Research

The Lateral Lawyer

Why They Leave and What May Make Them Stay

In pursuit of a better understanding of the factors fueling the "lateral lawyering" phenomenon, The NALP Foundation undertook this benchmark study designed to reveal fundamental knowledge about:

  • The primary and secondary influences on the decisions of lawyers to change jobs including the role of practice interests, financial incentives, work/life balance priorities, work environment characteristics, and professional and career development needs;
  • The perceptions of laterally hired attorneys about how their new (current) employers are meeting their expectations for assimilation, marketing of the lawyer to clients, compensation and more;
  • The relative degree of loyalty or anticipated longevity of lateral lawyers as they report their own expectations for tenure; and
  • How law firms recruit and hire lateral lawyers, including the role of referrals, self-initiated contact, search consultants; law firm lateral hiring criteria and selectivity; and lateral hiring incentives.

This study used as a basis the five factors that have most commonly been reported to be of particular importance in associates' decisions to make job changes. Associates were afforded the opportunity to prioritize these factors according to their individual experiences. The primary factors, as ordered by lateral associates as a group were:

  • Professional development
  • Practice interests
  • Financial incentives
  • Workplace environment, and
  • Work/life balance.

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