The law loses its lustre

Nearly a quarter of you want to quit. In a desperately competitive recruitment market, that’s just about the last thing law firm managers need to hear.

Shocking? Yes. Not many apparently sought-after professions have a quarter of their members wanting to quit. The whole issue of work-life balance has now, surely, reached a tipping point – and not just for overworked associates who are looking for a way out.

Thirty one per cent of associates would like to leave the law; 20 per cent of partners would happily quit; 22 per cent of barristers fancy a change; and a hefty 29 per cent of in-house counsel would like a life outside the law.

There is a feeling among recruiters that young people don’t really understand what the business of law is all about. While law schools are excellent at teaching the technical aspects of the profession, they don’t necessarily tell you about business development, time-charging, the repetitive nature of the work or the late nights. And associates don’t necessarily see a partner’s life as better than their own.

Despite all the hard work that’s been put in to help boost work-life balance, it’s still the money that’s keeping people in the profession.

Or rather, it’s fear – fear of losing that money. Of those of you who said they wanted to leave the law, 70 per cent said that money was one of the key factors stopping them from quitting. Thirty seven per cent cited family needs as a reason for staying put, which must surely add up to the same thing.

Lawyers have a fantasy that, because they are good with words, they could jump into another more creative job. The second most popular dream job for lawyers when young was a career as an actor, artist or writer, which 19 per cent would have chosen as an alternative career.

The most popular choice? Journalism. Twenty per cent used to fancy working in the fourth estate. While I can’t promise you less stress, I can assure you that you would have got paid less – an awful lot less. (But a quick straw poll of this office suggests that zero per cent want to get out of this profession.)

The Lawyer’s survey with YouGov suggests a deep-rooted malaise in arguably the most successful legal market in the world. Lawyers have never been richer, but as yet there’s no known cure for affluenza.