A Lawyers Weekly poll has found that an improved work-life balance is the most likely factor to motivate respondents to move to a different law firm, narrowly edging out an increased salary as the top motivator among lawyers.
In the online poll, 30 per cent of respondents said flexible working arrangements and improved work-life balance were the most likely factors to motivate them to move, while 29 per cent said more money would move them from their current firm.
These choices were followed by more opportunities for career advancement (20%), more personal autonomy and a more collaborative culture (11%), and the opportunity to work overseas (10%).
More than 200 people responded to the survey.
Legal recruitment managing director Jacinta Fish (pictured) said the figures reflect what she hears from candidates.
“Most lawyers tend to be driven by work-life balance and career advancement. People generally don’t admit to wanting to move just for salary, but it is always another factor and if they were honest is probably the priority driver,” said Fish.
While most lawyers are realistic about what they should be earning, Fish said most are not realistic in terms of what they will be paid.
Global economic instability has made law firms and corporations more cost-focused than ever, and many companies have recruitment freezes in place, making it difficult to justify large salary increases.
“There is just not the pool of funds for employers to be able to pay people what they would like to,” said Fish, adding that employers are in the driving seat because there are not as many jobs available for lawyers.
The poll results reflect the fact that salary levels in law firms have been quite flat for a few years now, yet employees are working harder than ever before, said Fish.
She indicated that lawyers may be willing to accept they are not going to be paid more, or make partnership in a hurry, if there is something else to keep them motivated.
“There is a lot of dialogue about [work-life balance], but the reality is most firms do not genuinely offer their employees a work-life balance, particularly in this climate. A lot of cultural change needs to happen before a partnership fully embraces work-lifestyle balance,” said Fish.
“In an economic climate that is dominated by bottom line and maintaining profits, it is difficult to fully embrace and demonstrate true work-lifestyle balance. It is probably easier to achieve this in a corporate or in-house environment, but again, it comes down to the culture of an organisation.”
Hudson’s Legal Salary and Employment Insights 2012 report, which surveyed 5563 employers and 5748 employees in Australia and New Zealand, found that, for respondents who were happy with their base annual salary, the most important benefits were bonuses — including short-term and long-term incentives (14.2%), private health insurance (14%), more annual leave (12%) and flexible working arrangements (11%).
“It may be a case of people saying: ‘I’m working this hard for not much more money. Therefore, if I’m going to move, I either want some flexibility, or more money, or a better title.’ But the status quo is not working for them,” said Fish.
Fish said she was surprised that “more personal autonomy and a more collaborative culture” didn’t score higher, but suggested this may be because lawyers are inherently aware of the importance of firm culture so have subconsciously made sure that their current place of employment is a good fit for them.
“That has to be a good thing and probably reflects the maturity of candidates around the job process.”