In December last year, the New York Times published: Big Law Firms Bring Back Hefty Bonuses for Associates. I found this interesting:

“This year’s bonuses reflect a premium being paid to experience,” said David Lat, founder and managing editor of Above the Law. “There are big bumps at the midlevel and the senior level.”

If law firms are once again focused on retaining the best and the brightest, are bonuses enough to do it? I don’t think so.

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As a young second year lawyer told me the last time associates were in high demand:

Of my law school friends, I would say that I only know a few who are going to stay where they are working. The vast majority sees this as a blip on the way to something else, and that’s mainly because they are dissatisfied with the work, find the environment stifling and do not feel appreciated by the senior lawyers.

On the other hand, a lawyer I coached at the same time told me: 

Now, I enjoy being a lawyer primarily because of the people I work with and the clients for whom I work. The clients and the other attorneys in my section are all motivated individuals. My senior attorneys seem interested in my success and make an effort to patiently help me through my mistakes.

The environment is up-beat, fast-paced and pleasant. As I tell the head-hunter who calls me about once a month, “I wouldn’t think of doing anything else, anywhere else.”

Is the atmosphere in your firm “upbeat, fast paced and pleasant” enabling associates to be “in the zone?” Or, is it “dissatisfying and stifling and you are trying to use the “carrot” of bonuses to retain your top young lawyers?”

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