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Law firms are throwing money at associates in the hopes it eases the pain and makes them happy. More importantly, it will make them want to stay and deal with the soaring workload.

But, compensation is only number 3 on the list of things associates really want in their law firm jobs. So will the money do the trick or do law firms need to do more? You decide. Here’s what they are looking for:

Skill Building and Learning

34% of associates say skill-building is an essential factor. Money can beat a lot — but not skills. These aspiring attorneys want to learn the skills they will need to get to where they are going. This trumps compensation — money talks but developing skills helps associates walk the walk — and build future wealth.

Serious and Substantive Work  

At 18%, these associates want meaningful work. They are looking to avoid the repetitive and expected work — they want the intellectually challenging plums. Interestingly, these individuals think the money will be the same at all the firms they would consider — so their work makes more of a difference to them.


Coming in 3rd at 17%, these associates are all about the money. They may want the skills and substantive work — but they want to be paid at the highest rates while they are at it. They believe the more they make now the more they will make later.

Money helps with short-term pain. Ultimately, more than ½ of these associates are willing to give up some money to build their resumes. And they are betting this will bring substantially higher returns over their careers.

As we discussed in our annual webinar — The BTI Market Outlook and Client Service review 2021 — 40% of clients want to see more associates on their work. You can figure out which clients want more associates and match the associates to the work. This gives you the opportunity to leverage the salary increases to building career skills — and boost client service.

Good luck.


The Mad Clientist

(Based on 310 telephone and online surveys conducted with associates just after new salaries were announced.)

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