Our survey says…

This week The Lawyer is publishing the first findings from a massive research exercise that we carried out with YouGov earlier this month. Nearly 3,000 lawyers took part, making it the biggest statistical survey of its kind in the legal profession.

This is the first time that there is hard research to back up all the anecdotal evidence about career motivation among associates. We could have devoted the entire magazine to the findings, but it’s worth highlighting a few trends to start with.

The larger mid-tier firms will be delighted to hear that they have the most bullish associates in the UK, with 61 per cent of them aiming for partnership.

That level of ambition may be attributed partly to perceived opportunity. Certainly, in that bracket there has tended to be more movement at partner level. A number of those firms, particularly Simmons & Simmons and Norton Rose, have made a virtue of fast-tracking associates to partnership on the back of partner departures – including headhunting associates from other firms into their partnerships.

The survey shows that there is very little difference in terms of gender when it comes to career aspirations. Women want partnership as much as men do. But that should be read in conjunction with our Career Report, launched last year, which shows that women are still not making partnership at the same rate as their male counterparts.

Perhaps this accounts for greater female pessimism about partnership prospects generally. Whereas male and female responses were virtually identical elsewhere, this question highlighted some divergence: nearly a quarter of women do not believe that this is realistic.

When asked to rank the main attractions of becoming a partner, 37 per cent of men cited money and 26 per cent picked a greater say in the running of the firm. But among women 31 per cent said money and 27 per cent opted for a greater say. Meanwhile, 25 per cent of women said the main attraction of becoming a partner was status, compared with 18 per cent of men. We’ll be exploring these findings in greater detail over the coming weeks.

Lastly, the research coincides neatly with The Lawyer’s inaugural HR Awards last week (for the winners, see page 16). It was a wonderfully uplifting evening and a real celebration of best practice. After all, the HR professionals have to create the career structures that lawyers want. They deserve their moment in the spotlight.