How to Avoid Attrition

Five ways to ensure that diverse lawyers won't leave.

Large law firms struggle to retain diverse associates. A cursory review of "big law" retention data or the anecdotal observations of anyone who works in or interacts with a large firm bears out this reality. While most law firms don't typically struggle to recruit diverse lawyers, retaining those high potentials is another matter. According to National Association for Law Placement (NALP) data, though women make up roughly half of new law school graduates, more than two-thirds of all female associates leave major firms by the fifth year. Minority associates in the aggregate don't fare much better, often never reaching the senior associate level and hence a partnership vote.

Why should we care? Every time we hire a law firm, we make an investment in its human capital. Invariably, we pay firms so that its young talent can learn our company's business, its processes and personnel to better protect our interests. This investment not only enables legal problem solving in the instant matter, but may also be leveraged in future matters. All firms promise their clients the benefits of a long-term relationship that builds on past work. But how can long-term "relationship building" occur when a firm can't retain the associates? It can't.

John Lewis Jr.

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