'Underappreciated' associates want to quit – survey

A high proportion of associates are considering leaving their firm because they feel underappreciated – but would consider staying if they received more in pay and bonuses, according to new research.

The study by Thomson Reuters found that, of a sample of associates 25% are ‘somewhat or highly likely’ to move from their current firm in the next two years and 12% were unsure. Feeling underappreciated and the compensation system are the two biggest reasons they want to leave. More than half of 40 associates said higher compensation would most likely encourage them to stay.

Natalie Runyon, director of ESG content and advisory services at Thomson Reuters, said: ‘Management within law firms will be concerned to see that such a high proportion of associates still don’t feel appreciated in the workplace. Saying thank you more often and partners checking in to see how learning and career development is going are two ways to ensure junior lawyers feel their contributions are valued by their firm. This could be an important factor as to whether or not they choose to remain with that firm.

‘Law firms have increased salaries in the last couple of years to help them bring in and retain the brightest and best legal talent. However, this in itself may not be enough. Firms should also give consideration not just to the overall pay but other issues such as bonuses and how they are awarded, how frequently compensation is reviewed and whether the non-pay benefits being offered to associates are relevant and attractive.’

Runyon added that the survey showed that not all associates aspire to become partners. Asked what would encourage them to stay, three in 10 associates who responded to this particular question said career path alternatives to partnership.

Runyon said law firms should give proper thought to ensuring that career paths within the law firm that do not lead to partnership are genuinely attractive, which in turn could help to improve retention.

‘Standout lawyers’ – defined by Thomson Reuters as top-performing lawyers identified by in-house counsel – were also surveyed. Nearly a fifth are somewhat or highly likely to move jobs in the next couple of years. The biggest reason for wanting to move was because of their current or latest compensation. A better pay package was the top change that would encourage them to stay.


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