The business of hiring, developing and retaining new lawyers is decidedly not what it used to be. In 1907, a prominent Wall Street firm wrote to a young Franklin D. Roosevelt offering him a position as an associate — “the first year without salary” — and the future president accepted the offer. That same firm now pays summer associates more than $10,000 per month.

The business of hiring, developing and retaining new lawyers is decidedly not what it used to be. In 1907, a prominent Wall Street firm wrote to a young Franklin D. Roosevelt offering him a position as an associate -- "the first year without salary" -- and the future president accepted the offer. That same firm now pays summer associates more than $10,000 per month. 2

Today, firms that fail to take seriously the challenges of recruiting, training, mentoring and work-life issues can count on increasing turnover to such an extent that, by one estimate, nearly 50 percent of any given group of entering associates likely will leave the firm within three years.

This trend illustrates fairly dramatically the challenges faced by major law firms in recruiting and retaining a generation of lawyers who, unlike FDR, are unlikely to be content working for free on terms dictated by the firm. NALP, “Beyond the Bidding Wars: A Survey of Associate Attrition, Departure Destinations and Workplace Incentives.” See www.nalpfoundation.org/webmodules/articles/anmviewer.asp?a=64.

Between 1986 and 2005, the number of lawyers employed by the nation’s 100 largest law firms nearly tripled, from roughly 25,000 to more than 70,000. Since those are the firms that historically have focused their recruiting efforts on the top students at the law schools traditionally regarded as most prestigious, and since the population of top students at top schools has not increased measurably over the past 20 years, there is intense competition for that fixed pool of candidates, leading smart legal recruiters to identify other sources of equally strong talent that might not yet have been noticed by the competition.