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Sixty Percent of Law Firm Associates Feel Their Firms Are Not Trying to Retain Them, According to New Survey from Major, Lindsey & Africa

However, 90% reported they would be more likely to stay if their firm made a proactive effort to encourage them to stay


Hanover, MD – October 9, 2023 – Major, Lindsey & Africa, the world's leading legal search firm, released findings today that show that even though the legal talent market has slowed and returned to closer to its pre-pandemic levels of activity and retention of top talent has become the priority among law firms, this intent does not appear to be felt by associates. According to a recent survey of BigLaw associates conducted by Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA), 60% said they do not feel their firms are actively trying to retain them. The survey also found that the top factors that would make associates more inclined to stay at their current firms include compensation (78%), law firm culture (69%), and the quality of their day-to-day work (64%). This survey was conducted in the beginning of 2023 and is based on the responses of several hundred BigLaw associates across the United States.

“It’s often shocking for the partners and managers of a firm to hear an associate they admire is leaving with no perceived warning,” said Kate Reder Sheikh, a Partner with MLA’s Associate Practice Group. “While these moves are sometimes unavoidable, they are often caused by factors that could have been addressed proactively by the partners who managed and mentored the associate. The goal of this survey is to amply the voices of associates so that firms can better retain their attorneys and promote a strong workplace where this top talent can flourish.”  

Furthermore, the vast majority (92%) also indicated that they have never been asked to participate in a stay interview to give feedback on their experience at their firm. At the same time, the majority (63%) said they feel their contributions to their firm are valued. Most associates also reported they have a mentor at their firm – 61% on a formal basis, while separately, nearly 70% said they have a mentor on an informal basis, and 44% on both a formal and informal basis. Meanwhile, 16% of respondents said they had neither a formal nor informal mentor.

“One way that law firms can boost overall associate satisfaction and retention is by listening to their concerns and addressing them as best they can,” said Tina Cohen Nicol, a Partner with MLA’s Associate Practice Group. “While structural changes may take longer to come about, firms might be surprised how impactful soliciting feedback and active listening can be to an associate’s experience. As the data shows, associates who feel their firm is making a genuine effort to keep them are more likely to stay.”

Other highlights of the survey include:

  • Twenty-five percent of respondents reported they do not plan to stay at their firm for more than a year. Additionally, 39% of respondents said they intend to stay at their firm for at least one additional year, while 15% reported their intent to stay for at least three more years and 21% said they’d like stay indefinitely.
  • Following the top three factors that would encourage them to stay at their current firm (compensation, culture, and the day-to-day work), associates also placed importance on law firm prestige (50%), informal mentorship (34%), inertia (34%), and formal mentorship (18%).
  • Associates reported what would make them feel valued, including:
    • "People saying thanks.”
    • “Literally just being treated like a person.”
    • “Any level of gratitude, partners making an offer to get to know me.”

The full text of the report, “To Retain Top Associates, Firms Need to Put Their People First”, is available here.

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