Today, the data still convey a strong message to law firm leaders intent upon keeping their best and brightest from leaving in droves. What prompts lateral moves? The NALP Foundation found that professional development tops the list of reasons why attorneys change jobs; 75% of respondents said it was the primary reason they had made a lateral move into their current law firm. Interestingly, this was true across all personnel categories, regardless of whether respondents were men, women, or minorities.
Practice area interests, the second-most-cited reason for a job change, was chosen by just under two-thirds of associates. Issues related to work-life balance were far less important as a whole, chosen by just 25% of associates, ranking last out of five factors, and lagging considerably behind financial incentives (chosen by 57%) and work environment (48%). (For data according to graduation year, gender, and minority status, see the table, ''Primary Factors Influencing Job Changes of Lateral Associates.")
Additional findings on the factors that influenced job-change decisions:
Work environment. Slightly less than half the respondents cited work environment. It was the third-most-frequent choice of women and the fourth-most-frequent choice of men. Work environment was noted as a top influence by far more of those employed in firms with 50 or fewer attorneys (60.6%) than by respondents as a whole (48.4%).
Professional development. Respondents currently working in firms with 501 or more attorneys were more likely than others to cite professional development interests as one of the top factors in their decisions (84% of these respondents compared to 75% of all respondents). Respondents in large firms were also among the most likely to indicate financial incentives (62%) and least likely to indicate work/life balance priorities (13.9%) as a top influence.
Work/life balance. Of those currently working in firms with 50 or fewer attorneys, 40.8% chose work/life balance as a major influence. Nonetheless, this factor still ranked last out of five for this group, as it did for respondents from larger firms.
Good news about lateral associates' job satisfaction. A majority of the respondents reported that their expectations had been met or exceeded in all 10 factors covered in this study. Consider that:
Most lateral associates reported that their expectations for assimilation were at least met (56.9%), if not exceeded (31.9%), by their current employers.
About 90% reported that collegiality among partners, overall leadership of the firm, and the leadership skills of practice group leaders met or exceeded their expectations.
When asked whether their new firms' expectations had been communicated accurately beforehand and met upon their arrival, 84% of the laterals queried by NALP said yes. They were most disappointed about how the firm solicited feedback, with one in five reporting that it was below their expectations.
Most respondents (70.9%) said they expect to stay with their current employer for an indefinite or undetermined length of time. However, this figure decreases among women who graduated in 1996 or later, transactional attorneys (less than two-thirds expected to stay), and among minorities (55.4%).
Relatively few respondents (3.7%) expect to leave their job within a year.
For more information
The NALP data are drawn from a large-scale study involving approximately 2,000 law firm associates who graduated from 1989 to 1999 and who made lateral moves to their current law firms between January 1999 and March 2000. Among other things, the report includes findings on how lateral associates initiated their job changes and the extent to which they were hired as part of a group or on an individual basis. For information or the full report, visit the NALP Foundation's website.
How to Hire a Legal Recruiter for Your Law Firm: How Law Firms Recruit Attorneys Using Legal Recruiters
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.
With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.
Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.
Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.
One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.
One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.
Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.
In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.
Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.
In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts
You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives
Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.