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Curbing Associate Attrition: New Ideas, but Are They Necessary in a Recession?

We've posted about the problem of associate attrition before.  Now, early in 2008, I've already come across two new ideas for stemming associate attrition.  But I wonder if they come too late, as we enter recessionary times, where at least some law firms have laid off associates.

First, the ideas for reducing attrition.  A blog post at JD Bliss reports on this proposal of the Project for Attorney Retention by which law firms would hold partners accountable for attrition. In other words, regardless of the amount of business that an individual partner generates, his or her compensation would be reduced if the partner failed to undertake certain activities to promote a flexible work environment.  Personally,  the concept sounds a little nutty because I'm not sure how it could be enforced, but apparently some firms, including Sidley Austin, have adopted the approach.

Another idea for keeping the younger generation of lawyers satisfied comes from Ari Kaplan in this recent piece in the National Law Journal.  Describing his experience waiting outside the Supreme Court to hear the arguments in the recent Guantanamo detainees' case, Kaplan argues that giving associates more opportunities to attend Supreme Court arguments would inspire them, and give them role models worth emulating.

While both pieces offer worthwhile advice on ways to improve young lawyers' career satisfaction, as we head into a recession (some, like Larry Bodine believe that we're in one already), I wonder whether we'll see much of these kinder, gentler law firm policies designed to keep associates around.  Many of these programs are an added expense to firms, either in the form of additional implementation costs or at the least, foregone billable hours.  When firms are laying off associates to stay afloat (or, for the more cynical, to preserve profits per partner), will they still care about associate happiness -- or be grateful to see associates leave voluntarily to spare themselves the negative publicity of announcing mass terminations? 

What do you think?  Will more firms commit to initiatives to guard against associate attrition in 2008, or are those policies so 2007?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 15, 2008 at 03:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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