Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Money Isn't Everything: Bigger Salaries Are Not the Solution to Law Firm Attrition

As noted in BigLaw Associate Pay Surges in 2006 in today's New York Lawyer, the big firms have got it all wrong. While PAR is not opposed to raising salaries for junior associates who toil long hours at big law firms across the United States, throwing money at junior associates may get them in the law firm door, but it ultimately will not help firms keep them. In fact, as Ward Bower of Altman Weil points out in today's article, raising first-year salaries to $135,000 "can be ironically self-defeating." By compressing compensation for junior associates--i.e., mid-level associates are not receiving increases proportionate to what their beginning colleagues are making--the result is a "heightened incentive for new lawyers to use their hefty salaries to pay down debt quickly and bid adieu to a big firm after a few years."

Flexibility, work-life balance, and professional development are the keys to retention and what the new generation of lawyers is seeking. In PAR's view, if firms are looking for workhorses for a couple of years, then go ahead and raise salaries. Mission completed. If the goal, however, is to recruit and retain the talent in which the firm has heavily invested, then part of the equation must be the development of viable balanced hours programs that allow attorneys to have lives outside the office and maybe even some time to spend some of their six-figure incomes.



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