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Associates (assistants) in UK law firms and their desire to move in-house

The 2007 Legal Business Assistant Survey gathered data from more than 2,200 assistants. The extensive findings can be found in Legal Business, Iss. 179, Nov. 2007 at 53 et seq. Amid the sea of figures and analysis two small tidal pools about law departments caught my eye.

First, a chart shows the “modal average billable hours targets” of US firms in the UK (1,600-1,800 hours) “Global Elite” [Magic Circle, I believe] (1,700-1,800 hours), “Major City” (1,500-1,700), London midsizers (1,200-1,500), Major UK (1,400-1,500), Regional (1,400) and Scotland (1,300-1,350). Easier to see from the graphic (at 62), the trend is clear: the bigger and more prestigious the group of firms, the harder its associates work. The term “modal average” means, I think, that of all the average charging targets in a given group, the most common one is the modal average.

The second takeaway comes from a chart on page 76, which reports the results of asking the assistants, “If you moved, where would you move to?” The percentages of assistants who chose “in-house” started at about 28 percent among the Global Elite and US-firm assistants, then dropped to about 26 percent among those in Major City firms, and decreased steadily to Regional assistants where about 14 percent indicated that if they were to leave their firm they would seek an in-house position. It seems plausible that the assistants in top-end law firms have more exposure to large corporate clients, so they have a better feel for the attractiveness of that work place and they have better contacts.

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