Tension is growing between associates and partners along fault lines of hourly commitments and return-to-office policies, as associates continue asking for more flexibility around remote work and lower billable-hour requirements while some partners believe this generation of associates’ expectations are mismatched with the realities of a profession that’s supposed to hold client service above all else.

As billable hours remain scarce in certain transactional practices—forcing associates to jockey for work in order to avoid being laid off—several Big Law partners said in a recent American Lawyer survey that they had no problem abandoning associates who they felt deserted the firm by pushing back on returning to the office.

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