This article is written by Ronika Tater, a student at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, School of Law. In this article, she discusses the reason behind leaving the law firm and how the attrition trend can be prevented thereby, significant changes in the firm’s working culture.
Organizations such as Banking and Finance, Healthcare, and Law firms are currently experiencing high attrition rates. After graduation, associates have the various options either to work in a firm or start their law practices, however, the reason behind choosing a law firm first hand is for work experience and the data predicts that young associates usually leave a firm within a few years of joining the work. In certain circumstances, the rate of attrition is unavoidable and essentially unpredictable as there is no exact data that went wrong in each decision. The trend is related to the stereotypes that young lawyers are working for a long hour only to become partners of the firm and this is against the traditional law firm expectation.
However, it has been noticed that some firms expect their associates to do the work that the senior has left behind or is not interested to do these remote tasks that lead to overtime work and no learning experience. In such cases, frustration builds up, pushing the associates to look outside for fulling opportunities thereby, losing attorneys in huge numbers and their talent, client’s trust, disrupts the firm culture, damaging firm’s reputation as hiring cost is wasted.
What is attrition
Attrition is a serious problem for every organization, but particularly for law firms as it affects the whole work environment. The following are the impact of attrition:
Cost is involved in both the times of hiring and leaving the firm by the associates as the employer again has to search for the replacement, particularly those with high experience and special skills.
Most of the employees before joining have a preconceived notion that sooner or later they are going to leave and it is just for increasing the brand value on the resume.
Change in work culture
Loss of an employee adversely affects the ongoing case, project, or any other services. Also adds up to employee cost money spent on recruitment, training, and salaries in the initial stages.
What are the reasons to leave the law firm
The following are the most common reasons behind leaving a law firm:
- Mental burnout or depression.
- A demotivating team member or fellow associates.
- Health issues.
- No work cultural alignment.
- Urge to explore the in-house position.
Other reasons for leaving a stable law firm job
The following are the reason after a detailed study why do associates quit the stable law firm job:
Herd mentality, rather than their passion
It is right said or most probably thought that several lawyers end up at a law firm because they follow the other instead of what is passionate to pursue a career in law. Not everyone is suitable for a corporate law firm job and yet most of them are sucked due to the stable money. One of the exceptional examples of this instance is the co-founders of iPleaders and LawSikho. Both of them were in-house counsel working with Trilegal for a year before they quit their job in order to pursue their passion for legal education and passing it to the masses. Also one of the primary reasons for most of them quitting the job on the first hand is that they do not know what they expect while joining a law firm and at the end of the date they quit the job.
One of the primary reasons for attrition at law firms is a disbalance between work-life and personal life. It often leads to dissatisfaction amongst the lawyers as they are required to work for long hours daily and this leads to a lack of personal life affecting one’s sanity sooner or later. This raises frustration with the time and eventually leads to one quitting the job. The usual working hour at a law firm is over 12 hours in a day, this is obvious due to various clients which law firms cater to. Hence, the obvious reason for parting ways with the jobs are as follows:
- Working hours on a daily basis drastically drain lawyers.
- Stress and frustration leading to depriving health over time.
- No scope for personal development and growth.
Dissatisfaction from the job
It could arise out of odd working hours, from the works that he or she is doing daily, or for the fact that he or she is not appreciated or motivated by the reporting partner for the work completed. It arises out of repetitive work, for example, working on drafting a similar contract every single day or weekend may be tedious. It is psychological when you keep working on the same thing for a very long period, although initially, you loved the work but sooner with time one starts to feel stuck or stagnated and not feel the potential to grow out of the box as there is no challenge to keep moving forward. However, few associates also do enjoy working on the same file every single day.
Students from law schools have known that they are in demand and can get jobs as per the will and hence this makes them choosy and curious to try out different places before they finally settle down. A lot of lawyers shift from one job to another to search for better opportunities, better packages or benefits, better profiles, etc. Several people know that there is a lack of avenue at the senior level or the higher leadership role but this theory is wrong as most of the job vacancy found on LinkedIn and other social website projects that maximum vacancies are for associates or salaried partners as a usual law firm is looking out for associate to fill the vacancy.
