Clear opportunities for career growth and supportive firm management outweigh compensation and workload for attorneys deciding whether to remain at their current firms or pursue other opportunities. That’s among the findings of the Law Firms Competing for Talent in 2022: Will Lawyers Stay or Will They Go? report published today by the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law and Thomson Reuters.

The report noted associate turnover hit a record high of 14.1% in 2021, despite associate compensation rising 12.1%. Amidst the escalating competition for talent, the report examines attributes that distinguish firms with higher levels of attorney retention (Stay firms) against those with lower levels of retention (Go firms).

Legal Current is highlighting three key takeaways from the report.

3. Compensation and workload are not primary factors in attorney turnover. The report found that, on average, Stay firms did not necessarily have higher compensation nor lower workloads than Go firms. Lawyers at Stay firms were more likely than lawyers at Go firms to cite factors such as the people with whom they worked, the collegial nature of relationships within the firm, the supportive nature of the firm, and the quality of work they were offered as their favorite aspects of their current firm, rather than compensation. Among those associates who are considered more likely to leave their current firm, compensation was not among the factors most important to them.

2. Better retention may have implications for firms’ growth. While Go firms have higher average rate growth, Stay firms have higher average demand growth, which may lead to more sustainable long-term growth. And while Stay firms are increasing headcount, Go firms, on average, are struggling to reach pre-pandemic staffing levels, limiting their ability to grow revenue. Go firms also have been losing more equity partners, shedding attorneys who possess vital experience in business development and are high fee earners. Also concerning is that more associates at greatest risk of leaving are members of underrepresented communities, such as ethnic and racial minorities and LGBTQ+ attorneys.

1. Technology may play a role in influencing retention. Lawyers at Stay firms are more likely to view themselves as early adopters or innovators of technology. In addition, they are more likely to view collaborative and knowledge management technologies as helpful, which may indicate those firms have done a better job of integrating these technologies into their lawyers’ workflows.

For more insights on what’s driving lawyer retention, download the report.

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