Retention rates: Winning the war of attrition

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  • The basic point could be conveyed a lot more succinctly: Associates don't feel that they are getting a good deal and large numbers of them are rejecting the deal on offer.

    Are they right to feel this way? Well, it really depends whether the individual associate can do better for himself or herself in the market. But I suspect that a lot of associates could do better. What's on offer is that you give up the best years of your life, for a decent but not amazing salary, in return for a small chance of partnership. Even if you make partnership, your job security won't be great and you will have to put up with a lot of politics and underwhelming behaviour from your fellow "partners."

    In essence, the partners are trying to generate as big a pie as possible by flogging everyone half to death, and then trying to grab as big a share of that pie for themselves as they can possibly get away with. Partner compensation at (say) Freshfields is something like ten times senior associate compensation. You don't get this sort of ratio at (say) a Big 4 accountancy firm, plus there is the additional grade of director to aim for.

    In other words, on one hand the partners are trying to shaft everyone else, but on the other hand they are trying to get everyone else to buy into the deal despite the fact that they are obviously being shafted. 21 year olds straight out of law school can be suckered into buying into this but many associates cannot. It's not easy to get people to buy into a bad deal - one way of achieving it is by lying to people about their partnership prospects.

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