Associates Say Work Quality is Why They Leave

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains excerpts from Debra Cassens Weiss, Work Quality is the No. 1 Reason Associates Leave, Law Firm Survey Says, ABA Journal (Jul 7, 2017).

According to a survey of 128 law firms by the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education, associates leave their firms due to dissatisfaction with work quality.  The survey included law firms from the U.S. and Canada, and found that associate attrition dropped to 16 percent last year.

According to an article published by the Law Firm Partnership & Benefits Report by legal Recruiters Tina Cohen and Jennifer Henderson, “[O]n average, for every 25 new associates hired, 17 other associates left last year.” They reported the cost of losing an associate average between $200,000 and $500,000.

Cohen and Henderson also say that while associates will always be required to handle the routine work, they are eager to do substantive work to grow and demonstrate their knowledge. Law firms could provide substantive opportunities though pro bono programs and trial advocacy programs.

Another reason associates are leaving law firms is because they want to pursue a particular practice area. Cohen and Henderson say that law firms may be able to address concerns by associates who feel pigeonholed by offering work on different cases. They could even accommodate an associate who wants to change practice areas entirely by “retooling” –this would be far less costly than hiring a new associate.

The recruiters give other suggestions for law firms:

  • Create a work coordination system to balance associate work flow in slow and busy times.
  • Make new associates feel welcome by assisting with introductions, perhaps through scheduled lunches and other activities.
  • Provide meaningful and regular training, along with mentoring.
  • Clearly communicate the path to partnership and promotion, as well as the compensation structure.
  • Minimize associate contact with difficult partners.


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