Why are lawyers falling out of love with the legal profession?

TO UNDERSTAND WHY SO MANY LAWYERS are falling out of love with the profession they worked so hard to get into, let’s take a step back. Let’s remind ourselves what falling in love looks like in a more general sense.

At the start of a personal relationship, you are a giddy mess. Your stomach churns. Your thoughts are completely consumed by someone you hope shares your feelings of exhilaration.

Of course, your new partner is not perfect. Nobody is. But you can’t see that yet. You hear no hesitation in your friends’ assessments. Those rose-tinted glasses that have sprung up on the bridge of your nose make you practically blind.

Honeymoons don’t last forever

Sadly, this honeymoon period is finite. You can’t float around with your head in the clouds forever.

And when the clouds clear, you will see some flaws. You will evaluate, rather than brush off, your partner’s shortcomings.

Partner prospects

Bear all that in mind as we look back at your introduction to a shiny new job in the legal profession. You read the ad like someone looking for love reads an online dating profile. In place of the dating profiler’s good points, like ‘solvent’ and ‘own house’, the lawyer ad promises ‘a good salary’ and a ‘swanky office’. Wowsers! And what’s this? ‘Partner prospects’. Yikes! This analogy is getting seriously spooky.

Partner problems

And what happens if you are ‘fortunate’ enough to land this new job? Exactly what often happens when you start a new personal relationship: you turn into a giddy mess. You cannot hear a single hint of reservation in your friends’ voices when you describe your new job. Because you’re in the honeymoon period, your new role seems practically flawless. You can’t stop smiling when you waltz into your swanky office each morning. Which is why you are happy to spend so many hours there…

Soon you find that the office no longer makes you smile. And the competitive salary just isn’t that great when you divide it up against the number of hours you’re working.

How much time do you want to spend at work?

According to this article, people typically spend 90,000 hours at work. Even beyond the ‘young lawyer’ stage, 10-hour days are not uncommon. Over five days a week, over 45 weeks a year, over a 45-year career, that equates to over 101,000 hours of lawyery toil. It’s sobering numbers like this that make you question what the heck you are doing. Suddenly your swanky office is a lot less attractive than you once thought. You barely have time to enjoy the rewards of your decent salary. Partner prospects… pah!

Many law firms now tout the idea of working from home, however the shackles of the traditional model remain. Still you have to work to targets, your hours are fixed and you have little control over how you work. That isn’t real freedom, even within the comfort of your own four walls.

Re-balancing lifestyles became infectious during lockdown

The re-evaluation of lifestyles was truly infectious during lockdown. This Personnel Today article tells us that around two-thirds of UK lawyers now want more flexibility when it comes to their working hours. That is an enormous leap in less than two years from the 22 per cent who indicated a preference for flexibility pre-Covid. Only one in 10 lawyers wants to return to the old routine of five standard 9-5 days in the office.

Becoming Partner isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Becoming a partner may have once been the end goal for many lawyers. However when you add in the politics, set targets, networking, management and hours spent not actually working on law – it suddenly seems a lot less attractive. At Setfords you reach the top of the career ladder and receive all the benefits of becoming partner, but with the freedom to live your life.

Tim Westhead

Tracey O’Dwyer, consultant lawyer specialising in family law

“Partnership to me just didn’t seem like a good life. When you’re a partner, you’re involved in an awful lot more work than just the law. You’re managing people, you’re managing budgets and you’re dealing with any other day-to-day issues that arise. What’s more is that you spend so much time working to impress the other partners and to line their pockets. I didn’t want any of that. I just wanted to be a lawyer and do my legal work, but also to see my children when they return from school. ”

Is consultancy for me?

There is another way. If you want to find out more about becoming a consultant with us, get in touch. We are happy to conduct interviews remotely for suitable, UK-qualified candidates with five or more years’ experience. If you’re a good fit, you’ll be joining a team that was created for lawyers to do their best work.

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        Currently, we can only work with lawyers qualified under one of these regulatory bodies