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thebadwife

What factors determine turnover rate at firms?

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I've been reading lots of firm insight posts on this forum and noticed "high turnover rate" is a common feature of many firms (particularly the larger ones). No other details are typically given, so just wondering if anyone has insights as to why some mid/large firms might have higher turnover rates over others. I'm interested in the Vancouver market, but all insights welcome. 

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People left Biglaw for different reasons: 

-some going for clerkship/LLM

-some just burnout and want a real life

-some left because there is no opportunity for them to practice the kind of law they want to practice in Biglaw

Why some law firms' turnover rate are higher than others? There is no quick answer to that, some law firms love to use more cheaper labors and hire students they don't need - and a dirty secret is lots of those who left biglaw soon after are visible minority/women/LGBTQ+ - is that because they are less competent? who knows, those biglaw can always advertise how "inclusive" they are when they are hiring students, you have to wait and see how many of those "diversified" groups got kept on after 3 years or becoming partners....

Just my own observation, biased for sure. 

Edited by criseaster55
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The term "turnover" is used like a negative term, when that isn't always true.

Of course young lawyers leave biglaw in droves after a few years.  Because amazing opportunities get thrown at them left and right, typically offering far better work/life balance. 

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Just now, utmguy said:

The term "turnover" is used like a negative term, when that isn't always true.

Of course young lawyers leave biglaw in droves after a few years.  Because amazing opportunities get thrown at them left and right, typically offering far better work/life balance. 

second that- lawyers in Biglaw have more opportunities to jump ship for in-house or international legal career. 

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From what I've seen (not only in law, but many other white collar careers as well) often the fastest way to increase your salary is to switch firms every couple of years. For whatever reason firms are willing to pay more to steal you from your current employer rather than give you a raise high enough to keep you from leaving.

And just as the comments above have mentioned, most of my friends in Big Law have expressed that the reason they even pursued Big Law in the first place was for the opportunities that come afterward. 

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An abusive or oppressive work environment on top of high work load. There are firms where junior lawyer's work day mood depends on the mood of senior lawyers.

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26 minutes ago, utmguy said:

The term "turnover" is used like a negative term, when that isn't always true.

Of course young lawyers leave biglaw in droves after a few years.  Because amazing opportunities get thrown at them left and right, typically offering far better work/life balance. 

Playing off of this - it's not always a bad thing and it could be due to the nature and size of the firm.

BigLaw isn't the kind of environment that you stick around in because you are close to the partnership/management and don't want to let them down (like you'd see in some small shops where you are less of a cog and more a part of the foundation of the firm). Jumping ship looking for something better doesn't necessarily mean the ship is sinking and it's pretty common in the industry. 

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40 minutes ago, Aureliuse said:

An abusive or oppressive work environment on top of high work load. There are firms where junior lawyer's work day mood depends on the mood of senior lawyers.

How does one determine whether a firm has one of these abusive work environments? Do some firms have more of a rep for this that you can learn from current lawyers/the legal community, or is it something that you can only  figure out after you are already in the firm?

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10 minutes ago, thebadwife said:

How does one determine whether a firm has one of these abusive work environments? Do some firms have more of a rep for this that you can learn from current lawyers/the legal community, or is it something that you can only  figure out after you are already in the firm?

If you're lucky enough to know someone who used to work at the firm you're interested in, they can provide good insight. But you always have to consider the perspective of the person you're talking to and what their biases might be. For example, staff will probably have more complaints than lawyers because these two groups are often treated quite differently. I also know of people who complain regularly about their former employer, but I also know that they were a less than ideal employee which probably impacted how they were treated. 

Ask people for opinions but never take an opinion at face value.

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There's a firm that's known for "firebacks", or letting a lot of first year associates go. But I wouldn't say that makes them a bad firm, it's actually a very good firm. 

I agree with others saying practice area is a big factor. A lot of corporate solicitors leave after a few years for in-house jobs. But a lot of them were always planning to do that; it doesn't say much about the firm.

I recommend setting up phone calls with associates at firms you're interested in (I would say coffees, but COVID) to learn more about the firm. Obviously they're not going to tell you the firm they work at sucks, but if you talk to them for an hour, you can read between the lines to get a sense of the firm's culture. Plus a lot of people are surprisingly candid when you're talking one-on-one. 

I'm articling in Vancouver and I found these informational interviews very helpful. 

But for OCIs, I would recommend applying broadly. You get a LOT more insight about firms when you're at the in-firm stage. I'm not sure what that is going to look like this year, but I wouldn't worry too much about fit until you're at that point. 

 

Edited by Starling

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4 hours ago, thebadwife said:

How does one determine whether a firm has one of these abusive work environments? Do some firms have more of a rep for this that you can learn from current lawyers/the legal community, or is it something that you can only  figure out after you are already in the firm?

When interviewing at the firm where I later articled, one of my interviewers explicitly warned me that they had a temper problem (which they said they were trying to overcome).

I was stupid enough to accept the position.

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Probably off-topic, but ascertaining a firm's culture by Zoom/Teams/Webex/Skype is very difficult. The most you can glean is the type of people you interact with, which is some info but not much.

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1 hour ago, Psychometronic said:

Probably off-topic, but ascertaining a firm's culture by Zoom/Teams/Webex/Skype is very difficult. The most you can glean is the type of people you interact with, which is some info but not much.

One probing question you can ask is "why they are hiring?" Is it to fill a vacancy or are they expanding?  (if you want to be passive aggressive, ask them why they are hiring ALL THE TIME).

This of course, assumes that the answer you get would be an honest one.

Edited by Aureliuse

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