Associates

Unrealistic Expectations, Poor Hiring, Bad Management = High Associate Attrition


A lawyer career consultant puts part of the blame for high associate attrition rates on lawyers who have little clue about the realities of law practice and law firms that hire based on little more than law school grades.

In a column for Legal Times, Kate Neville acknowledges that many associates leave when they realize that the large law firms for which they work are not going to extend an offer of partnership. But she sees more factors at work in statistics that show almost 80 percent of large law firm associates leaving within five years.

They include:

  1. Many law graduates take jobs at big firms with “only a vague understanding of what practicing law is like, heavily influenced by TV and movie portrayals.”

  2. Law firms hire based on summer associate programs “focused more on lunch and happy-hour conversations than on work.” Often permanent offers are made to summer associates “as a default position” for fear of triggering a recruiting backlash.

  3. Large law firms often hire on the basis of law school grades, with little attention to business development skills.

  4. Most large law firms do not allow associates to switch from one practice area to another.

  5. Lawyers overseeing associates often have poor management skills, increasing associate dissatisfaction.

  6. Grueling workloads make it difficult to have a life outside the law firm.

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