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Best law firms to build a career
Australasian Lawyer’s 5-Star Employers of Choice for 2023 have risen to the forefront by prioritising employee success and satisfaction.
The best law firms to work for in Australia demonstrate a bona fide interest in staff wellbeing, backed by bespoke programs that enhance the employee experience at every stage.
These top law firms deliver in a range of areas ranked highly by legal professionals, including:
a positive and inclusive culture
transparent communication from management
competitive compensation and comprehensive benefits
work-life balance initiatives
“Being a 5-Star employer in the Australian legal sector requires the maintenance of a positive culture overall and a proactive approach to the changing nature of the workforce,” says Doron Paluch, director at Burgess Paluch Legal Recruitment.
“People tell us that we deliver what we promise in terms of culture and a supportive working environment”
Belinda CohenGilchrist Connell
Best law firms mandate employee wellbeing
and career progression
National firm Sparke Helmore Lawyers prioritises bringing its team together regionally and company wide, ensuring regular communication and social cohesion among its staff, who enjoy a range of flexible work arrangements.
“The underpinning factor for us is that we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach,” says COO Sharon Bennett. “We leave that with the partner or manager of the person to work out the best combination of in-office and remote, and we do it on a bespoke basis.”
The firm has successfully created a work environment that enables employees to make meaningful and valued contributions through various initiatives, including:
Ignite, the firm’s bespoke in-house program, which takes a holistic view of lawyer development that focuses on building well-rounded commercial acumen, leadership skills and subject matter expertise
other training and development streams that are offered at touch points throughout the career stage, from the junior legal cohort to senior associates
offerings such as a half-day birthday leave, an unpaid career break, paid emergency childcare and community committees for local involvement
paid parental leave with the option to purchase additional leave
Wellness and wellbeing
comprehensive programs addressing balance, connection, health and wealth
a digital 24/7 holistic wellness platform and an app accessible to all
specialised training around vicarious trauma
Although Sparke Helmore Lawyers is a large national firm with more than 400 lawyers, it has continued to nurture friendly and personal connections throughout the organisation, where junior lawyers are encouraged to work hand-in-glove with partners.
“Our value proposition is about having access to leadership to form those relationships,” says Bennett. “It’s about being in it together, investing in people and their careers and valuing their contributions.”
Investment in its people and technology keeps this 5-Star employer on the leading edge of the legal profession. By fostering a technologically advanced environment that prioritises innovation and modernisation, Sparke Helmore Lawyers has empowered its team to excel with the necessary tools and resources to deliver exceptional client results.
Top law firm’s thriving culture sparks growth
Another of the best law firms to work for in Australia, Gilchrist Connell, has experienced 96% growth in the past three years, driven by client demand. Its strong internal referral program demonstrates that a strong majority of employees are proud to work for the organisation and are proactively connecting people in their networks with vacant roles.
The firm’s extraordinary employee engagement and satisfaction are a testament to its vibrant culture, strong brand and agility in adjusting benefits and support based on feedback and the dynamic legal landscape.
“The greatest asset we have is never resting on our laurels, always looking for ways to improve our ability to support our people at work and home and building a positive experience for them when they are at work,” says chief people officer Belinda Cohen.
Gilchrist Connell has earned acclaim as a top employer by emphasising the following:
Technology and resources
accreditation with its inaugural ISO 27001:2013 certificate, which is unusual among law firms but highlights the firm’s track record of being at the forefront of innovation
being the first firm to bring the market-leading firm intelligence product, Foundation, to Australia
partnering with Thomson Reuters as a first in moving to their Elite 3E Cloud practice management system
Career progression and development
a strong learning culture anchored by clear pathways, mentoring and training opportunities to reach the desired progression
an annual feedback loop cycle focusing on two-way dialogue between employees and managers
87% of employees in a recent engagement survey saw themselves growing and developing a career at the firm
a flexible working culture based on trust that includes a compressed work week to allow employees an entire day off
connect days that encourage staff to catch up in person with colleagues
policies supporting carer roles, such as adjusted work hours or role redesign
As underscored by recruiter Paluch, the best law firms to work for stand out because of their drive to innovate, improve the employee experience and foster a supportive and inspiring workplace.
Gilchrist Connell is at the sharp edge of this approach, cultivating a flexible environment widely regarded as a positive step forward in a profession often marked by long hours and stressful conditions.
“Our culture is our core focus, and we encourage our people to play an active and mindful role in creating a firm we all want to work for,” Cohen says. “That means paying attention to how we communicate, work, make and execute decisions daily.”
“We recognise our staff as individuals on the legal and non-legal sides, and that creates an environment where people care for each other”
Sharon BennettSparke Helmore Lawyers
Gender parity drives law firm to the top
Holding Redlich is recognised not only as a 5-Star employer of choice, but has also earned the distinction as an employer of choice for gender equality for 15 consecutive years, an accolade awarded by the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
With offices in five major city centres – Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns – and a workforce of 500 and growing, the firm has a long history of fostering a positive and inclusive work culture.
“We have a particular focus on our gender and diversity strategy, which guides us in everything we do around recruitment, training, development, pay equity, promotions and flexible working arrangements,” says national managing partner Troy Lewis.
Holding Redlich is committed to ensuring all employees have equal access to leadership and career development opportunities and supportive working arrangements. In recent years, an emphasis has been placed on increasing female representation at partner and manager levels, investing in the professional growth of female lawyers and launching a new flexibility policy.
“We ensure everybody is given the best opportunity to be as successful as they want in their career, which can be different for people and can change over time,” Lewis says.
The firm leads the way in the following areas:
a dedicated learning and development team that delivers a comprehensive range of internal and external training and continuing professional development programs for all employees
a state-based personal and professional development newsletter that helps employees plan
41 people in legal and business support roles promoted since July 2022
paid parental leave for primary caregivers, plus paid superannuation for one year
a parental leave coaching program
four main types of flexible work arrangements, including location, hours, leave and dress code
Diversity and inclusion
a national DE&I committee with subgroups
early career talent development: supporting graduates and undergraduate paralegals to gain qualifications as lawyers
regular listening tours by senior leaders
A foundation built on trust and respect drives the firm’s approach to flexibility and work-life balance.
“We have real trust in our people to work in a way that best suits them, their teams and the clients,” says Lewis.
“We focus on our people as individuals and the team as a whole, and we ensure they get the best experience when they are here”
Troy Lewis Holding Redlich
More than 1,000 employees
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The research team highlighted the following as key factors in positive employee experiences: remuneration, training and professional development, career progression, diversity and inclusion, access to technology and resources, communication, leadership, work-life balance, health and wellbeing, reward and recognition, and recruitment. Firms were asked to list the initiatives they had in place as well as their achievements in these key areas.