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Lateral associates are more likely to leave for performance reasons, study says

Posted May 19, 2014 5:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Laterally hired associates left their law firms for performance reasons last year more often than entry-level associates, a NALP Foundation study has found.

Fifty-one percent of laterally hired associates left their firms because of failure to meet work-quality or productivity standards, compared to only 34 percent of entry-level associates, law firms reported. A 2013 NALP Foundation study of 115 law firms in the United States in Canada revealed the difference, the NALP Bulletin reports.

The overall breakdown: Twenty percent of the departing associates left because work quality standards were not met, 15 percent were pursuing specific practice interests, 14 percent had not met productivity standards, 14 percent were pursuing a career change to another type of legal job, and 14 percent wanted to move to a new geographic locale.

Other statistics from the study:

• Thirty-seven percent of departing associates were leaving for jobs as associates in other law firms, 23 percent were becoming corporate in-house counsel, and 7 percent were going to a government legal job, law firms reported in the survey. Eleven percent of the departing associates were going to an unknown destination, while 6 percent were undecided.

• For every 20 associates hired by law firms last year, about 16 associates departed.

• The associate attrition rate last year was 17 percent, the same as in 2012.

• The median number of associates who left law firms in the study was 11, though there were large differences based on firm size. The median number of departures was three for firms of 100 or fewer attorneys. At firms with more than 500 lawyers, the median number of departures was 50.

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