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Money talks. But it says different things to different people — and it’s not always the message law firms want to send. This is true about the most current (and recent) round of raises. This is how associates are thinking about it:

It’s All in a Day’s Work

28% of associates appreciate the pay bump but nothing has really changed. This includes:

  • Opinion about the firm
  • Satisfaction
  • Future opportunity
  • Perception of the work
  • Interactions with partners

Just What I Needed

The raise hit the sweet spot for 21% of associates. This is just the jolt of recognition and encouragement they needed. They are rejuvenated are ready to go.


Only 7% of associates see the raises as generous. It’s a lot of money and a serious gesture.

Not Enough

Fully 20% indicate the raises aren’t enough. These associates are split between 2 camps:

  • Some associates say the increased workload is worth way more than their raise
  • Other associates indicate their firm’s incremental profits are way ahead of the raises

What Raise?

24% of associates didn’t get a raise. They say it’s a bit demoralizing and wonder why their firms haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet — the lack of an increase casts a few doubts about how the firm is doing or how much they care about associates.

The raises are a net neutral for 28% of associates (It’s All in Day’s Work) and a negative for another 44%. The overwhelming majority of associates want more than money. They want:

  • More context about their assignments
  • More background explanation for all the corrections they make
  • Awareness of the assignment pipeline
  • Flexibility on when they come into the office

Money is a great start and keeps law firms in the game. But, for most associates it becomes a given — the majority of law firms will eventually match. The big differentiator is the soft stuff — convincing associates your firm is making active investments in their careers. The best part is every partner can take 5 minutes to explain why they want things changed on an associate’s work product most of the time — and it may mean more than a raise to associates.

Best of luck in retention and recruitment.

The Mad Clientist

(Based on 467 responses from associates to BTI’s online and telephone-based survey conducted both before and after the most recent raises)

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