Does turnover matter in a law firm?

Law firm turnoverOne of the most common questions many have about the nature of law firm business is whether employee turnover matters or not.  This is a common question and one that many ask.  The reality is that in law firm world, and most other industries, people can come and go.  Is this a big deal or no big deal at all?

Obviously, when things remain static, that can make people comfortable.  Comfort is what a lot of people seek.  Comfort to many is things staying the same, not changing and being able to rely that the way things look today, things will remain the same into the future.  Many judge success simply by continuity.

However, like many things in life, change is coming.  Whether you want change or not, it’s the natural progression of life, just like the coming and going of seasons and years.  The world changes and life changes.  Try as you might, but you cannot stop it.  In another blog entry, I even compared law firm world to Cardinals’ baseball.

So, turnover in a law firm is inevitably going to happen.  With many lawyers and legal professionals, there can often be a re-shuffling and shuffling of partnerships and law firm associations as attorneys seek what they view as a better life.

In terms of the legal industry in particular, it’s a tough industry in many respects.  Clients can be hard to deal with at times.  In addition to clients, the court system can sometimes wear on attorneys in terms of the ability to move cases and/or work cooperatively with other attorneys.  The business components of the practice of law can also be tough for some attorneys and legal professionals to manage.

For all of these reasons, attorneys and legal professionals often move on to other opportunities.  Sometimes, they move on just because they want to practice in a different area of the law.  In other situations, they may think there are greener pastures elsewhere whether it’s realistic or not.

At the end of the day, turnover is going to happen in any legal environment.  And with the larger the law firm, the more turnover there will be simply because there are more employees who can come and go — even if on a percentage basis, it’s no different than a smaller law firm.  (For example, say a law firm has 4 employees, but loses and replaces 1 employee in a year.  That would be a 25% turnover rate.  If a law firm has 40 employees, and loses and replaces 10 employees throughout the year, they’d have the same 25% turnover rate.)

The question is not how a law firm can entirely stop turnover because change it going to happen.  The ultimate question is whether or not the law firm is continuing to move in the right direction.

You can tell if your law firm is moving in the right direction by looking at a few easy signs.  First, is the law firm continuing to retain clients and obtain new business?  Second, is the law firm continuing to grow and expand (or at least not shrinking)?  Third, are there others who are lining up to take the position of those who have left?

If the answer to those questions is “yes,” the reality is that the turnover is likely not anything to worry about.  In many respects, the law firm might even be improving by gradually getting better or more enthusiastic employees onboard.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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