Employers‘Tis the Season for Lateral Moves

December 29, 2019
‘Tis the season for holiday parties, bonuses, and promotions! After the festivities, law firms face the predictable wave of departures or lateral moves that mark the start of each year. Although associates leave throughout the year for a myriad of reasons, lateral moves surge in January. Here are some of the top reasons associates leave and what firms can do to improve employee retention:


Firm Culture

Company culture can make or break a firm’s ability to retain associates. Engaged and happy employees will lead to employee retention. Employee retention leads to productivity which will give your company a leg up on the competition.

What firms can do: Positive company culture doesn’t just happen. First, strive to hire attorneys and support staff who fit the firm’s particular culture. Then leadership needs to make a dedicated and consistent effort to foster a positive atmosphere that keeps workers engaged.

Quality of Experience

Attorneys want to grow and flex their abilities by performing substantive work. If rewarding work is not mixed in with the grind of routine tasks, associates may be tempted by competing firms offering more challenges.

What firms can do: If associates have opportunities to grow their skills, it can help avoid burnout on mundane tasks. Consider bringing in legal assistance to handle some routine work and allow associates to tackle more challenging projects.

Long-term Goals

Some attorneys will relentlessly pursue Partnership, and others want a viable career outside the partner track. If an associate isn’t sure about their future at the firm, they may look for a long-term option elsewhere.

What firms can do: Clearly communicate the path to partnership. If that is not the intended goal of the associate, let them know what other positions and promotions they can attain.


Many employees feel that they need continually to develop their skills and expertise. Associates who feel stagnant or pigeon-holed will be easily swayed by another firm that offers valuable training and career-expanding experiences.

What firms can do: Invest in meaningful and regular training for associates. This will make them more valuable to the firm and foster a sense of loyalty. Mentoring is also effective in developing associates.


Associates should understand their compensation and the requirements for raises and bonuses. Associates and laterals should also be treated equally to avoid resentment over pay discrepancies.

What firms can do: Firms must communicate their bonus structure clearly and openly. If a firm rewards significant extra work, the criteria should be clear. To avoid the January exodus, some firms have replaced year-end bonuses with monthly or quarterly payments.

Implementing these tips may help address future lateral moves or departures and increase overall retention. In the meantime, if you are faced with unexpected associate openings in the new year, contact the professionals at Collier to find out how we can help with all of your legal staffing challenges.


Collier Legal Search

824 Heights Boulevard
Houston, TX 77007
Phone: 713-863-8180
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