Law Practice

Survey: Associate Loyalty at All-Time Low

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Despite a year of hefty salary increases for BigLaw associate attorneys, their loyalty has never been lower.

Fewer than one in five junior associates with less than two years’ experience at major law firms in the U.S. and the U.K. expects to stay another five years, reports the London Times, based on a recent survey of 2,225 associates by Legal Business (sub. req.).

“The average solicitor with six years post-qualification experience is now working at their second or third firm,” the Times writes. “The primary reasons for this churn are not money, but the promise of better career progression opportunities and work/life balance.”

Says James Baxter, editor of Legal Business: “Some firms losing up to 30 percent of their lawyers each year. Take into account the cost and effort of recruiting to simply replace and it is easy to see why this is now the most important issue facing law firms.”

Stratospheric salaries are not the answer, Baxter notes in a separate editorial: “throwing money at assistants has failed to buy their loyalty. Alternatives to partnership are strongly desired by assistants, but not if they are simply a job title given to those not considered good enough.”

As discussed in earlier posts, top starting pay for BigLaw first-years in the U.S. is now about $160,000—and there is speculation that further raises may be in the offing for New York City associates early in 2008. At the same time, a small but growing number of law firms are moving to a two-tiered system of associates, at least in part in an effort to address associate lifestyle concerns by offering less strenuous schedules at lower pay. However, another recent survey points out that firms need to understand the concerns of different associate groups in order to offer them the right incentives to stay.

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