There is a high rate of turnover of young lawyers in law firms. This trend has become irreversible no matter what law firms do, and it is causing so much damage.
It is said that top law firms lose billions of dollars every year because of lawyer turnover. Additionally, high rates of turnover could taint the firm's reputation, can compromise morale, challenges and disrupts culture groups, and lays waste to huge amounts of teaching and training. Clients also tend to be suspicious and become unhappy when lawyers leave.
It is essential to realize why lawyer turnover in law firms is such a big issue and what law firms are doing to address this problem.
Most lawyers from large firms move from one law firm to another at least twice during their first to the sixth year of being a lawyer due to many reasons. However, moving to the third law when only in the second year, connotes something is wrong with the lawyer himself.
Firm hopping, impacts the chances of a lawyer to get a new job. The new law firm may question his commitment and loyalty. Conversely, it also may give the impression that his former law firm did not value the lawyer's work. What then are the reasons that associate lawyers leave?
• Profit per Partner
Profit per Partner (PPP) is often used to measure the level of success in law firms.
The law firm has lower PPP when it experiences stagnant profitability and promotes more lawyer associates to partners without decreasing the number of partners. A typical associate in a law firm usually has a slim chance of being an equity partner.
More working hours ahead and not having a clear path with the law firm, many associates decide on moving to other law firms to be more financially secured.
• Lack of Mentoring and Training
Fresh out of their law studies, associates join a law firm, all ready to practice law. Some firms, however, relegate them to perform administrative and irrelevant non-lawyer tasks. They may be assigned to write legal briefs or do legal research but are not allowed to be hands-on in a case.
There is also a tendency for partners to concentrate on billable hours, thus viewing mentoring new associates as the least of their concerns. This lowers the morale of the associate, thinking that they are not "part" of the team, especially when they do not get or receive little feedback on their work.
In the process, these lawyer associates will reassess their career path. It will often cross their minds that growth in their current law firms seems like a long shot and decide to leave the firm.
• General Expectations
The personality and general makeup of today’s Juris Doctor Graduates have significantly changed. The millennial breed of lawyers has higher expectations of how they measure success.
This generation grew up with advanced technology and always seeks innovation. However, most law firms still make use of the aged-old manual processes using outdated technology new lawyers are not used to.
The work culture of young lawyers focuses less on the number of working hours and more on work-life balance. This culture runs counter to the mentality that has long characterized the legal industry, which heavily focuses on billable hours.
• Type of Work
Many lawyers move to other law firms to transition into another type of work, like shifting from litigation to corporate law, for example.
Not having enough work in his present law firm is also another reason for the move. This, however, is a result of such issues as not being proactive enough to ask for work, you have a negative image with the partners, your job is not good enough, or the law firm does not have enough work for everyone.
This is a common reason for leaving a law firm. Many lawyers want to go back to their home city. After completing their Juris Doctor or Masters in Law, many lawyers tend to seek work with prominent law firms in big cities. After some time, they decide they would like to work near their families.
These reasons for leaving your current law firm seem to be valid because they focus on your desire to be a successful lawyer. Being asked to leave by the law firm and not being able to get along with the rest of the associates, partners, and staff, are reasons for leaving the law firm, which have a negative impact on the lawyer.
While many law firms have already imbibed the work-life concept for lawyers (and staff), they have also offered better pay, more benefits, and lower goals on billable hours in an attempt to stop lawyer turnover in law firms.
Lawyers have numerous reasons for leaving a law firm, ranging from the most common causes, which is to seek better opportunities to the most straightforward reason, which is wanting to practice in a different location.
Notwithstanding the unemployment rate, lawyer turnover in law firms costs time and money. It also disrupts the routine in the office. Most law firms are finding ways and means to stop this negative trend. They have taken solid strategies to help keep the top talents in a law firm and stay competitive in the legal industry.
Whatever reasons lawyers may have for leaving their current law firms, fast turnover is an issue present in the legal industry. Lawyer turnover is more rampant in more prominent firms for the simple reason that they have more lawyers on board.
There can be many strategies a law firm can create and implement to stop lawyer turnover, such as:
• Improving the recruiting and hiring process, concentrating more on determining if the expectations and goals of the application lawyer are consistent with that of the firm.
• Improve orientation or on-boarding procedure for new lawyers.
• Provide associate lawyers with real mentors for more meaningful and fulfilling experiences and training.
• Provide them with real lawyer tasks so they can meet and engage with clients. Allow them also to have a balance between billable hours and pro work.
• Consider creating a program on Work and Life Balance to promote the overall well-being of the associate lawyers, partners, and the rest of the staff.
The most important question that needs to be answered to stop lawyer turnover in law firms is: Is the law firm moving in the right direction? Here are signs that say, yes, the law firm is:
• The law firm is continuing to get new business while retaining old clients.
• Many lawyers queue to fill up the slots left by associate lawyers,
• The law firm is continuing to expand and grow.
These circumstances show that lawyer turnover is not an issue in a law firm, and there is nothing to worry about. If, however, there is a level of turnover that needs to be controlled or stopped, here is what can be done.
Lawyer turnover in law firms has reached uncontrolled proportions, and creative solutions, just like those strategies mentioned above, need to be implemented. One primary win-win strategy that can tremendously stop lawyer turnover in law firms is through job satisfaction.
It is also important to remember that if turnover happens many times within a short period, he is likely to keep on moving no matter the reasons.