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1 in 5 lawyers want to leave their firms this year – where will they go?

New findings from Lawyers Weekly and Agile Market Intelligence reveal the number of private practice professionals planning to find a new employer in the coming 12 months and what they intend to do next in their careers.

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What is the Legal Firm of Choice Survey?

Now in its ninth iteration, the Legal Firm of Choice Survey identifies the most sought-after private legal practices across the country. It is conducted by market research agency Agile Market Intelligence for Lawyers Weekly.

This latest survey was conducted between 22 January and 14 February and received 401 responses in total, recording the attitudes, priorities, and perceptions of legal professionals in private practice across Australia.



When asked if they are planning to leave their current firms in the next 12 months, 82 per cent of respondents said they are not currently planning to leave, marking a notable improvement from last year’s figure of 73 per cent.

This leaves, however, almost one in five (18 per cent) of private practice lawyers who are actively thinking about leaving their incumbent firms.

Interestingly – and despite a marked variation in perceptions of the existence of a gender pay gap and in perceptions of the relative value of one’s remuneration between the genders – male lawyers are slightly more likely to want to change employers this year, with 20 per cent indicating they intend to leave, compared to 17 per cent of women lawyers.

The lawyers in firms nationwide who are most likely to want to jump ship (in terms of age and years of post-qualified experience (PQE), respectively) are those aged 30–39, of whom 25 per cent are planning to find a new employer, and lawyers with four to six years of experience, of whom 24 per cent intend to leave.

When asked where they would go if they do indeed leave their firms in the next 12 months, 41 per cent of those wanting to leave indicated they would want to move to another law firm.

Elsewhere, 12 per cent of those wanting to leave their firms plan to move to a government role, 18 per cent would want to move in-house, 6 per cent are thinking about starting their own boutique practices, and 24 per cent want to leave the law altogether.

Last year, those wanting to leave their firm employers were evenly split on where they wanted to move to – this year, it appears there is a greater appetite for corporate legal positions and government work, with fewer lawyers intending to stop practising 12 months on. As is always the case, moving to another law firm is the most popular option for those seeking a new employer.


Speaking about the findings, Lawyers Weekly editor Jerome Doraisamy said the idea that one-fifth of a firm’s fee earners are planning to find a new employer in the next 12 months should offer food for thought as to how best to retain staff, particularly at a time when the nation’s biggest firms are shoring up particular practice areas and senior movements between firms are a constant.

This said, he added, firms can and should also take solace in the fact that fewer private practice lawyers have expressed a desire to move on than was the case in 2022–23.

“Law firms, across the country, appear to have taken seriously the idiosyncratic needs and desires of their fee earners and are making substantive strides to ensure those lawyers can perform in ways that make sense to them – to the extent it also makes sense for that firm,” Mr Doraisamy opined.

“Of course, many lawyers still want to leave, and so constant vigilance with optimal communication, culture, leadership, support for wellbeing and recognition for performance should be a top priority for firm leaders in 2024.”

The findings also follow the release, on Tuesday, 27 February, by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency of the gender pay gaps of Australian businesses with more than 100 employees, including law firms. The release of such data could well influence lawyers’ thinking on prospective employers moving forward; however, this remains to be seen.

Lawyers Weekly’s reporting of that data can be found here.

Since late February, Lawyers Weekly has been publishing insights from the 2023–24 iteration of the Legal Firm of Choice Survey. To read those stories, click below: