to learn about what they do. If professional development is not available inside the law firm, managers could also encourage coordinators to attend Legal Marketing Association events for additional learning and development.

Personal Circumstances

Personal circumstances played a major role in my last career move and I was fortunate to have the support of my boss who offered to find a role for me in a different office, but my geographic disposition wouldn’t allow for that accommodation. But I really appreciated it and will always remember that they treated me as a valued asset.

Many firms do not think creatively about how they can keep professionals who may need more flexibility or to relocate to another city (or country as in my case!). It’s far more cost-effective to keep a great worker in the talent pool than loose them due to logistics and then have to hire a new person and start over. There are also ways to maintain your talent by re-purposing them to different roles within the firm, even if not in your department.

Considering recent circumstances, COVID-19 showed us two benefits: 1) we can do efficient work outside of the office, and 2) we can manage a team remotely. Going forward, we hope there will be more opportunities for coordinators to work remotely, which will not only improve retention but also productivity.

There of course are other reasons for coordinators leaving but ultimately, it falls on those personal relationships the coordinators created between their colleagues, lawyers, and their managers and directors. If those relationships are strong and the coordinator feels like they are adding value, they are less likely to leave. In the ongoing competition for talent, retaining good coordinators should be a key priority for marketing leaders.

Author Anna Baer is a Recruitment Specialist with Calibrate Legal. Anna manages our Rising Stars practice.  She conducts interviews with prospective candidates and matches up-and-coming Revenue Enablers with the right firms.

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