A guide to employee benefits for law firms: prioritizing well-being and reducing stress

Apr 11, 2024

Learn how law firms that prioritize well-being and reduce stress gain a competitive advantage. Legal practices who provide employee support services and work-life benefits create a supportive and thriving workplace that attracts top talent.

Law firms, increasingly challenged with attracting and retaining talent, are seeing the value of offering comprehensive benefits as a critical component of their people strategy. The expectation of higher performance, especially in this post-pandemic era of hybrid work, makes 81% of attorneys fear the inability to attract and retain top talent will hinder their operations.  

This blog explores the hot topic of “attracting and retaining talent” — one only has to Google search that phrase and see it has nearly 17 million hits — in the context of law firms. Specifically, how organizations can use employee benefits as a competitive advantage, discusses trending benefits to consider, outlines work-life benefits and the impact of work-life balance on attorneys, all in the context of the legal industry. By providing benefits and employee support services that prioritize well-being and reduce stress of attorneys, associates and support staff, law firms can create a supportive and thriving workplace that will attract top talent.

Stress and Burnout Common in Attorneys

The legal industry is unique in that the very drive and dedication to become a successful lawyer is what causes stress and burnout. Typically, attorneys have high achieving personalities, and are perfectionists — which serves them well with clients but can lead to stress in their personal lives. Success is often determined by billable hours, so working excessively, and often times with inadequate support resources, makes those in that profession ripe for the burnout that leads to turnover. In today’s modern workplace, firms that can reduce attorney stress and burnout are better positioned to thrive. Employee benefits are one place to start.

Why Employee Benefits Matter

Employee benefits are no longer just an added perk. In the highly competitive legal industry, competitive benefits packages have become essential in attracting and retaining top legal talent. Within the next three years, the demand for specialization is expected to rise, and with that the decline of generalist legal work. In fact, 75% of firms expect to offer greater specialization in the coming months and years. With this evolving landscape, it’s clear that law firms need to provide comprehensive benefits packages that show their commitment to the well-being of their people, and to help create a positive and supportive work environment.

Using Benefits as a Competitive Advantage

Law firms that offer comprehensive compensation packages find themselves in a better position to attract and retain top legal talent. Thoughtful, relevant and useful benefits compensate attorneys beyond pay and mean the organization is investing time and money into ensuring they feel supported and valued.

In addition to compensation (which typically include bonuses, profit-sharing, or stock options), additional benefits could also include:

  • Robust health and wellness packages
  • Insurance benefits
  • Work-life balance benefits
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Financial planning support

But offering perks and incentives in addition to those benefits mentioned above can be the deciding factor for talented legal professionals choosing one firm over another. Examples of these include:

  • Flexible work hours
  • Sabbatical programs
  • Pro-bono opportunities
  • On-site amenities (dry cleaning, car detailing)
  • On-site childcare facilities
  • Work-life balance programs
  • Employee assistance programs
  • IVF/fertility and adoption assistance
  • Paid parental leave policies
  • Mandatory time off (“Billable vacations”)
Promote Work-Life Balance Through Employee Benefits

Law firms who prioritize the work-life balance by offering various health and wellness benefits, will become a company of choice. In a recent study, on a scale of 0-10 (0 being irrelevant and 10 being the most important), lawyers gave compensation an average of 7.85 in terms of importance and work-life balance a 7.81.

Offering programs that focus on physical fitness, mental health support, and stress management show attorneys (and future associates) the firm is committed to their holistic well-being — they are considered for the human being they are, not just as a producer of billable hours.

Some specific examples of work-life balance benefits can include:

  • Errand running services that help take care of daily tasks
  • Concierge-style assistants that help tick off “to-do” lists
  • On-site fitness facilities, fitness classes paid gym memberships or fitness stipends
  • On-site amenities like dry cleaning services and car detailing
  • Wellness competitions and challenges that reward participation and completion
  • Community-building events/group activities that promote accountability
  • Nutrition programs and healthy snacks in the office that facilitate a healthier lifestyle
  • Travel and event planning
Work-Life Benefits Include Errand Running Services

Law firms that understand what attorneys want and need to be happy and productive go the extra mile to provide unique work-life balance benefits. This strategy pays off in that they are distinguished as a coveted employer of choice. Circles has found one such benefit resonates with attorneys: errand running services. In 2023, we ran 39,000 errands, with the majority of those for our legal professional clients. Why? Busy attorneys have daily tasks that need tending to, but long, billable hours often prohibit them from taking care of their everyday needs during normal business hours. Offering errand running services allows them to keep focused on work while at work, giving them peace of mind that their “to-do” list is shrinking, and they won’t need to spend their valuable after work hours on tedious errands. Here’s a great example from LinkedIn.

Work-Life Balance Impacts Business Operations

Creating a healthy work-life balance is crucial to attorney and associate well-being and business performance:

  • Prevents burnout: When attorneys are overworked, constantly stressed, and have little time for personal pursuits, they are more prone to burnout. A healthy work-life balance helps prevent burnout by providing the necessary time to rest, relax, and recharge.
  • Increases productivity: Encouraging a healthy work-life balance provides the opportunity to recharge and rejuvenate. This, in turn, can lead to increased productivity and workplace performance — attorneys are more focused, energized, and motivated.
  • Enhances job satisfaction: When attorneys and support staff can tend to their personal commitments and interests outside of work, they experience greater fulfillment and satisfaction in life. This satisfaction translates into higher job satisfaction and a sense of balance and fulfillment in their personal lives, making them bring a more positive attitude, commitment, and enthusiasm to their work.
  • Improves mental and physical health: Engaging in personal activities, spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, and practicing self-care are essential for maintaining good mental health; having time to exercise, relax, and get sufficient sleep contributes to physical well-being. By encouraging work-life balance, law firms can help their attorneys and support staff lead healthier lives, reducing stress-related illnesses and absenteeism.
  • Retains employees: Attorneys who feel supported in achieving a healthy work-life balance are more likely to stay with their firm. High levels of work-related stress and an imbalance between work and personal life are common reasons for job dissatisfaction and turnover.
Culture: the “Hidden” Benefit

While not directly considered a traditional benefit, fostering a positive work culture is essential. Law firms that prioritize values such as diversity, inclusion, and a supportive environment are more likely to attract top legal talent. Demonstrating a commitment to these values through policies, initiatives, and company-wide events can make a law firm attractive to potential hires.

As a leading provider of employee benefits and support services, Circles understands the unique challenges faced by law firms. Our data-driven approach, backed by our affiliation with Sodexo, enables us to design tailored support services that address the specific needs of law firms and their attorneys. Whether it's providing work-life balance programs, errand running services, or community building activities, Circles is dedicated to creating the positive work environment that reduces stress and promotes wellbeing for attorneys and support staff alike.


See all ➞