By coincidence, the Lawyer has just reported in its latest survey of the profession that 24% of lawyers would like a change of career. More than 50% of Associates in what the article described as “lower mid-market” firms (with a turnover between £25M and £50M) wanted to leave the profession. The survey indicates also the extent to which high salaries act as ‘golden handcufffs’ – the liklihood of a cut in pay is cited by 70% of those who want to leave legal practice as the major barrier to doing so.
Is this a reliable finding? Hard to say from where I’m sitting, but its not obviously hugely flawed. The survey was conducted by YouGov for the Lawyer. It obtained over 2,500 responses. This is certainly enough to form the basis of a good representative sample, though this article says nothing more about the demographics. The sample would have been self-selecting, so some skewing can’t be ruled out, and we don’t know if any tests of statistical significance were used to check the data. (In social science research these are useful because they indicate the reliability of data by computing the probability that a particular finding was not the product of chance).
Turned around, of course, this finding also suggests that around 75% of lawyers overall don’t want to leave the law. Does that still sound like a major cause for concern? (By contrast a poll of 1000 people for the Work Foundation last year came up with 78% claiming they were “very” or “quite satisfied” with their jobs, with about 5% saying they were very dissatisfied with work.) It would be interesting to know how that compares with other professions like medicine and accountancy. That said, whatever way you cut it, the sectoral data does suggest that some parts of the profession are facing potentially significant retention problems.
By the way, nine per cent of those who wanted out would like to teach.