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The NALP Foundation Releases Newest Study Exploring Key Factors Driving Law Firm Associate Retention

The Foundation's new Stay Study identifies the key reasons associates elect to remain at their firms.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

The NALP Foundation announces today the release of its newest research report: Should I Stay or Should I Go? Key Factors Driving Law Firm Associate Retention. The inaugural Stay Study identifies the key reasons associates elect to remain at their firms, critical information for law firm leaders as they assess the efficacy and focus of their retention efforts.

Over 3,300 associates from 57 law firms across the U.S. and Canada participated in the study, ranking and rating 15 key factors (and sub-factors), as well as providing narrative responses elucidating these issues. The report not only details the aggregate data, but breaks it down by associate cohorts, including by firm size, location, seniority level, gender identity, and race/ethnicity. Among the intriguing results:

- Top Three Factors: While associates ranked compensation as the top reason for deciding to stay at their firms, this was followed closely by work-life balance and career path.

- Strong Engagement and Experiences: The majority of associates reported they were highly engaged (72%) and even more rated their firm experiences positively (81%). Those working solely in the office took the lead in engagement levels, while those working fully remotely reported the most positive experience.

- Hybrid Work Policies: Associates rated being able to choose their schedule rather than having a mandated one as more important than whether a set number of days in the office was required. The narrative comments from associates also affirmed they very much do not want firms to retrench on remote and flexible work options.

- Divergences by Cohort: While there were no divergences in the data for some cohorts (for example, between associates hired as entry or lateral associates, or those who had been summer associates at a firm), there were significant divergences in a number of topics when analyzed by race/ethnicity (including the importance of firm culture and social ties), as well as by gender identity (for example in the importance of flexible work arrangements).

“This study is the first to provide both empiric and narrative information specifying not only how key issues play into associates’ decisions whether to stay at a firm, but how the relative importance of these varies between cohorts based on seniority, location, firm size, and demographic features such as gender identity and race/ethnicity,” noted NALP Foundation President & CEO Fiona Trevelyan Hornblower. “While law firms can immediately use this data to assess and tailor their own retention efforts, the report also provides critical insights for the profession as a whole as we seek to support the next generation of attorneys.”

The study collected data on the importance of each of the following factors to associates:

• Work Allocation/Workflow Management
• Compensation (salary/bonus/other)
• Benefits (medical, dental, mental health support)
• Firm Policies (billable hours/credit, leave)
• Hybrid Work Policies
• Professional Development
• Career Path
• Mentoring (formal and informal)
• Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
• Pro Bono/Community Involvement
• Firm Culture/Social Ties
• Market Perception of Firm
• Location
• Practice Area Alignment with Personal Interest
• Work-Life Balance

The full Stay Study report (in PDF format) is available for purchase from The NALP Foundation Bookstore. While participating firms do receive an individual report comparing their firm’s results with the overall findings, both participating and non-participating firms may purchase comparative analysis reports. To purchase the final report or custom reports, visit our online Bookstore:

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