Flexible work hours can help recruit top talent

For veteran Mississauga lawyer Bonnie Yagar, the biggest perks at her job aren’t about money.

The senior associate at the city’s biggest law firm, Pallett Valo LLP, says the culture of her workplace is the biggest non-financial perk.

“There’s no real jerks,” Yagar said, with a big laugh, noting the firm’s large size of nearly 80 lawyers in the City Centre building in the heart of downtown Mississauga. “If you’re a jerk you don’t last.”

A Canada-U.S. survey this week concluded that the best way for law firms like Pallett Valo or other businesses to recruit top lawyers is to showcase their workplace benefits programs.

In the study by Robert Half Legal, nearly seven in 10 lawyers interviewed (69 per cent) cited “flexible work hours or telecommuting” as one of the best incentives for recruiting and retaining lawyers.

No. 2 on the list was “free or subsidized training or education” (50 per cent) and “on-site perks” like daycare and cafeterias (33 per cent).

“Higher compensation” ranked fourth, with 14 per cent , followed lower down the list by subsidized snacks, retirement plans and health care benefits.

In a separate question, one-quarter of respondents said “leadership or advancement opportunities” would most entice them to take a job with another law firm or company, followed by “more interesting work” (14 per cent) and a “flexible schedule or telecommuting” (12 per cent). “Higher compensation” once again ranked fourth, with nine per cent.

It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with 350 lawyers in Canada and the United States. All respondents had hiring authority within their organizations.

At Pallet Valo, Yagar said her workplace makes a special effort to preserve quality of life that another lawyer might not get at the big Bay Street law firms in downtown Toronto.

This means that unlike other law firms, it’s rare for Pallett Valo staff to be in the office past 7:30 pm.

“It may not be important to the young, single ones that have a lot of play time,” said the 66-year-old Yagar,  Mississauga’as  Citizen of the Year in 2008 and recently named a winner of the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.

“But it certainly becomes very important once they start having kids.”

In addition to its annual weekend retreat coming up in a few weeks, the law firm recently reintroduced in-house yoga classes. “You have to be healthy, physically and mentally, to do your optimum work,” Yagar said. “The firm recognizes that, not just work you to death.”

Yagar also said there are lots of opportunities for mentorship and learning, through classes available to the firm’s lawyers and general staff. “It’s a recognition that people are valued and we have to take care of them.”


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