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The missing piece in retention strategies

Focus on the daily experience

This week, Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA) released a survey, as reported by, that reveals the latest thinking from Big Law associates about attrition and retention. While the headline and statistics are attention grabbers, there aren’t really any surprises. BUT, there is a particular nugget that gets my brain going

“1 in 4 associates plan to leave within the year.”– The 2023 NALP Foundation Attrition Report found that 2022’s attrition rate was 20% and 2021 was 26%. While MLA’s study is showing an increase, 25% is within the range. Not a surprise.

“Nine in 10 associates would be more likely to stay if their firm made a conscious effort to retain them.” – Wouldn’t we all be more willing to stay in any situation if there was an effort to make it better? Not a surprise.

“Fewer than 10% of firms are asking associates what they want.” – MLA is talking about firms conducting “stay interviews” and implies that firms don’t have a handle on what associates want. I don’t agree. Stay interviews aren’t the only way to communicate with associates about their engagement level, and firms ascertain this information from activities such as the performance review process, engagement surveys and exit interviews.

What gets me thinking is “if their firm made a conscious effort to retain them.” The article goes on to say, “three out of five associates felt their firms weren’t actively trying to retain them.” As a reader, and maybe a leader who focuses in this area, what do you do with that perception? What actions can you take to improve THAT? And whose responsibility is it to ameliorate that sentiment?

Here’s the thing. I don’t think it’s a systemic, organizational fix. While everyone will always say money is a priority, increased compensation won’t solve for this. Improving wellness initiatives won’t solve for this. Adding stay interviews into the mix won’t solve for this. 

Where to focus instead is on the daily experience. Focus on creating an environment where your people are excited to get up and “go” to work every day. They feel like they are a part of something they are proud of and can make a difference. They do work that fires them up and have opportunities to grow. They feel like they can bring their full selves to work and are comfortable expressing their ideas. They feel appreciated, seen and understood. The firm cares about them as human beings and less about how much money the firm can make from their efforts. And, by the way, this isn’t exclusive to just associates. It also applies to partners and business professionals.

With “improving the daily experience” as your goal, they look at how you can improve or adjust. Look at how your people are being led or managed. Explore how teaming is (or isn’t) occurring. Examine an individual’s ability to be involved in decision making. Train on how to run a meeting so all perspectives are heard.

There are so many little things that add up to create an experience. The list could go on and on. (Review all my posts explaining Joychiever’s Hierarchy of Engagement for inspiration.)

The other thing you will realize when you engage in this exercise? It’s everyone’s responsibility. We all have a hand in creating the daily experience, even the associate.

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