Abdi Shayesteh Aug 10, 2021 4:14:26 PM 10 min read

4 Best Practices For Associates Retention

Turnover is a challenge that law firms too often face. According to JD Match and Right Profile, the top 400 law firms lose about $9.1 billion every year due to turnover, with the approximate cost to a firm of $400k to $800k each time an attorney leaves the firm.  What is more, high turnover rates damage your firm’s reputation, as well as divert valuable time and resources to backfilling positions. Retaining valuable associates, then, is crucial to remaining competitive in this challenging environment.


A recent survey conducted by Chambers Associate states that the quality of training and development at a firm is highly correlated with the associates’ desire to stay at a firm. Another study by CG Attorney Search supports that one of the most common explanations why associates leave a firm is a lack of training, mentoring, and development opportunities. The study even challenges the idea that money is one of the primary reasons an associate leaves a firm, stating that higher pay is an ineffective’ carrot’ to keep associates loyal, and in fact, makes it easier for other firms to lure associates away. Thus, by implementing a smart and effective training strategy, law firms can provide associates with the development they crave and substantially decrease associates retention.

AltaClaro, as a company specializing in training programs for associates, shares four methods of revitalizing your training strategy that improve associate retention. 

1. Incorporate microlearning.

Tackling associate retention through better training engagement doesn’t mean you need to enforce a strict, rigorous training schedule that takes hours out of each workday. Micro-learning is a training approach that delivers information in digestible, bite-sized chunks. The National Training Laboratories states that long sessions of passive learning—such as sitting through a two-hour PowerPoint training—average less than 30% retention. In contrast, brief micro-sessions that build over time using active and multiple methods of training average up to 90%. 

These smaller bursts of training not only make retaining information easier but also allow your associates to easily access their training without it disrupting their busy workflows. By giving your associates accessible tools to improve their knowledge and work performance, you’ll show that you value them and want to see them grow.

2. Ensure real-world learning application.

In a recent survey, LexisNexis states that a staggering 95% of hiring partners and associates whose practice has a transactional focus believed that new graduates lack practical transactional skills

The top training programs tackle this challenge by simulating real work experience and allowing your associates to learn through firsthand experience in a safe simulation environment. As an associate, there’s nothing more valuable than diving into a real-world scenario and getting feedback on mock work products. Such programs boost associates’ confidence to tackle the real work and nurture their gratitude and loyalty toward the law firm.

Research in education science tells us that our retention levels increase on a sliding scale, from the more abstract/passive - what we read, see, and hear(10-50%) - to the more concrete/active - what we write and do (70-90%).

Try to incorporate mock transactions from past deals or matters. Break up mock tasks into smaller segments and assign soft time allotments for those tasks, so your associates become acquainted with how much time a task typically takes. It is a good practice to encourage your associates to take their time with those mock tasks the first round, so they can fully engage with the material without worrying about time running out.

3. Survey your associates

Asking for training feedback improves associate engagement and morale by inspiring self-reflection. Surveys allow you to determine what learners think about the educational material, program delivery, feedback, and more. Your associates will appreciate that you value their opinions and incorporate their ideas and advice into future training programs. As creating an effective survey can be tricky, don’t forget to establish your goals first and maintain the user-friendliness of your survey to maintain a high quality of survey responses and completion rate. You can achieve this by defining the best number of questions, formulating them in a clear and unbiased way, organizing them in a logical order, and even running a pilot test with a small sample group for further optimization.

4. Set clear goals and measure training effectiveness

Establishing clear goals for your associates is crucial. It gives your associates long-term vision and short-term motivation for their training and day-to-day work. By setting goals, you can empower your employees to sharpen their focus and use their time effectively. However, setting goals without tracking training effectiveness, the degree to which learning has improved your associates’ performance, is useless. You must be sure to establish clear metrics and consistent ways of measuring them to gain accurate and reliable data. You can learn more about possible ways to access your training programs in this article. 

Impactful training makes your associates feel that you’re investing in them, which in return motivates them to focus during the day-to-day grind and stay with your firm.

Whatever your methods, the organization is crucial. LexisNexis also shared that only 37% of small/mid-size firms and only 62% of large firms that participated in the survey have an organized training program for new associates with less than two years of practice experience. By constantly tracking training effectiveness, you ensure that your training enables your associates to work with higher productivity which has myriad performance benefits.

Boost your associate retention

Firms such as K&L Gates, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Barnes & Thornburg, and Husch Blackwell turn to AltaClaro for the most effective training programs on the market.

Our online boot camps help lawyers leverage technology and learn practical legal skills in a hybrid format through mock transactions and live feedback sessions with seasoned practitioners. From Fundamentals of M&A Transactions and Corporate Transactions to Capital Markets, our course catalog spans beginner to intermediate level classes. Our state-of-the-art learning technology platform also helps you measure and track training engagement and performance so you can see exactly how your training is driving better results for your employees as well as your ROI.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our experts and learn how you can increase your employee retention through more effective training engagement.

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Abdi Shayesteh

Founder & Ceo of AltaClaro, an experiential learning platform that delivers researched-backed practical skills training solutions for lawyers. Serial entrepreneur, founded and successfully sold two startups prior to age 30. Over 15 years of experience as a corporate and banking attorney in diverse settings.