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Women, junior lawyers most likely to leave firms

Earlier this week, Lawyers Weekly revealed that one-quarter of lawyers are planning to leave their firms in the very near future. Here, we detail which employees those firms should be most focused on holding on to.

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What is the Legal Firm of Choice Survey?

Now in its eighth iteration, the Top 25 Attraction Firms ranking is a key element of the Legal Firm of Choice Survey, which identifies the most sought-after private legal practices across the country.

This latest survey was conducted between 14 November and 13 December 2022 and received 462 responses in total, recording the attitudes, priorities and perceptions of legal professionals in Australia.

 
 

Earlier this week, Lawyers Weekly published the Top 25 Attraction Firms ranking for 2022–23, detailed which external providers in-house teams worked with in the last 12 months, and outlined the extent to which law departments are satisfied with the performance of their external providers on various metrics.

Plans for leaving, and time frame for doing so

Lawyers Weekly also unveiled, earlier this week, that when asked if they plan to leave their current employers in the next 12 months, one in four (27 per cent) said that they are making such plans. To read the full breakdown of what those planning to leave will do once they depart their current firms and how soon they might depart, click here.

At the time, Lawyers Weekly editor Jerome Doraisamy mused that the findings were unsurprising against the backdrop of a looming recession and also given the context of supposed workplace trends like “quiet quitting” and the “Great Resignation”.

“There has been significant movement between private practice employers in recent times — both team and individual poachings alike — and all indicators are that this will not slow down any time soon,” he said.

Who is leaving?

According to the findings, lawyers with up to three years of post-qualification experience (PQE) are much more likely to be looking to leave their current firms than their more senior counterparts and will do so in the next 12 months.

One in three lawyers at such junior levels reported having plans to leave their employers, with just 64 per cent of those with less than one year of experience saying they will stay and 65 per cent of those with between one and three years’ PQE saying the same.

One in four (26 per cent) of those with under one year’s experience say they will move to another firm, while the remaining 10 per cent will either stop practising law, move in-house, move into a government role, or start their own practices.

One in five (21 per cent) of those with between one and three year’s PQE are also planning to move to another firm, with 4 per cent saying they are going to leave the law altogether. The remaining 9 per cent will go in-house, go to a government position, or start their own firms.

The stats get slightly better as lawyers’ tenure increases, however.

Just under four in five (78 per cent) of those with four to 10 years’ PQE are planning to stay at their current firms in the next year, with 9 per cent planning to move to a competitor firm, and for those with more than a decade of experience, 90 per cent plan to stay with their current firms.

When broken down by gender, three in 10 women lawyers (30 per cent) say they are planning to leave their firms within the next year, with one in five (18 per cent) planning to move to another law firm.

The balance of the women surveyed (12 per cent) will either stop practising law, move in-house, move to a government role, or start their own firms.

Men are slightly more likely to stay with their firms in the next 12 months (23 per cent said they would do so), and just 11 per cent said they would move to another firm.

Reflections

Speaking about these further findings, Mr Doraisamy suggested that the choices to stay or leave, for various demographics across the profession, were likely influenced by a mixture of personal and environmental circumstances.

“Those coming through the ranks seem to have gotten wind of inflated salaries on offer and are perhaps seeking the best deal they can get for themselves — not unreasonably,” he said.

“It is perhaps the case that such early-career professionals have not developed the same levels of institutional loyalty that those more senior have gleaned over the years in practice.”

“With regards to female legal professionals — and at the risk of generalising — the age of coronavirus has opened lawyers up to myriad ways of working that are more in line with one’s idiosyncratic needs, as opposed to adhering to traditional structures, and thus for some, seeking out employers or vocational opportunities that will best fit one’s needs longer-term is both a necessary and desirable pathway at present,” he hypothesised.

This is not to say, Mr Doraisamy added, that male legal professionals cannot or should not be on the lookout for such new opportunities as well. Indeed, the disparity between the leaving intentions of men and women is not too broad.  

However, he said, “traditional (and, in some cases, outdated) structures and expectations may mean that male lawyers are slightly less attuned to said possibilities”.

Lawyers Weekly has extensively covered the latest updates in legal recruitment and workplace trends, including via the following stories:

If there are particular elements of the Legal Firm of Choice Survey, or the Top 25 Attraction Firms ranking, that you or your business would want to learn about, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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