How to keep associates happy?

Frank M. D’Amore had this interesting article last month in the Texas Lawyer on stemming associate attrition at law firms. Frank had some compelling recommendations for firms, like requesting direct regular feedback (not just yearly) from associates, more associate integration activities (like one-on-one attention from partners and well-thought out events), and also really rewarding associate successes.

Frank makes a special point to say that this new generation of lawyers value work/life balance more than its preceding generations. I agree with Frank. And I can tell you that any firm that makes strides in this area will make serious headway in its associate retention numbers.

Texas is undergoing another round of associate salary increases. Rumors abound about which firms will raise and which ones will not. I can’t help but think about whether this latest round of increases will have an effect on associate satisfaction. Undoubtedly more money will equate to some level of happiness for some. But higher salaries do not materialize from the air. There is a price. We can debate and debate where the money will come from (lower PPP? higher rates for clients? partners billing for associate-level work?), but there will be some trickle down effect for associates at some level and to some degree, associates will be working harder for their dough.

Wouldn’t it be nice if some of the Texas-based firms didn’t jump on board with the salary increase and instead reduced their billable hour requirements? Wishful thinking or recruiting brilliance? Unrealistic naivete? As Brian Wilson sang, “wouldn’t it beeeee nice?”

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