News flash from the National Law Journal: Associates are leaving law firms.
Ho-hum, another article about highly-paid, unsatisfied people.
Or so I thought until I read the great work from writer Leigh Jones. Consider these stats included from the National Association of Law Placement (which caused my jaw to hit the mousepad):
Law firm attrition has reached an all-time high, according to NALP. A staggering 78 percent of associates leave their firms by the time they are in their fifth year of practice, a 2005 NALP study showed. Some 19 percent of associates leave firms after their first year, and 40 percent leave by the time they are in their third year of practice.
In these numbers alone, there is enough material to keep a wired (only caffeine, thank you) GC going for weeks.
I won’t go on for weeks, but I will explore this issue a bit in coming days. I’ll also revist the related matter of associate pay, which I raised months ago before going on a summer walkabout.
Until then, Reporter Jones gets great comments from legal headhhunter Jon Lindsey of the New York office of Major, Lindsey & Africa. Mr. Lindsey says he has not seen this issue addressed by non-poaching agreements between law firms and clients:
“The firm might want to have a conversation that says, ‘I know you’d rather pay by the year than by the hour, but we need good workers, too,'” he said.
But Lindsey also cautions firms to tread carefully: “You don’t want to anger a client.”
First, restrictions on “poaching” are typically used to protect endangered species. Just what is Mr. Lindsey inferring about law firm associates?
Second, any law firm that would whine to a client “we need good workers, too” might find themselves with one less client. Hello: Law firms hire associates laterally! And it’s interesting that Mr. Lindsey uses the term workers to refer to associates; some are charged out at $300 plus per hour, after all. (Associates of the world, unite if this label sticks, however.)
Finally, there’s the welcome caveat about “not angering a client.” Well, most GCs I know don’t get angry over a conversation. They get angry about runaway budgets, poor communications or bad results (without warning). Mundane things like that.
Until next time, ponder the future of any business model that loses over 75% of its new blood within five years.