By Lana Manganiello (January 20, 2023)
The past three years have been fraught with challenges for law firms and early-career attorneys. Demand for legal services has continued to expand, and the need for legal talent to help meet that demand has been at an all-time high. The market for associates has been incredibly hot with escalating salaries, big signing bonuses, and the offer of more flexibility around where associates can work than ever. However, firms have struggled with managing and developing attorneys in a remote and hybrid workplace. In a profession that leans heavily on an apprenticeship model for development, many senior practitioners are spending less time in the office and have not significantly shifted the way that they work with their junior counterparts to match the development that would have happened in a pre-pandemic, principally in-person work environment.
The lag in associate professional development (and consequential poor work product and less than ideal professional conduct) has not been met with the consequences and repercussions that those now in partnership and leadership would have experienced when they were junior attorneys.
And recent surveys say that many of these well-paid, flex-working, and highly sought-after early-career attorneys are not happy. They report feeling isolated and not being meaningfully connected with peers and colleagues in this remote work environment. They do not see how the work they are doing relates to the bigger picture and the career they want for themselves.
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