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The NALP Foundation Releases Latest Update on Associate Attrition and Hiring (CY 23)

Overall hiring has now returned to pre-pandemic levels, with firms also increasing their rehiring of former associates.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The NALP Foundation announces today the release of its newest annual Update on Associate Attrition, a detailed report on law firm associate hiring and departures for 2023. The Foundation has produced this signature report for over 20 years.

The 2023 findings from 128 participating firms in the U.S. and Canada, reflecting data from 5,236 associate hires and 3,875 associate departures, revealed:

- An overall 2023 associate attrition rate of 18%, continuing the decline from 2020’s 20% and 2021’s historically high 26%.
- Overall hiring has now returned to pre-pandemic levels, with firms also increasing their rehiring of former associates.
- The gap between the median number of entry-level associates and lateral associates hired continued to narrow.
- A surge of associates leaving their firms earlier – within four years of hire – rather than the consistent five-year mark seen in prior years.
- Lower unwanted departures (49% vs. 2022’s 60%) but higher wanted departures (33% vs. 2022’s 17%).

“This new data reveals an intriguing combination of macro reversions to pre-pandemic levels, but marked changes within hiring and departures as both firms and talent recalibrate to a changed recruiting landscape,” noted NALP Foundation President & CEO Fiona Trevelyan Hornblower. “We also continue to see troubling disparities in some of the data for specific cohorts; for example, the ongoing higher attrition rate for associates of color than their peers,” said Hornblower.

The 2023 report breaks out associate hiring and attrition by firm size (including data on firms with more than 1,000 attorneys) as well as by associates’ gender identity and demographic cohorts. This year’s study includes NEW data on:

- Recruitment timing for entry-level associates.
- Sources for firms’ lateral hires.
- Work platforms.
- Virtual hires (i.e., associates who were hired into and started work in a virtual environment).
- Partnership aspirations.
- Outplacement and career coaching prior to departures.

The report also continues to detail information on entry-level vs. lateral hiring; “boomerang” associates who leave a firm but then return; associates’ reasons for leaving firms, including the impact of COVID-19 and workplace policies on their departure decisions; associates’ next professional positions; the impact of perceived advancement opportunities on associate departure decisions; and the influence of firms’ DEI efforts, support for mental health/well-being, community/connectivity, remote/flexible work, and vaccination/testing policies on associate departures.

The full report (in PDF format) is available for purchase from The NALP Foundation at

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