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The ‘Great Hesitation’?

It is clear that the “Great Resignation” has not hit us yet, with lawyers still reluctant to move jobs. Perhaps we should be calling this supposed phenomenon something else, writes Jason Elias.

user iconJason Elias 17 December 2021 Big Law
Jason Elias
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The “Great Resignation has received a lot of press. There is no doubt that this phenomenon has hit the US, in particular. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers US Pulse survey in August 2021, 65 per cent of employees said they are looking for a new job, and 88 per cent of executives said their company is experiencing higher turnover than normal.

While Australia’s economy is usually in lockstep with America’s – has the Great Resignation hit here, and, in particular, has it hit the legal services market?

Well, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics: up until February, Australia had the lowest annual job mobility rate on record. The most recent stats from October 2021 show professional services (including legal) dropped by 2.9 per cent that month.

 
 

So, it is clear that the Great Resignation has not hit us yet. We are still finding lawyers are reluctant to move jobs – so it may be the “Great Hesitation”. Over the last few weeks, there has been more of a trickle, but this may just be related to the Christmas season.

There are probably a number of factors, including lag. Trends seen in the US may take a few months to manifest here. Also, the drivers for job change, such as commutes and managers, are less of an issue when working remotely or only part-time in the office. Some research suggests up to 60 per cent could be looking to change jobs before the end of April 2022.

It is likely that once lawyers are back at their desks around Australia Day, we may see an uptick in movement. The fact that candidates are getting decent pay rises to move, as well as some firms trying to revert back to pre-COVID policies like full-time in the office that will lose out against more flexible workplaces, are just some reasons.

In order to ascertain legal-specific trends, we ran a quick poll of over 200 Australian lawyers, asking:

Will you be a part of the “Great Resignation?

  • 62 per cent are planning to resign; and
  • 38 per cent are not planning to resign.
Of the 62 per cent who are planning to resign:

  • 32 per cent will do so for more money or a promotion;
  • 12 per cent will do so to seek work overseas; and
  • 18 per cent will do so for other reasons,
Of those planning to resign:

  • 34 per cent are currently employed in-house;
  • 26 per cent are currently employed in a small law firm;
  • 18 per cent are currently employed in a medium law firm;
  • 15 per cent are currently employed in a large law firm; and
  • 7 per cent are currently employed in the public sector.
And of those who are happy in their current roles:

  • 36 per cent are currently employed in a small law firm;
  • 22 per cent are currently employed in-house;
  • 18 per cent are currently employed in a medium law firm;
  • 16 per cent are currently employed in a large law firm; and
  • 8 per cent are currently employed in the public sector.
We are keeping close to those that are looking for new opportunities and finding the right match in terms of culture, values, location, remuneration and flexibility.

Jason Elias is the chief executive of Elias Recruitment.