Put aside the conventional wisdom. Here's the state of associate life.
What do these four facts mean? For law firms, at least three things. First, in the short run, the war for talent will become more ferocious. Second, the cost of talent will only increase. And third, the need for firms to differentiate themselves will become apparent even to the hidebound.
This year's famous hike to $160,000 in starting pay for first-year associates did not buy hiring firms anything in terms of separating themselves from their competition. The firms that can afford to pay more will pay more; but there is a price point that not all Am Law 200 firms will be willing to match. We're confident that that number begins with a 2.
As costs rise, the price of a mistake only grows. The feverish but unsystematic, even casual, recruiting habits of firms seem painfully inadequate now. Firms will sharpen their techniques or start losing ground to others who have grown weary of viewing recruits through a glass darkly.
As we have argued before, firms are not all alike and do themselves and their potential associates little good by pretending otherwise. Firms need to define themselves and then make their distinctive qualities known to the job market.
A word for potential associates: Enjoy! The seller's market will last until the next downturn -- by which time most of you will be on to something else.
Ask law firm recruits, particularly those from elite schools, about the summer associate recruiting experience, and the stories are fairly similar: Short interviews, shallow questions and a sheaf of boilerplate marketing materials. For law firms, the process is expensive and time-intensive -- and still results in low acceptance and high attrition rates. Some firms are experimenting with more sophisticated interview strategies used by other professional services firms. But resistance to change is fierce.
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|The American Lawyer's annual survey measures the satisfaction of third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates employed by the nation's top law firms. Firms are scored based on associate responses to 11 questions, which assess the firm's qualities, including interest and satisfaction levels with the work; benefits and compensation; relations between associates and partners; training and guidance; openness about finances and strategies; billable hours policies; and associate retention. Purchase the Electronic 2007 Midlevel Associates Survey from ALM Research.|