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NALP Foundation Report Highlights Associate Departure Trends
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A recent report by the NALP Foundation sheds light on the patterns of associate turnover within law firms, revealing insights into departure rates and trends.

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High Turnover Rates

According to the report, a staggering 82% of associates who left their law firms in 2023 did so within five years of being hired, marking an all-time high. Of particular note was the significant increase in the rate of departures within four years, reaching 72%.

  
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Variations in Departure Timing

While the percentage of associates leaving within a year decreased compared to previous years, there were notable variations based on the type of hire. Only 5% of laterals departed within a year, whereas 1% of entry-level associates left within the same timeframe.

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Demographic Representation

The report also highlighted the demographic composition of associate hires, with women comprising 52% and lawyers of color representing 34%. Interestingly, 10% of the associates hired in 2023 were “boomerang associates,” returning to their firms after previously leaving.

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Attrition Rates and Perspectives

Overall, participating firms hired 5,236 associates in 2023 but lost 3,875 associates within the same period. While the overall attrition rate decreased slightly from the previous year, there were disparities based on gender and race. The attrition rate for female associates was 19%, compared to 17% for male associates. Similarly, associates of color experienced a higher attrition rate (24%) compared to their white counterparts (16%).

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Desired Departures and Firm Perspectives

Interestingly, firms categorized nearly half (49%) of associate departures as “unwanted” from the firm’s perspective, indicating a shift from previous years. Conversely, the rate of “desired” departures, from the firm’s viewpoint, increased to 33%, suggesting varying reasons for associate exits, including performance-related factors and strategic headcount adjustments.

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Implications and Future Considerations

The findings of the report underscore the evolving dynamics of associate turnover within law firms and raise important considerations for talent management strategies. Understanding the drivers behind associate departures and addressing underlying issues could be crucial for firms seeking to enhance retention and overall organizational effectiveness



 

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