This is the No. 1 reason associates stay at their law firms, new study says

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diverse group of associates

Compensation is the top reason associates stay at their law firms, according to a new study by the NALP Foundation. (Image from Shutterstock)

Compensation is the top reason associates stay at their law firms, according to a new study by the NALP Foundation.

The inaugural “Stay Study” asked 3,374 associates from 57 law firms in Canada and the United States to rank and rate 15 factors that influence their decision to stay in their jobs. The foundation revealed the results in a Feb. 6 press release.

Fiona Trevelyan Hornblower, president and CEO of the NALP Foundation, told that associates revealed in narrative responses that the importance of compensation was related to sacrifices that they made to achieve billable hours requirements.

“They’re not chasing the almighty dollar, they’re saying we want recognition for the work and the toll that it takes on our lives,” Hornblower told

Surveyed associates reported high levels of engagement and a positive experience at their firms.

Seventy-two percent of the associates reported that they were highly or somewhat engaged. Levels were higher for associates working in the office.

Eighty-one percent of the associates said they had a positive experience, with fully remote workers reporting the highest positive experience.

“What comes across loud and clear from the data is that this is a very engaged set of associates, contrary to how they’re sometimes represented,” Hornblower told

The top five stay factors are:

1. Compensation. Associates rated salaries higher in importance than bonuses, the two subfactors in this category. Compensation received high scores from associates across all firm sizes and no matter their seniority level.

2. Work-life balance. Women rated this factor higher in importance than men. Subfactors were firm support for work-life balance, flexible work arrangements, practice group and team support for work-life balance, and remote work arrangements.

3. Career path. Two subfactors—opportunities for advancement/partnership and clarity about requirements—were rated as more important than the subfactors of alternative career paths and alumni program/outplacement assistance.

4. Hybrid work policies. In narrative comments, associates made clear that they do not want their firms to backtrack on remote and flexible work options.

5. Firm policies. Associates rated the subfactors of billable-hour and leave policies higher in importance than nonbillable and pro bono credit.

The report is titled Should I Stay or Should I Go? Key Factors Driving Law Firm Associate Retention. It is available for purchase online.

The NALP Foundation was created in 1996 by the National Association for Law Placement.

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