Press Release

Survey Finds Partners Who Leave Law Firms Often the Most Recent Hires

ALM Legal Intelligence’s churn study for SJL Shannon says firms, lawyers disagree whether leavers jumped or were pushed

NEW YORK – November 15, 2013 – ALM Legal Intelligence today released “Up or Out: When Partners Have to Go,” a study of lateral partner transition practices commissioned by SJL Shannon, based on a survey and in-depth interviews of individual partners and law firm leaders.

The survey found that many of the partners who leave firms had been there a relatively short time. Fifty-three percent left after six years or less, while 29 percent were there just three years or less.

The fact that partner departures are often messy was confirmed by sharp differences between firms and departed partners on how the relationship ended. While the firms reported that 55 percent of departures are voluntary, 93 percent of partners who leave say the decision was theirs.

Other survey findings included the following:

* According to firms, the top reason for laying partners off or encouraging them to leave was their “inability to develop and cultivate new clients or originations or to sustain a book of business.” The next most commonly cited reason was “no real commitment to the firm.”
* Seventy-seven percent of partners who were pushed out reported hearing about their performance problems for the first time when asked to leave.
* Only one in ten partners who were asked to leave subsequently received help from the firm in transitioning to another job.
* Lawyers found their newest position through their personal network 62 percent of the time and through a headhunter 31 percent of the time.

“The overall message is that to attract the talent they need and maintain internal morale and external business opportunities, law firms need a more structured alignment between strategy and HR practices,” said the report.

The full text of “Up or Out: When Partners Have to Go” is available at The survey was conducted by ALM Legal Intelligence and was sponsored by SJL Shannon, a professional development firm that provides strategic consulting, training, coaching and counseling services for attorneys at global, national and boutique law firms.

ALM Legal Intelligence offers detailed business information for and about the legal industry, focused on the top U.S. and international law firms. The division’s online research Web service,, provides subscribers with direct, on-demand access to ALM Legal Intelligence’s extensive database of surveys, rankings and lists related to law firms and the legal industry. ALM Legal Intelligence is a division of ALM.


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