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Senior lawyers would not recommend a career in law

UK legal profession is 'dominated by white, public school educated men'

24 November 2014

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By John van der Luit-Drummond, Legal Reporter, Solicitors Journal (@JvdLD)

Half of all senior lawyers are planning to leave the profession within the next few years, a new report has shown.

Over 500 senior legal professionals were interviewed on the impact of major changes to the profession in recent years, including the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) and the Jackson reforms.

Hodge Jones & Allen's (HJA) Innovation in Law Report found only 55 per cent of respondents intend to continue in the law for the rest of their careers, with most (69 per cent) not willing to recommend the profession as a career.

Female lawyers, state-educated practitioners, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities are still widely considered to be under-represented in the legal profession. Seventy-four per cent of those surveyed agreed with the suggestion that 'senior positions throughout the profession are dominated by white, public school educated men'.

Furthermore, just 12 per cent of respondents believe it easy to combine motherhood with developing a career in the profession.

Over half (57 per cent) of those surveyed disagreed they were hopeful for the future of the profession. Almost half (46 per cent) agreed that recent reforms will likely contribute to a substantial increase in the future use of private arbitrators instead of the courts.

With average pay falling behind that of other professions, combined with an increased negative perception of lawyers in recent years, 55 per cent of managing partners and heads of chambers believe it is becoming more difficult to attract the best graduates.

Change needed

"When looking at the results of this research, the one statistic that stood out for me was that 69 per cent of those interviewed would not recommend law as a career. This must change," commented HJA's senior partner, Patrick Allen.

"To deliver a world-class legal system we need to recruit the best talent. We do not operate in a vacuum and we are competing with financial institutions, accountants, management consultants and industry for the best people. In order to compete we need to provide careers that are challenging, satisfying, rewarding, and respected by the wider community."

The report uncovered a marked difference in concerns across the profession, with negative outlooks more prevalent in firms employing less than 50 people and those which have been most affected by government reforms.

Sixteen per cent of respondents working in smaller firms felt optimistic about the future of the profession compared to 52 per cent in firms employing more than 250 employees.

The survey also discovered that 91 per cent of those surveyed felt that, given the new entrants and increased competition, the larger practices will dominate the legal market in future.

Moreover, 89 per cent believe that the market is set to see more multidisciplinary professional service firms.

Positive signs

Law firms are however changing, according to the research. Seventy-four per cent of respondents agreed that they are being better managed than they were five years ago and that they are seeing an improvement in the financial management of their legal practices.

The report partly attributes these positive signs to greater use of technology. Ninety per cent of those surveyed agreed that the embedding of technology within working practices is better than five years ago. Furthermore, half of respondents agreed that technology has delivered improved outcomes for clients.

"Innovation in how we manage our practices is not an option; it is an absolute necessity in the face of the economic environment, intensifying competition and regulatory and funding changes. Fortunately, the results show that management change is happening, and that it is working in terms of delivering better results and improved value-for-money for clients," commented Allen.

"The report however uncovered some who are anticipating the worst in terms of the impact of new entrants and the impact of IT on the way people will be required to work in the future. To deny these changes are going to happen is like Canute denying the sea; they will happen and we need to embrace them and individually and collectively invent for ourselves a better future."

A version of this article was first published in sister publication Solicitors Journal.



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