The biggest-ever statistical survey of the legal profession reveals that nearly 90 per cent of trainees and law students surveyed believe the introduction of flexible working hours is the best way to retain associates. The research was carried out by Lawyer2B's sister title The Lawyer in association with polling company YouGov.
Only 46 per cent of those surveyed believe that higher salaries would solve the associate retention rate problem, yet a little more than a quarter believe that the lure of bigger associate bonuses could be the solution.
The research also reveals that while nearly two-thirds of lawyers in organisations with turnovers in excess of 250m (including the UK's top 10 law firms) are not aiming for partnership, the desire among associates to become a partner increases as associates progress up to 10 years' PQE.
Among the associates surveyed, 56 per cent of newly-qualifieds say they are aiming for partnership, a figure that rises to 65 per cent for one to two year-PQEs and 69 per cent for three to five year-PQEs. By six years' PQE, 73 per cent of associates in that bracket say partnership is an aim.
The main attraction of partnership, according to the lawyers surveyed, is the financial rewards. No fewer than 35 per cent ranked 'more money' as the main attraction. Twenty seven per cent opted for a greater say in the running of the firm and 20 per cent said it was status.
The largest firms have experienced the most vocal discontent from their associates, prompting many of them, including Allen & Overy (A&O), DLA Piper and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, to rethink their pay and career structures. A&O, which suffered an associate attrition rate of 25 per cent in 2005, this month (February) appointed an associate to its global management team as part of its ongoing associate retention scheme.
More than 40 per cent of trainees and students agree that the introduction of alternative career paths, as well as lower billing targets, would encourage more associates to stay with their current firms. More than a third of the trainees and students surveyed were attracted to UK firms with global bases, whereas only 7 per cent would want to work for a UK firm with no overseas office.