Survey finds law firm assistants at low ebb

More than a third of law firm assistants looking to change jobs would consider moving to a US practice in London, and one in five to accountancy-tied firms, according to a survey published by ZMB recruitment specialists.

The results also confirmed The Lawyer's own survey of a year ago which showed low morale and a high number of lawyers considering leaving the profession.

Higher salaries and the type of work on offer were the main enticements for UK assistants, said the survey, which was based on responses from 555 assistants from newly-qualified to six years' post-qualification experience.

Half of those replying said they would consider moving in-house both because of disillusionment with the long hours of private practice and a wish to be more involved in business.

Respondents who said they would consider moving to another law firm said they would go because of better salaries, career advancement opportunities, differences in management style and type of clients and work.

Four out of 10 lawyers are considering leaving the profession altogether, and two thirds of respondents assessed office morale as low to average.

In a boost to medium-sized practices, the results showed morale rose steadily with the size of the firm, peaking at 40 to 80-partner firms before tailing off again.

Glitzy incentives like company cars, gymnasiums and season tickets failed to excite assistants. Pensions and holidays were seen as the most important benefits.

High salaries do appear to help keep some lawyers in the firm. About 60 per cent of assistants earning less than £30,000 are likely to change jobs, but this figure is halved among those earning £50-60,000.