National Law Journal

The National Law Journal Discusses Lateral Link Associate Experience Surveys

Nearly 30 Percent of Associates at Major Firms Fear Job Loss

Amanda Bronstad
The National Law Journal
June 27, 2008

Nearly 30 percent of associates at major law firms are afraid of losing their jobs, up from 10 percent six months ago, according to a recent survey released by Lateral Link, a legal placement firm.

“Everyone is concerned about their jobs,” said T.J. Duane, a principal at Lateral Link in New York.

In the past, he said, associates assumed they would remain employed during economic downturns. But the recent downturn has proved otherwise. In the past nine months, several firms have laid off associates, including Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

According to Lateral Link, 21 percent of corporate associates were afraid of losing their jobs six months ago, Duane said. As of this month, 48 percent of them expressed those fears. The percentage of litigation associates who feared losing their jobs doubled to 41 percent during that same period.

The survey also found that 52 percent of associates said work was slow. Most of those responses came from the East Coast, while the West Coast and Texas were less slow, Duane said.

When split between practice areas, 69 percent of corporate associates said work was slow, up from 58 percent six months ago. In comparison, 44 percent of litigation associates said work was slow, compared with 50 percent six months ago.

Finally, 28 percent of the associates surveyed this month noted that they would not make their billable-hour requirements in the coming months. “In a lot of firms, there’s not a penalty for not hitting billable hours, but it will affect their bonus,” Duane said.

Lateral Link’s first survey, in December, interviewed about 1,500 associates. This month’s survey, conducted separately, interviewed 775 associates on whether they were concerned about losing their jobs and 830 associates on whether business was slow.

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