The grass is always greener on the other side
This phrase is right used in the following; herd mentality, work-life imbalance, stress and frustration from the job, dissatisfaction, and the fact that most of the associates after attaining financial stability from working in a law firm for the initial year quit their job to pursue their passion and explore different possibility once they have enough saving in their bank account. In today’s technology era, one is not restricted to the physical working avenue but the internet is the new avenue or a career option. Most of the successful entrepreneurs who have left their earlier working jobs are more successful such as legal journalism through LiveLaw and Bar and Bench, online blogging through iPleaders, law courses from LawSikho. Hence, lawyers in today’s era are not limited to be just associates at law firms but they are omnipresent.
How can we control attrition in the law firm
The following are the reason to control attrition at the earliest:
Money or increasing pay scale
Money can seem to be a genuine reason for leaving the law firm and shifting to another for a better raise, but this is not the only concern of junior associates. The root cause of attrition lies in the existing work culture of law firms and how it adapts to a balance between its young associates and already existing associates. A firm’s culture plays an essential role and has been developed over time through its success in the competitive market, trust, a sense of tradition which is seen as valuable by the associates and drives them to be a part of the firm for personal and organizational growth.
However, changing the work culture especially at the large firm should be strategically constructed and with full introspection of the demands of the associates as any change in the culture would have a direct impact on the working people. It should include itself through surveys and reports for better reaching. Most of the report typically states that toxic work culture, overburdening of work, lack of balance between work and personal life affecting the overall health of the associates is the main cause of leaving the law firm. Hence, money is not the only attribute leaving a law firm in this era.
The result of including employment perks
There is no surprise to the idea that providing more benefits to the employees and offering better pay and expecting fewer working hours is going to keep the associate stuck to the law firm, facts and surveys in many cases show otherwise. It has been analysed that more benefits are not what the associates are looking forward to in a firm but more credibility is given to the firm culture and it plays an essential role in whether the junior associate wants to stay or leave the firm. It is hard to determine if the changes and development in the law firm are going to improve the workplace or not but the key to the establishment of a strong law firm is to open to the possibilities and more learning opportunities to look forward and not limit oneself to a particular field of law.
Retaining junior associates
The following are the few points that the law firms should consider increasing attorney retention:
- Reconstruct orientation: The orientation process is the first step for the associates to get themselves known to the firm and vice-versa. Hence the process should offer detailed information of all the peers, partners, associates, and the mission and vision of the law firm and what they expect from each associate, details about how the work is monitored, and to whom to connect in case of any conflict with anyone in the firm.
- Facilitate detailed training: Providing the right platform or training to the associates in a variety of areas of interest and also the part of the work expectations.
- Providing an active mentor or tutor: Mentoring is not only about assigning the task and checking the result, but it is someone willing to take some time out of his schedule to help the new associate with the work to produce better results.
- Providing enrichment opportunities: It involves the new associates in pro bono work, legal education in new and various other fields of law or trial advocacy for better practical perspective.
- Involving associates as a part of the time: Including the associates in various client meetings, court proceedings, participating in the discussion, and strategic planning as a part of the team.
Tutelage associates are good for business
A law firm is also a business, it should be aware of the cost of culture in getting away with an associate rather than making some significant change in the work environment. Change of retention is the least expense a law firm can make. Most of the time, if there is a threat of revolving doors with the associates at a law firm due to the following reason: firm culture, reasonable compensation, resistant policy, associates unfamiliar with the team. In all such circumstances, no matter what the associate’s pay scale is, sooner or later they will head to the doors.
Attrition can be predictable and measures should be taken sooner as most of the firms are well aware of the rising and growing financial and non-financial costs arising from associate losses. It is also connected with the original recruiting costs, training, development and growth loss, shortage of resources, human resources costs, administrative costs and replacement costs, and other factors. Moreover, firms also face non-financial losses due to the high rate of associate attrition such as dissatisfaction from the clients, loss of trust from the client, the brand image in the competitive market, and the negative impact on firm morale. Hence, to avoid this situation, the firm should be ready to take preventive measures for the present associates and hiring associates by significant changes in the work culture.
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