Associate recruitment and retention – two perspectives

Late September saw the launch of the Legal Marketing Association’s Vancouver Chapter 2006-2007 programming schedule with a seminar on law firm associate recruitment and retention. Blane Prescott of Hildebrandt International, and Adam Pekarsky, Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP‘s Director of Professional Development and Recruiting for Western Canada gave two very different but complementary perspectives on the challenges law firms face in the care and feeding of associates.
Associate recruitment and retention takeaways from Blane Prescott:
1. The people you pay are more important over time than the people who pay you;
2. Some firm tracking studies following departing associates suggest as many as 80% of departees go to in-house positions;
3. The break-even point for most law firms on associate hours is at least 1500 and the average is 1700 hours (i.e. most firms don’t start making money on their associates until they reach the 1700 hour mark). Almost everyone in law firm management assumes the break even number is much lower than that.
4. Money is not as key a factor in associate churn as most firms think.
5. The availability of challenging, complex, INTERESTING work is the top factor affecting associate retention.
Associate recruitment and retention takeaways from Adam Pekarsky:
1. Brutally honest evaluations are a key element in associate satisfaction both for those who stay and those who leave;
2. Helping place departing associates into in-house positions can be a very strategic win-win for both the firm and the departing lawyer; and
3. Paying recruiting bounties when your associates help bring lateral talent into the firm can also be an effective tactic.
This is a topic that is big and getting bigger as associate salaries continue to climb and associate churn rates also remain high, and those firms that are focusing their attentions on these questions by developing coordinated strategies with heavy involvement from both the HR and marketing departments are going to have a leg up on their competition.


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