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No Attrition in Associate Attrition Rate

Even as law firms gear up for fall law school recruiting, they're already wondering how many of the associates hired today will stay on long enough to become partners of tomorrow. If reports like this article, "Exit Strategy" from The American Lawyer, are true, the answer is not many: Nearly two-thirds of third- and fourth-years say they don't expect to be or don't know if they'll be at the same firm in five years as partner or senior associate. And as this article notes:

According to NALP, the attrition rate for associates last year in private law firms was 78 percent for those who had worked at firms for about five years, compared with 60 percent in 2000. The average annual attrition rate for all associates last year was 19 percent, compared with 16 percent in 2000.

To me, these statistics seem shocking. In part, they reflect the increasing tranience of the job market in general and not just firms. In comparison to 30 or 40 years ago, few people, be they accountants or business analysts or engineers, take jobs for life, so there's no reason to think that lawyers would differ. But, of course, law firm attrition numbers aren't just explained by job trends in other fields but by the fact that few lawyers find the career satisfaction they crave working 60-hour weeks on small bites of large cases.

We're all aware of these problems -- we read about the attrition rates all the time. My question for readers is, should we, as a profession, care that life at large firms resembles that of pre-civilized man described by Hobbes: nasty, brutish and short? What would happen to the legal profession if Biglaw reached a point where it was no longer sustainable and went the way of the dinosaur? I wonder about this often but have not yet formulated any opinions. What do you all think?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 15, 2006 at 03:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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