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Are Three Years Enough?

August 22, 2007

An excerpt from the Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms addresses the topic of the noticable change in attitude of younger lawyers that results in third year bailout at law firms.

In the Vault Guide’s 10th edition Brian Dalton writes:

“Somewhere along the way, associates decided that it was no longer enough to have a plump bank account and a $4,000 mountain bike that never saw mud. Suddenly, everyone wants to like their job. Now, who’s to blame for such sedition among the legal ranks? Did we hear the chimney sweeps complaining? Where did we as a society (a) get the idea that a job should provide emotional satisfaction (um, thought it was called “work”), and (b) when did lawyers start thinking that they were invited to the Job Satisfaction block party? Oh, it’s all right for teachers and social workers, but leaders of the nation’s top law firms, who joined the profession under an entirely different set of expectations, are befuddled and annoyed. The old carrot–“Some day this will all be yours!”–no longer works: more and more associates don’t even want to go there. They are perfectly fine with $135,000-plus and that lock-step bonus, thank you very much–just let them leave the office at a godly hour.

“According to a NALP Foundation study, over 37 percent of associates leave their firms by the end of their third year. Legal analysts blame the attrition trend on the massive growth of the last two decades? more work means more foot soldiers. But foot soldiers become disenchanted, and they become most disenchanted around year three…

“Why do third-years bail so often? That first year of practice tends to weed out the totally unsuited and unhappy; those who hang around for a second year balance their misgivings with hope that the workload will improve as they climb the ranks. (And, of course, the money’s tasty, too.) By their third year, associates’ perspectives change: they’ve been around awhile and can better gauge the tenor of their firm and their own career prospects. The siren call of headhunters contributes to the attrition trend. Then again, so does the dismal workload of partners; associates who daily see harried and fatigued partners are less tempted to stay and become one of the breed themselves.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 and Out permalink
    August 23, 2007 3:59 pm

    I am in my third year of practice and can relate to this article. I think three years is long enough for the honeymoon to be over and for the stark reality of umpteen work years stretching ahead to hit home. At this point, we’ve dedicated six years, really, to the practice of law. Plenty of time to have a good look around and ask: is this what I really want?

  2. January 1, 2011 2:58 pm

    I really think that after 3 years you should be able to call it for sure.

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